It’s always sad to grieve for something you’ve lost. It’s sadder still to grieve for something that you’ve never really had in the first place.
This morning, I found out via email that my aunt died. I’m not asking for sympathy here, because we were never very close. I don’t think she liked me very much. Honestly, I didn’t like her very much, either.
But for me, the news was just a reminder of the concept of family, or at least what a family is supposed to be. I grew up an only child, living with my mother, my grandfather and my aunt (not the one who just died.) They didn’t love each other. In fact, they couldn’t stand each other. It was as if being related by blood was akin to a prison sentence for them. Even when I was little, I could see this. I survived by going into my own world, and fantasizing about being a part of other people’s families.
But the emotional crutches I used as a kid have not served me well in adulthood. In ways that I don’t often like to think about, I have become my mother, my grandfather and my aunt: three people who were profoundly unhappy, and angry at the world.
I can’t talk about this with my surviving family today. They either don’t know how to handle it, or they try to make me look at the “bright side.” They will tell me about the times they got Slurpees with me at 7-11, or went swimming in my apartment pool. But even they can’t recall any other good times aside from those. If Slurpees and swimming are the only bright sides, that leaves room for a lot of not-so-bright sides that they either don’t remember, or just don’t want to bring up with me.
It has always been hard for me to trust people, and to really let them in. I’ve had a few romantic relationships in my life, but none have really lasted. And the older I get, the less I even think about the possibility of having a relationship. It’s just not that big a deal for me, and I don’t necessarily say that as a good thing.
I hear that my uncle is taking my aunt’s death pretty hard. At least he experienced deep love in a way that I probably never will. I’ll send him a sympathy card, but that’s probably the extent of my outreach. I can do civil pleasantries pretty well. I’ve given up hoping that family relations will be anything more than civil pleasantries.