Blood From A Stone

When Philip first died I thought, what could ever bother me again? What could ever be so bad that I would care that much, as long it wasn’t about Natalie? I saw his death as the second worst thing that could ever happen to me, as the first would be to lose both my children. 

Ten years on and things do bother me. Writing is my attempt to keep them in perspective, writing today is just to vent because the post I’ve been working on is so difficult to unravel I am starting to lose my shit. How to examine life with my family, something I’ve not taken a good, close look at? Not just my growing-up-with family, or my married-with-kids family, but my large, extended family, too. I’ve kept a distance from them since I was old enough to move out on my own at 22. I’d see them at family occasions but was never one to reach out. On my mom’s side were six brothers, most of whom married, some of whom had kids. On my dad’s side were two sisters, but they wound up moving to different states and since my mom didn’t much like his family and she ruled the roost, my focus has always been on her side.

I didn’t even much keep in touch with Maria, my sister-cousin. I never made a conscious decision about my family one way or another. I was absorbed in my own life and my family was on the periphery. I didn’t like my parents, loved my aunts, uncles and cousins but felt different from all of them. Plus – and this is something I don’t yet understand about myself – I don’t maintain bonds with people. I have no friends from childhood, was unable to stay married. I make friends here and there, invariably let them fall away. I shy away from people in general, I spend a lot of time alone. My children are the exception. 

I come from a loud, funny, boisterous Italian family who got together every Sunday for dinner. Might sound like a minor point, but since my mom is the only female out of seven children, once she married her last name changed which meant my last name was different from the rest of the family and when I was old enough to realize that I added it to my list of resentments as well as the list of Why I Am Different From Them. I put myself in a double bind – I resented my immediate family for what they couldn’t give me and was desperate but unable to feel part of my extended family. I didn’t blame them. It was my fault. They were uninhibited, I was self-conscious. I wasn’t funny the way they were. I was withdrawn and uncomfortable and had a book with me wherever I went. I once heard an aunt remark, “Look at her. She forgot her book so she’s reading the TV Guide.” I don’t know how she meant it, but I took as some kind of slur against me.

I did not come from a family of readers – the only one who read was my dad and I looked down my nose at him as he read what I considered cheap, easy-read paperbacks. Were they? I don’t know. What I do know is I was a sensitive, precocious kid, possessed an intelligence neither of my parents had, was exceptionally bright in school. I clung to that intelligence because it was all I had, at the same time feeling ashamed of it as it was something that yet again kept me apart from my family. No one in my family went to college and that was the track I was on. My dad’s reading was inconvenient for me because I wanted to be nothing like him so I had to write it off as inconsequential. I might have felt sorry for myself for feeling like an outsider, but I also cherished it. 

And I started drinking when I was 11 because it was just too much to deal with.

I do not want to get into politics in this blog. It’s too painful. I used to follow the news avidly until Philip died. I felt flayed by his death and anything contentious was like sticking burning brands into my already tattered flesh. It was all beside the point. I am bringing it up now to make starkly clear the differences between me and my family. They are all rabid Trump fans. As in Michael-Savage-believing, Alex-Jones-listening, January 6th was no-big-deal-excusing, Trump-can-do-no-wrong affirming, MAGA-flag-flying Republicans. I am not. 

That screams volumes about the differences in the ways my family and I approach life. Inherent in that is a wound that won’t heal. I’ve never asked myself what it is I want from my family. Love, of course. But I can’t say that they don’t love me…I want to be seen. There. That’s what it is. I am not seen by them and having said that, it is way past time to let it go. Blood from a stone and all.

 I have felt guilty for not keeping in touch with them, particularly aunts and uncles. But that guilt was born from realizing Maria does keep in touch them, always did. At this point in our lives we are down to two aunts and two uncles, but she invites them to her home, makes plans to go out for lunch or dinner with them, calls them regularly, has group texts going that even include my brother. I don’t even know what I would say to them if I called, and to be fair, I know those group texts are Trump-related so why would I be included in them anyway?

Recent interactions with my two uncles (my mother’s two remaining brothers) regarding my mother’s Alzheimer’s and her financial state have shown me who these men are as well as helped me understand why I do not and cannot consider them the kind of family I can turn to. I’ll be going into greater detail about this as I write more about my mom and Alzheimer’s . But since I started working for Maria’s husband two years ago (he’s a doctor, I’m the office manager), since I’ve been coming down to the shore and spending more time with her these last three years, and since my mom developed Alzheimer’s, I’ve been forced into family dynamics in a way I have never been. I am seeing real, adult reasons why I can’t have the intimacy I imagine other families have, not childish projections of being not only unloved but disliked by them because I am just not enough. And as usual, while I am very good at seeing the why’s of the thing being unattainable, I am not well-versed in the how’s of getting what I want. I’d do well to first consider what that is.

© 2022 Denise Smyth

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ed Hack
    Aug 31, 2022 @ 16:02:27

    Strong and clear and, it appears, going someplace important.

    Reply

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