Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shattered Family Ties

Daughter is home today after 22 days with Mother. September 1st is move in day at her university.  I have exactly one month left of her at home.

I continue to sift, sort, trash, recycle and gift the possessions in my house.

Yesterday I opened a package that Mother has yet to bring back with her to Newfoundland.  It was the below picture, in a frame.

I held the picture for a good few minutes.  This woman has been dead for nearly twenty years.  She is my aunt by marriage.  She married Mother's 3rd brother and they were the only extended family that we had in Canada and we spent a little bit of time with them throughout my childhood.  Sister and I were flower girls in their wedding.  They came to the big life events of good catholic households:  first communion, confirmation, wedding, etc.  This particular uncle was legendary in the family since he started smoking by eight years of age and started charging interest to his older siblings for loans at about the same time.  He is now a senior banker and has resided mostly in South and Latin American countries since shortly after his wife passed on, suddenly.  He quit smoking years ago and used to run marathons with XHusband.  I believe he still runs.

I thought about how I'd love to have known this woman, my aunt, throughout my adult life.  She passed away before I was comfortably esconced in adulthood - I was merely 25 years of age and living in a town about 2 hours from where she lived.  My memories of her are of a woman that had a fabulous sense of humour and a wry take on life.  I believe I would have enjoyed her immensely if I had been given the chance to live closer to her as I raised Daughter.

And then it hit me.  The loss of this woman was preceded by the loss of another woman that I was not given a chance to get to know, even in childhood.  The loss of my maternal grandmother.  I was shattered.  I was gripping the frame and choking back tears.  The loss of these two women left an enormous gap in my family structure and the subsequent decades of dysfunction - which show no sign of abatement - seemed to mirror their deaths.

My aunt, just before she died, suddenly, in 1992.

It struck me how the glue that holds families together seems to exist in the maternal bonds.

Mother was a young adult in a different country when her mother passed away.  A country that was extremely expensive to get to or from relative to the inexpensive costs of travel today.  My maternal grandfather did his best to keep the family relationships alive and together (with a healthy dose of solid dysfunction added) but after his death in 1996 the shreds of familial connections started to fray. At this point in my life I feel very little connection to the sixteen younger (living) maternal cousins and various and sundry second cousins that are still springing forth due to the fact that I am the eldest and the youngest cousins are still toddlers (I have two uncles that reproduced as seniors).  There are a couple of exceptions to this but living in a far away country makes it difficult to maintain any sort of intimacy.

Daughter, at seventeen, willingly chose to spend 22 days with Mother.  Would I have done the same at her age?  I was not given the choice since both grandmothers were dead at that point in my life. I do know though, that most of my entire life I have felt like a buoy that is not anchored.  Yesterday was the first inkling I had that the anchor I missed having was real and not just a product of years of reading self help books that described dysfunction in detail but rarely beyond the immediate family.  My maternal grandmother was an anchor that kept my maternal family afloat and her tragic loss before her family had grown left a gap that still reverbrates. And the loss of my aunt did the same - shattering the one meager extended family relationship I had on the new turf her, my uncle, and my parents chose as home.

And today, having found and named the lost anchor I feel I have actually sealed the cracks in my foundation. Mother is writing a memoir about her mother.  I eagerly await getting to know my lost anchor and feel enormous gratitude that Mother's anchoring presence is still in my life.


  1. I've been feeling very much adrift myself, I cherish the relationships I do have more and more.

    I do admit to envying the strong family ties I see here in families especially the "come home" phenomenom, while also realizing that while the family of blood may be deficient in my case, other ties make up for it.

    I think that I am pissing into the wind when I reach out to less immediate blood family, they don't seem to have the interest that I do in keeping up any semblance of communication or do so when under the influence only. I miss them.

    But I can't live in the lack, only in the bounty.


    1. Imagining the lack is probably a little easier than actually missing the lack. xo


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