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Drawing, Scribbles, Creative, Musing

[General] Family Thoughts

My mother and I always do lunch together on Tuesdays, but this Tuesday was a somewhat sobering discussion. She's about to fly out to Philadelphia and then drive back with my aunt; the family home in Philly has been sold in the wake of my grandmother's death last year, and it's strange to think that Philly no longer has any of the family there.

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?


Not if you keep a historical record. My dad has cousins scattered all around the U.S., but it wasn't until the advent of email that they started keeping in touch regularly and sharing family stories. This has been a great boon as I now know more about Dad's family than I would have otherwise; it's a little scary to think of all the stories that would have been lost is they hadn't been recorded via email, intentionally or no.

I also have letters that my husband's uncle wrote to me when he was doing family research. It was via Uncle Joe that I learned how the family patriarch grew up in Canada as a mistreated orphan, how he worked on the Grand Trunk railroad, how he became a lumberjack, and how he was a harsh and stern father to his own children. Uncle Joe is now long gone, but I still have those letters and eventually will pass them on to the great-great grandchildren of that patriarch, so they will have tangible ties to their past.