Thursday, June 26, 2008

We are family.

My great-grandmother is dying. She’s nearly ninety-five years old and when I saw her in May, she wasn’t herself at all.

This is not a surprise. People cannot live forever. She’s had pneumonia since December and hasn’t been able to get well. Some days she is quite lucid. Other times she sleeps all day long. She has no sense of taste or smell anymore and she can barely hear.

She’s existing. Not living.

It makes me sad for her. She’s hanging on…a fragile thread separates her current world from the next.

My grandma was old when I was born. It’s amazing to me that I am thirty-two years old and have a living great-grandmother. It occurs to me as I type this that she is the last one. The last of the great-grandmothers. I had several when I was born and when I was a small child. When she is gone there will be no more. My children are fifth generation. I have pictures of us all together.

Just last week my children and I were talking about all of their grandparents. My father is their only grandfather. The sperm donor’s father died last year (or maybe the year before…I can’t recall) and my husband’s father died when he was ten. I think.

My son asked me, “What about your grandfathers?”

And I said, “I don’t have any.”

The words caught in my throat.

I don’t have any.

I used to.

I used to have people. I used to have family.

Now I find myself on this little island. I have my children and my husband and my dog. We have this fortress around us. For our protection? I don’t know. It used to feel like it.

Maybe not anymore.

I have sisters. I have a brother. I have a mom and dad. I don't feel like I know any of them all that well.

I say this with no blame or malice. It is what it is. I don’t think any of these people are bad people, even me. I just think none of us, not one of us, had any idea what it meant to be a family. We took the cards we were dealt and did the best we could.

I always hoped that I would find the elusive “it”. The family I wanted and needed. I’ve created a family to the best of my ability within my own home. And we? Rock it. Really, my childhood fantasies of a family are pretty much living in my home right now. One boy, one girl, one husband, one dog. Stir in the momma and you’ve got yourself a family. Right?

So I find myself confused and perplexed and wondering why I so desperately feel that I need more.

I want to start living, not just existing.

Next week we are going to North Carolina at my dad’s request. We’ll shoot off fireworks at the 4th of July. My dad will probably cook something on his grill. We’ll all go swimming in the pool and I’ll probably stay up much later than I should playing video games with Boy Child.

We will all sit together for pictures as a family. Mom, dad, all four kids, all three husbands of four kids, and all eleven grandchildren. Together. As a family.

I’m going to try to figure out what all this means. What family means. And what, if anything, I can do to make it feel the way I want it to.


CPA Mom said...

oh Chick, I feel for you!! you know my family issues too...and we're going to see my monster in-laws next week...and I'm just dreading the whole thing...

I have one remaining grandfather..and he is in hospice care. I have one remaining grandmother and I never knew her well.

Families today just aren't what they used to be. And that makes me sad.

Sarcasta-Mom said...

Ah family. I know just how you feel, really. My grandmother passed away this past November, and it's been hard on my mother's family for many, very complex reasons.

Just remember that you're building the family you've always wanted. You will be the martiarch, someday the grandma, the aunt, the great aunt, etc. And, you're doing a kick ass job!

Girl from Pennsylvania said...

Families are such a mess, aren't they? You love them because they are family and some times for no other reason than that. My oldest sister and I are very close. My middle sister and I don't even speak. She only speaks to our parents. She use to be my best friend but now I just wish I could forget somehow. But it seems like the scars are too deep.

My oldest sister and I often comment on how strange our little family is. Our father who doesn't understand that time together is better than any amount of financial support he can provide. Our mother who simply forgets how to be motherly sometimes. But the two of us, my sister and I, are trying to change that. I want to be the aunt that spends time with her neice and nephew. I want my sister to be the aunt (when I have kids) that my children want to call. I want to just have that relationship.

Let's not talk about my inlaws. They are a whole other boat by themselves.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

I don't know what it is about families being fucked-up. I walked down memory lane with my mother's family last night as I connected with a West Virginia blogger and found out he lives just a few miles from my mom's family. And memory lane? It's rocky with a shit-ton of pot holes and weeds all over the place. No fun for driving.

The only family I know that gets along, loves one another unconditionally, e-mails everyone everyday with the slightest bit of news it my husband's mother's family. Those people are a true family and I'm lucky to be a part of that and I'm so glad my kids are a part of that.

Anonymous said...

I think everyone wants to feel that connection - even those who don't reach out, for whatever reason. Sometimes it's not there. Almost everyone in the world feels a void because of a disconnect with a family member. The ONLY thing you can do is teach love and compassion. You're doing it - every day. Be careful not to let your feelings of loss affect your truly precious life's work.

Tricia said...

Oh this, I am very lucky. My family was everything it should have been. Kenny's family treats me and the girls like we have always belonged. I can't imagine what it would be like to not have that. I know that I do take it for granted. I just assume that is the way it is. But I try not to forget that I am lucky.

But you have to feel good knowing that your children wil grow up feeling that way.

Anonymous said...

My great grandma died last November. I know how you feel, I went through the same things.

Devon said...

my great grandmother is alive... she is 93 or 94, i think. Living in a personal care home.. right near my sister's house.. which is convenient! but its very hard to go see her. she is sensitive to loud sounds.. and turned into an old bitty... i would like to see her more often - but it makes me sad to think of what used to be.

my grandma on my dad's side has beginning signs of alzheimers. talk about heart breaking! and my grandpa just had to have heart surgery 2 days ago!!

out of all of my great grandparents and just regular grandparents... i miss my "grandpop" the most... he was my mom's dad. he was the smartest man i ever knew... a harsh man on the outside... but so full of love on the inside - he just didn't know how to show it. he died a number of years ago from kidney cancer. i regret not having spent the time getting to know him... having been selfish... the last time i ever saw him was when he was "recovering" in a home...... i fell asleep on the chair instead of talking to him and living in the moment....i cry about it sometimes (like now). i should've stay awake. :(

anyway... sorry to ramble! i hope you make the most of your get together next week! it definitely is important!!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

What a struggle, eh? Good luck, hun...introspective moments like this can be so rough, but I think they're worth it. I know they are.

Anonymous said...

Word! Family is hard.

judy in ky said...

I can remember being a child with four grandparents and a great grandmother. Now they are all gone. Both my father and father-in-law died more than ten years ago. This year, my mother-in-law (who was wonderful) died. With every one of these deaths, I feel another connection disappear. I have no children, so there are no connections on that side either. I begin to feel like I am untethered from blood connections. I still have my mom and three sisters, though, so I appreciate every minute with them. And now nieces and nephews are becoming more precious. You just hold on best you can to those who are still around you.

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Anonymous said...

I have no grandparents. How strange, when my grandmother was so much a mother to me, particularly in my adult years, when my mother's issues prevented her from giving me and my sisters any of the support we needed (watching our brothers get her unconditional love was so confusing to us).

I guess we can only hope to do better than our parents did; and maybe that they hope we do better, too (but that one's probably a stretch). I think you're doing that with boy child and girl child; and I think that if they knew the difference, they'd agree. Thank goodness they don't.

My sympathies are with you and your great-grandmother.

Allie said...

I feel you on this one, I grew up with a pretty tight family but lately I feel like they don't even know me anymore. My brothers never call me and I've given up on trying. I want my family back but sometimes I feel like too much has happened, I had a family and took it for granted.

I really hope you get to have more, everyone deserves a family.

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Kiki said...

Chick - I feel your pain. I love my family but I don't feel that I really know them. The one person that I do know to the core is my Grandmother. She is honest to a fault. I love her so much and I know that one day... like all of us... she will no longer be there. Not just for me, but for anyone. You have a wonderful family that you have created. Live in that knowledge.

kristi said...

My grandparents were always there for us...though they had their issues. My Mom has inherited some mental problems and she has been "something else" for years. I just severed ties with her this week. It is exhausting but I feel less stressed out already.

I hope you enjoy your trip.

Suzy said...

Your readers have summed it all up for me. I've given up trying to accept my mother and sister on their terms because guess what? Those terms hurt me. I finally decided to walk away from them and I discovered it wasn't hard. That's how shitty they are to me.
I'm sorry for ALL of our losses.

Anonymous said...

*sigh* I feel your pain and have the same family goals. I want to create in my home what I wished I had. My family didn't have a CLUE how to be a family. Good for you for creating the family of your dreams.

Good luck with the fourth of July, and prayers and good vibes for your sweet elderly great grandmother.

Vicki said...

Hey! Thanks for commenting on my blog! I totally love your blog, and read it every day~I had no idea you had ever read mine.

I hope you enjoy the time with your family that's coming up soon. I think your children will have a GREAT sense of family when they're adults, even if you can't say the same about yourself. One of the great things about being a parent is that we can, if we work at it, pass along things to our kids that we never had~and that doesn't apply to just material things. For what it's worth, I think you, and Jason, and Boy Child and Girl Child, and even Ginger, TOTALLY rock!
Vicki aka Blessed Beyond Measure

HeatherAnn Fragglehead said...

I am so sorry.

*million hugs*

Angie said...

Family is a funny thing, isn't it? You have such a way of putting words on paper (so to speak). This was an especially good post to read.

Thanks, my friend.

Rachel (Crazy-Is) said...

Judging from your posts regarding Girl Child and Boy Child, they do not take your love for granted.

I totally understand how you are feeling. Like I said before, you and I have ALOT in common.