I have been losing bits and pieces of my mother’s family since I was five years old. I don’t remember how old I was the first time my mother told me about her history with my maternal grandmother (whom I shall simply refer to as Pat): it’s almost as if I grew up always knowing. My mother and Pat had had a strained relationship since my mother’s adolescence, resulting in my mother living with my great-grandparents while in her later teens. My mother’s younger siblings, eight and nine years younger than her, were raised in a divided household. My mother and Pat were on civil terms by the time I was born, and many of my earliest memories should involve her. I can envision her house as if I had walked through it earlier today, although I cannot be sure how accurate a five-year-olds interpretation is. I remember red: red brick outside, red carpet and her red hair (this is why I question my memories – how accurate were my perceptions?). I remember sitting on the floor in front of the television, because I was not allowed to touch the furniture or join the rest of the family in the kitchen. I remember my aunt and uncle taking me shopping or to the local park, despite being no more than fourteen years older than me, and I can remember kissing my grandfather hello every time I visited. Besides red hair, I don’t remember anything about Pat. I don’t have a single memory of her, and this adds to a lot of my anger and frustration with the loss that she has caused. When Pat and my mother stopped speaking to each other again, my aunt and uncle were still living with Pat. My aunt was 19, and my uncle was 18, and their mother had great influence over them. All my memories of my uncle end there – I have not heard from him in 14 years. Despite treating me like a little sister (again, perhaps only my perception – he certainly felt like an older brother to me), he stopped all contact with my mother and me. Years later, my great-grandfather (Pat’s father) got sick and needed a place to live. He came to live with my family, having recently separated from his wife (my great-grandmother), whom Pat had “sided with” during the divorce. This caused an even greater rift within the family. My aunt, whom had been talking to and my great-grandmother, stopped communicating with us regularly as well. Although I had never been close to my great-grandmother due to distance, it was difficult to stop receiving calls and cards and such from her. It was a subtle difference, but it was enough for me to notice. My aunt and I remained close for many years, although she and my mother often fought over their family history. The tension between them often added strain to my life: I didn’t want to pick sides, yet it was impossible to remain completely neutral at times. Every word I spoke had to be carefully watched, lest anyone read too much into anything. This past holiday season, after seventeen years of dealing with pressure far beyond what I could handle, I attempted to talk with my aunt about how I felt. I was immediately cut off, and the relationship ended between my aunt and I ended that very day. As predicted by Kübler-Ross’s roller coaster model of grief (HDSA), I often experience a myriad of emotions when I think about my family (Pat excluded). I’m hurt that it has been so
easy for family that appeared to care so much to just forget about me, as if I never existed. It is here that I bounce between anger and denial: family does not just abandon you. Yet mine did. There is no denial with Pat, only anger. Perhaps this is because she was never as big a part of my life – although I remember everything surrounding her, I don’t seem to have any memories of her. This rings true later as well: I saw my great-grandfathers funeral, but I cannot remember anything about her. She is nothing but an item to hate. I have never been completely sure why I have always been so angry at Pat – am I angry at her in my mother’s defense? Or because of the chain reaction that she caused? Sometimes the hatred within me feels irrational and uncalled for, yet I cannot seem to move past it. Kübler-Ross said "There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from," (Quotes) but I find it difficult to find blessings in what feels like a never ending loss. Besides providing me with my mother, I do not think that Pat has done anything good with her life. The loss she started when I was a child, the loss of a grandmother I barely knew, resulted in the loss of my uncle, my aunt, and my great grandmother. Unlike Pat, they are actual losses. In my heart, they are deaths. Because of Pat, my family has been disappearing little by little all my life, but as Kübler-Ross said “Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the beauty of their carvings” (Quotes). Maybe my losses aren’t beautiful carvings yet, but perhaps with more time and healing, they will be someday.
Works Cited HDSA. Kübler-Ross. Digital image. Web. <http://www.hdsa.org/images/content/1/3/13080.pdf>. "QUOTES | EKR Foundation." Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Foundation. 2011. Web. Feb. 2011. http://www.ekrfoundation.org/quotes.