Family

Watercolor happy family

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

As the holidays approach, I’ve been giving some thought to “family.”

My birth-family was very small. My mom had one brother and one sister. Her brother never had children and her sister had two daughters. My dad had one brother and his brother had two daughters and a son.

Getting into spouses’ siblings is irrelevant. I don’t know them or if they had progeny. Several years ago, I did meet some of their nieces and nephews at funerals, but I’m not in touch with any.

I have two brothers. One died from suicide. The other lives in town but rarely gets in touch. I’m in contact with his step-daughter more than I am with him. It’s as much my fault as his. An effort has to be made on both sides.

I’ve lost contact with all but one of my cousins. The two on my mother’s side have dropped off the face of the earth. I’m in touch with the eldest of the three on my dad’s side.

And that’s it for my relatives.

I’m realizing more and more that while relatives might be considered by most to be family, sometimes they are only part of a bloodline. Genealogy can tell me about bloodlines. Only I can decide about family.

When I was younger, I had friends whose parents wanted us to call them “aunt” and “uncle.” My mom didn’t like that. I called them Mr. & Mrs. O to my mom, and Uncle Bill and Aunt Dottie to them. Mom was ok with that.

In college, my parents moved from our hometown and I was still there attending university. That’s when I began to realize that I gathered a group of nearest and dearest. They became family. They had my six and I had theirs. These were the people who knew me better than anyone else, except for my mom.

Over the years and through many transitions, I gather family. Membership is never stagnant. It is a living thing, and like any living thing, it breathes.

People pass through. We sometimes have to say “goodbye for now,” but they are always welcome if they come back. There’s always a place at the table and a space reserved for them in my heart. There’s always room for more because the heart is limitless. Mom, dad, Dan are there still, even though they’re dead. Kathy, Judy, Deb, Beth are there even though I haven’t seen them in years. Scott, even though we don’t stay in touch. That’s just naming a bare handful. They are all still my family.

So as the holidays approach, I might or might not have somewhere to go with people of common faith and traditions to celebrate with me, but I do have family.

Christmas tree

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

Last goodbye

I’ve always been one for symbolism, patterns and signs from the cosmos. When the stars align, everything feels “right.”

Of course, mom was there when I took my first breath. That I was there for her last and it was just the two of us at the end, felt right.

So, scattering mom’s ashes on my birthday felt logical, natural, symbolic, and “right.”  We said our first “hello” on the day of my birth; today, we said our last goodbye.

Mom has been set free, scattered where she requested. I kept my promise.

Oreo Speedwagon

I saw this cartoon on Facebook. It got me thinking about mom and her misunderstanding of lyrics she’d heard. It started with CCR’s “There’s a Bathroom on the Right” (“There’s a Bad Moon on the Rise”), through Jimmy’s ” ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy” (” ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky), all the way up to 3DD “F*ck Me Like That” (“If I could Be Like That.”)

She couldn’t understand The Song That Ate The World — a.k.a. “Smooth” — so I was reciting the lyrics as Rob was singing them. She accused me of making them up. I told her if I had made those up, I would be driving a nicer car.

Which leads to the cartoon. I still don’t know why I was talking music to her, but silly me, I was. I said something about Michael Stipe and his classic Muppets appearance. I said that I have always liked Stipe and his music.

Mom: I thought he was that guy you don’t like from the band you don’t like.

Me: You’re thinking of Scott Stapp and Creed. Michael Stipe is from REM.

Mom: Oh, I know that band. REM Speedwagon.

Me: Mom, please. Let’s not do this.

Four months

I’ve hit the four-month mark. Nothing seems so different from the one month, two month, three month mark. I’ve been doing “stuff.” I go to work. I come home. I’ve gone through clothing and possessions — except for photos. I can’t do that yet.

Two photos in frames that sat on mom’s bookcase forever are missing. One was of her dad and one was of mine. They’re gone. I take that as a sign of everyone’s displeasure.

I still haven’t scattered mom’s ashes. I will. It’s just that last bit of her and I hate to let go, but I must and I will. I’ll keep the promise.

The funeral bill is paid. I had a new (desperately needed) HVAC put in and that’s paid off. I’ve moved some things around, but I still haven’t moved into the bedroom. The large bookcase it going to be an issue. It’s too tall to get through the doorway in the upright position. If I walk it down to get it into the living room, how do I get it back to the standing position? I really want it out of there, but it’s particle board and laminate, so Centre Peace won’t take it. If worse comes to worst, I can take a hammer and dismantle it. Yes, in some ways I’m my mother’s girl and a 7′ tall bookcase is no match for me! Mom was great with a hammer.

I have mentally rearranged the furniture dozens of times. Now I want to do it for reals! I’m also planning the scattering, so I guess I’m moving forward at least a little.

 

Almost two months

Mom passed on March 2nd, 2019. I was holding her hand and stroking her face and hair when she passed. She had two very short moments of apnea and she was gone. The last two days, she was no longer responsive, but because I was cracking jokes and telling funny family stories, mom was laughing at very appropriate places. I knew she could hear me and was aware of what was going on around her.

The medical report said it was about 30 minutes from when she first experienced difficulty breathing until her final breath. It was more like two and a half and she was gone.

Then the guilt set in. There was always going to be guilt; there’s no way I would ever get away without it over what I did, didn’t do, should have done, etc. etc. etc.

She hasn’t been in touch. Not once. I take that as a sign of her displeasure in me. The photo of my dad and the one of her dad have disappeared. I take that as signs of their displeasure. It is what it is and I have to live with that.

The Wednesday before her passing she was still somewhat responsive. When I came home and walked into her room, she looked at me with such joy. I’m certain that she thought I was Dan. She had been confusing me with Dan for some time. She missed him so much. I’m happy she’s finally reunited with him in body and spirit. A portion of his cremains are now with Mom and I will scatter them when the weather gets warmer.

I like to think of her hanging out with her dad, my dad, and Dan. I’m sure she’s very happy and having a great time. Good! She deserves to finally just hang with her peeps.