Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's Starting

When I was a little girl my neighbor, Dave, died. He was married and was the father of two of my friends. It was my first real memory of human death. We were just kids when it happened, but I very clearly remember my mother talking to my father in the kitchen. She said, "It's going to start happening. We're almost 40." My father's reply was something about how he thought their parents would go first.

Either way, I dismissed it as adult concerns and went on my way to watch Mama's Family reruns in the basement.

I lost all of my grandparents before I turned 25. So my mother's been the oldest of the oldest generation on her side since my last grandfather passed. My father has an uncle and an aunt still living. But in terms of his brothers and sisters, he's the patriarch.

Three months after X-man was born, MacTroll lost a colleague and a friend. He got so drunk that he fell off a balcony in Japan. MacTroll wasn't with him at the time, but he was in Tokyo, so he brought back his friend's cremated body to his family. That was weird and it was a fluke. It was the first time, at 30, MacTroll had ever lost anyone close to him.

Now as I get closer to 35, my friends' parents are starting to pass away in their late 50s, early 60s. I know it happens. No one can help illness. But with each Facebook post of folks passing away, I think more and more about my son, rather than my parents. I know that's strange. But it's what I think about. My family has always operated best with some distance. It used to kill me when I knew other families like Womanthatrolls and CaptainPatrick would be able to coexist as adults within close proximity of their families often peacefully, but mine has issues after 48 hours in the same space. I guess it's just different from family to family.

When I first met MacTroll, I was overjoyed to have a boyfriend who was so smart, fun and loving. I fell for him immediately. I didn't know why, at the time, he was so attracted to me. But almost 20 years later, I get that it was more than just teenage hormones. We understood each other. We shared the same big picture ideas and values. We were able to give each other time and space to be who we are and explore who we want to be. As it was, we both felt that we were left very much alone in our adolescences and yet we had nothing in common with most of the other kids we interacted with. And almost immediately after I found him, I lost the only other person I felt really cared about me, my paternal grandfather. I thought, in my 16-year-old mind, that I just wasn't meant to be loved by more than one person at a time. Obviously, now with X-man in the picture, I know that isn't true. :-)

We consider ourselves very lucky to have found each other. We get up every day and choose each other. It might be the secret of why we've endured. (Who really knows the answer to that? I sure don't.)

On the other hand, I think more, now that we're older, about when the other shoe is going to drop. When is it going to be my turn to update the Facebook status about someone I love? Hell, it'll probably be me that goes first.

Every time X-man brings up death, I repeat the same sentence. "We're born. We live and breathe and then one day, we die. It's just the way life works, or there'd be no room for anyone."

I understand that this is the truth, and I can explain the mechanics. But to really understand death, you have to experience it and sit with it and mourn and scream and cry and laugh. Death is the ultimate letting go as much as it is about forgiveness and love.

To all the people in my life who have loved ones that have passed on or have loved ones who are fighting for their lives. I think of you with great thoughts of love and affection -- every day. More than you know.


Leah said...

Do you have the horribly 'only child' guilt as well? I look at my son and think 'omg, when we die you'll be all alone. No sibling to share the burden of funeral arrangements or the bittersweet reminiscing of childhood memories.' It kills me, as one of seven children!

I don't LIKE most of my siblings, but we have that shared history that I feel so guilty we're not giving Sam. I think I'd be more at peace with the whole thing if we lived near family He'd have his cousins.

From a purely selfish grownup perspective, one of the hard things J and I had to do was sit down and basically 'triage' all of our aunts & uncles as to what funerals we REALLY feel strongly about going to. It can be construed as 'cold', but when you live 4000 miles from one entire side of the family, and 1500-2000 from the other (and your husband doesn't have a bajillion miles saved up ;) ) it's needful. Something to work out before the time it's needed.

Looseyfur said...

It's not really only child guilt. It's mostly that we're not really very close to our immediate families, and I don't want the same kind of distance to come between X-man and us.

I assume, like us, he'll grow up and make his own family (however that may be), so I don't really worry about him being alone at all. But I do want to make sure that emotional divide doesn't exist.

The Fearless Freak said...

@Leah, I don't think only children are really alone, anymore than anyone else. I have a brother but I feel like, when my parents go, I'll be the one dealing with. Unless my brother does some serious growing up, he likely won't be much use to me when the time comes. And, unfortunately, we are 6 years apart in age ("apparently", I was such a difficult child, my mom couldn't handle a second until I was in school full time LOL) so we don't really share many of the same memories. He was 14 when I got married and I'd been living away from home for 2 years at that point.

I think each person makes their own family, be it their spouse and children or simply close friends and those are the people that will be there and support us during difficult times in our lives.

neeser said...

This is a beautiful post, Dana.