I had sent word to my dad to let him know when I’d be coming home for a visit after one of my earlier years of college, and I hadn’t heard back from him for several days. While never one for prompt correspondence, it was slightly unusual. But unlike other times when he’d explain his absence with a two-part summation involving an activity and location like “ice climbing” and “Mount Rainier” or “kayaking” and “Bighorn River” this time he simply said that he was sorry he hadn’t gotten back to me because he’d been “out of town for Sibyl’s funeral.”
That was how he told me my grandmother, his mother, was dead.
The years showed that this was neither out of the norm of the level I was involved nor the worst way he could deliver news, so it’s actually a perfect example.
Now I’m actually reeling, completely unprepared emotionally for what I’m feeling, in reading actual messages from the former family. I’m so out of the loop I had to ask my son who this person was with the cool name only to find out it’s my wife’s youngest brother, my boy’s own uncle. It sounds for all the world, for the first time, that someone out there that shares her blood is willing to set aside any and all of the ridiculous bullshit that’s kept them apart, for the sake of coming together.
And I don’t know how to feel about that.
That’s not actually true. I know how I feel about that. I’m elated. Overjoyed. Buoyed. Hopeful.
But those are all incredibly dangerous emotions when you’re already weakened, beaten down. Vulnerable.
Her grandmother passed on Sunday. How we found out is too pitarded and inane to let only these words at, so I’m foregoing that part. We found out and it wasn’t directed towards us, ’nuff said.
Now Uncle CoolName tells my son that my wife’s auntie, long-estranged for reasons no doubt as stupid as ours, died the Thursday before. Cancer.
And I had one of those instant thoughts, the kind that make you anxious that they’re inappropriate or weird or wrong. My first thought was, “Did Nan know? Somehow, through her dementia, did it make it in that her youngest daughter was dead? Did that cause a ripple effect that eventually moved her on as well?”
Suffice to say that anytime in your late 90’s is a perfect acceptable, needs no explanation, time to pass on. But still. The thought was there.
And in this, the time afterward, where we’re floating and stuck and forgotten and neither she nor I nor our children have ANY FUCKING IDEA what it was that we did that was so awful, so despicable, so unforgivable, that we were simply excised from the entire family. In this time, I wonder to myself, what comes next?
Where do we go from here?
The truth is probably that people that have been shitty are still going to be shitty, and people that were neutral or ineffectual or fence-sitting are probably going to still be like that too. No one has really changed, nor will they. They were what they were and they are what they are, and maybe it’s our foolish egos that keep wondering what it is about US that makes these people be this way.
I mean, there’s nothing in any way to suggest in my life that I wouldn’t want to know about my Grammy passing on, yet my father simply didn’t think of that. Maybe it’s something similar with people that have never considered even the smallest of things, like the fact that everyone in the entire family knew who Nan’s miniatures were meant to go to rightfully.
Maybe all these things just never occur to them. And here we are wondering what it is about us that’s gotten us here. Maybe the truth is: Nothing. This is just who they are. This is just who we are.
Maybe if we’re all better at accepting that, moving forward into this, the time after The Great Nonsense, we’ll do better at doing it together.