Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Parts of Our Lives That Slip Away

I've had a really bad day, which I would define as a combination of a bad cold, a major relationship mistake (the kind that makes you doubt your capacity ever to be of any good to anyone), and being left out of something in which I would have liked to have been included.

And overshadowing it all, a telephone call last night.

I have had four families of origin. Two years after my mother and youngest brother were killed in a car accident, my father remarried. Our new stepmother and her two youngest children moved 1200 miles and into our house. Eight years later, when she died, her children moved back into the orbit of their father and older siblings in the south and a year later, when my father married again, the process of Total Disconnect began. That was 35 years ago. I have been in very intermittent contact with those siblings over the years, but virtually none at all in the most recent decade.

And so I did not, for instance, know that my older stepbrother, the one with whom I had the most tenuous relationship even when we were officially members of the same family, died of cancer a couple of years ago, or that the stepbrother who is exactly my age, and to whom I was at one time extremely close, has also had cancer. I did not know that the youngest had lost his partner to death some time ago.

People sometimes think, I know, that I write about loss rather too much. But my youngest stepbrother was pulled out of his home and into a new one when he was four, was the first to find his mother after her death when he was twelve, has since lost two stepmothers and his father and a brother, and now most recently his partner. Loss tends to permeate our family.

There was a time, very long ago, when we were all children in Florida. Our parents were all alive and were friends, and played cards together while we kids were left to our own devices in the early evenings. I know now that there were difficulties among some of the adults, portents of the realignments that would occur after my mother died. In fact, sometimes I think we were characters in a John Cheever story. But I did not know then.

We were not entirely innocent. When I was in first grade in Florida, the ambulances raced past our house one evening during dinner, and the subsequent phone calls among the mothers revealed that a boy in my class had died during a family picnic on the beach, a couple of blocks away. He had suffocated on a balloon. (I never forgot that night, and there were never any balloons at any of my children's birthday parties.) So yes, we knew that things happened.

But we did not know quite how many.

11 comments:

Lisa :-] said...

In contrast, my family went many years before we felt our first loss-when my sister died in 1995. To tell the truth, I doubted that my relative insulation from tragedy during the first 40 years of my life really did me any good. A great deal of life consists of loss, and I often feel that the sooner one becomes aware of this fact, the better...

more cows than people said...

(((gg)))

i don't think you write too much about loss. you write powerfully about the truth of your life on this earth. and i thank you for that.

Presbyterian Gal said...

ditto More Cows....

(((gg)))

steve said...

Sorry to hear of your rough day. I, too, would echo what more cows wrote about your reflections on loss. Peace to you.

Kathryn J said...

I think your capacity to care deeply is why losses are felt deeply. You write about what is important to you and I appreciate what you have shared.

When I was a child, I experienced much loss of beloved family - grandparents and great aunts/uncles. I have been relatively insulated since then but as I get older, friends and acquaintances have died or are dying. The pain is real and important, as are the memories.

Carol said...

You've experienced great loss throughout your life, GG. It helped shape you into the person that you are; sharing it is a natural extension of that. And I'm thinking that it's part of what makes you as aware as you are of living in the moment and of caring for others.

Jan said...

I love your ability to care. Thank you for sharing about all the losses in your family, even the ones you didn't know about. My husband was sorely saddened when his real mother who had been rejected for decades died, and his parents casually mentioned this several months afterwards.

Cynthia said...

All I can do is send you my love.Your writings about loss are always moving,frequently profound and often so very life affirming.It's small compensation, but it's there. Love you.

Stratoz said...

peace be with you...

"all ye that cried unto the Lord, in distress and deep affliction, He counteth all your sorrows" from Hymn of Praise by Felix Mendelssohn

Mosaic woman thought of this as I read your post in her presence.. it is stuck in her head for her choir is singing it in a couple weeks

Lovie said...

wI'm sorry Robin about your bad day. I wish I could make it better for you.
Leenora

Anonymous said...

i cried reading your post. bean