My grandmother, as some know, was very important to me. when I was little, my mother was helping to build an up-and-coming natural foods chain, and my father was a federal investigator; they were often away, and had no money for day-care, so my grandmother would come out for months at a time and take care of me, or bring me to Philly to visit her. My interest in science is her doing, as is my interest in fantasy (her son, my uncle Bob, can be blamed for science fiction) and in writing. In many ways, she's been one of the most central figures in my life.
Today, for the first time, my mother gave me the details of my grandmother's death last year. (She's refused to tell me details until now, even what it was grandma died of.) Grandmother had severe osteoporosis, and when she caught a respiratory infection that winter, the harsh, violent cough literally broke bones internally. She died in the hospital when her spine more or less crumbled.
Mom also finally told me that she and grandmother had argued when she arrived out there, those last few days in the hospital. Mom refused to arrange for me go back and visit grandma, because she said it would be 'too depressing' and 'your grandmother wouldn't want it.' When she arrived, however, grandmother -- on morphine, dying in her hospital bed -- gave her verbal hell because 'I want my granddaughter.' (Unfortunately, even when I rushed out, I didn't make it there on time; we were on our way to the plane when she died.)
Mom and I had a bit of a discussion after this, about how family /is/ important and we shouldn't pass up opportunities to visit them. Sure, there are some family we are close to and talk to a lot, such as my aunt Sally.
But there are other bits of family who we don't, as much; my Uncles Keith and Harvey down in California, who I actually quite miss. (Though I have to admit they /are/ the 'stereotypical' gay couple; these two have impeccable taste and have done interior design work, and have joked about it.) Granted, Keith and Harvey are down in California because they come from Washington tarheel (redneck) country, and Harvey got pretty much disowned by his family and wanted some distance. Still, that's no excuse for those of us up here who /didn't/ disown 'em not to keep in touch, even if they're no longer a ten minute drive away.
I suppose it's just making me think, today, we should treasure the family we have while we have them. We are, after all, often a collection of their influences. My grandmother got me started on science, on computers, on writing and fantasy; she's gone now. My Uncle Bob on science fiction; he passed away a few years ago. My Uncle Gordon on outdoorsy stuff; he passed away several years ago as well, and I think of him when I get to hike in woodsy areas. My Uncles Keith and Harvey for my views on alternative lifestyles (as well as, I like to think, at least some modicum of decorating sense!). And so on.
By letting those parts of our life, our past, drift away, don't we lose a bit of touch with ourselves?