I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

On Families

This afternoon I had lunch with a girlfriend and we got to talking about families. For various reasons I started to talk about my immediate family (the one I grew up in, not the one I'm raising), and how some days I am in total disbelief about what has happened to it over the last 3 years.

My family has imploded. Spectacularly. 

Here's the background story:

I grew up in a very close family - my parents, my siblings and I used to spend ridiculous amounts of time together. I very clearly remember my Mom sitting me down (around the time I was 13 or so) and having a heart to heart with me about how I needed to go out and make more friends, because I couldn't just spend all my time hanging out with my parents. She then tried to force me to make more friends, by insisting I join a quasi-militaristic youth group, but that's a story for another day (guess what? I lasted about 3 sessions before I staged a quasi-militaristic revolt and refused to go back to that ridiculous endeavor.) The fact is, I LIKED my parents and I wanted to hang out with them, plus I've always been a bit of a homebody so I felt no real need to have some sort of all-hours social life. My siblings were much the same, and so as a result we grew up in a pretty tightly-knit family. We traveled together heaps (my Dad had a thing about road trips), we hung out together, we had dinner together pretty much every single night of the week and in general we lived in one another's pockets. 

That being said, I've always been fiercely independent - did my own thing when, how, and as I wanted to. It irritated my sister no end that the same rules which applied to her never applied to me, but then I think that's always true for second children - parents relax after they manage to keep the first one alive for a reasonable amount of time. There is a big age gap between my sibs (my sis is 7 years older, my brother 5 years younger) and so each of us got to live a fairly independent-ish existence (except my sister, who had that whole eldest child/responsibility thing). Me, I always did things differently to my sibs - frankly, while I never went out partying and carrying on, I was one seriously massive pain in the ass. Stubborn, head strong, opinionated - whatever verbs you want to attach to it, I've always done my own thing and forged my own path. It's mostly a good trait. 

No matter how independent I was then or am now, I always knew I had the safety net of my family to go back to. I always knew that no matter how far away I lived, there was always an invisible thread connecting me to them. Several threads, actually. My entire life could go to hell in a hand basket at any given moment but I always had the protection of a family to go back to. My family was like a warm security blanket you tucked in the back of the cupboard - not always in front of you every single moment of your life, but always there waiting for you when you needed or wanted it. 

Someone pulled the blanket out of my closet. 

That someone was my Dad. 

Three years ago in August, my Dad passed away unexpectedly.  What I don't think I appreciated then (and really am only starting to appreciate now) is how he was the linchpin of our family. Now that he's gone, the family is, too. Which is a little funny because I'd never have predicted that outcome, but seeing the immense impact his loss has had on us, it almost seems a foregone conclusion. The long and short of it is, two of the remaining four of us have gone off the rails entirely.  My sister and I are holding it ("it" - meaning our sanity) together as best we can, working as a team to salvage what there is left of this family. I believed (and on some level, still harbour hope) that losing my Dad would draw us all closer together still. 

Instead it exploded us apart.

In the three years since my Dad passed away, I've lost my brother, and now I'm losing my Mom, too. (To be clear we are all still alive. I use the word "lost" metaphorically.) Lately I find myself feeling extremely sad about all of this - and today, in chatting to my girlfriend, I worked out why that is. I'm in mourning. Mourning for the family that was, for the brother I've lost, for the Mom I'm losing, and for the family which so much defined my life and my identity. In dying, my Dad took the security blanket out of my cupboard and I am not happy about that AT ALL. By the way, this is also the man who broke me of the habit of drinking out of baby bottles by sitting me in front of a trash compactor, throwing all my bottles in there, and turning it on (true story.) I'm not sure which of those incidents I am more inclined to forgive - but bets are, it'll be the bottles.

In chatting to my girlfriend, I expressed one of my most terrifying thoughts - that the family I'm raising could also, someday, be so easily broken apart. Because here's the thing - DH and I are raising a family not dissimilar to the one I grew up in, in so far as we are all very tightly knit, we spend an inordinate amount of time together, we're all homebodies, and I can imagine someday soon I might feel I need to convince my kids to find friends other than each other and their parents.  I would even go so far as to say that DH and I are cultivating a close family unit - he and I are so enmeshed that of course our kids are an extension of that. 

That this family could be so easily destroyed makes me feel ...just...awful. 

While I would not say that I'm actively worrying about this happening - I will say that the very idea that it's even possible scares the hell out of me. We're working SO hard to create this amazing family, and yet all it would take is one seemingly random act and it could all just fall apart.  It was my girlfriend who pointed out to me that my Dad really was the anchoring point for my other family members (not as much for me, thanks to that independence thing). She pointed out that once the anchor was lost, of course those connected to it would be set adrift. She also pointed out that in the family I'm raising, there is no single anchoring point. DH and I share the parenting responsibilities, and we each have different sets of skills we bring to the family as a whole. Neither of us is totally dependent on the other - or if we are, it goes in both directions. So, she concluded, the chances of that kind of thing happening are pretty slim to none. We're different to our parents, it's a different world now, DH and I certainly have a very different relationship to the one my parents had, and there is no real reason to believe that just because it happened in that case, it would happen in this case.

I'm not convinced - mostly because I never, ever would have even thought this outcome was even possible. That I'd be looking back a few years and see a happy, connected family - and now be left with just my sister and I, holding onto one another for dear life...well, no. Not even for one single solitary second. Make no mistake, my sister is amazing, and I'm grateful as hell that it's her I've got to hold on to - but, NO WAY did I ever think it would come to this.

I want my blanket back. Not my Dad. I'm well past that. I just want the blanket which was my FAMILY back again. 

I keep wanting to open the cupboard door and just check if it somehow magically reappeared, even though I know it hasn't. 

I guess the invisible threads are still there. 

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