Today is the seventh anniversary of my mother’s death.
The week comes, as it always does, with a physical heaviness that just makes me tired. I want to lie down more than usual. I’m not emotional, per se, just…tired.
The past year has been spent in pandemic and thought. I have thought a lot about relationships. For seven years, I have felt alienated from the relationships that were part of my life on March 4, 2015. It was almost immediate–I was suddenly excluded, and it feels more like I’ve been shunned.
I am an only child. Everyone who loses a parent has a different family setup. My parents and I have been closer to my mother’s side of the family (going through a similar split in connection from my father’s family when his mother died over thirty years ago). From a family perspective, they are all I have.
Almost immediately, I noticed one phrase that kept coming up in my relative’s conversations, a phrase that they hadn’t said before my mother died: “The whole family.”
The whole family.
When I’m visiting, and they start talking about how great it was that “the whole family” could do X or Y…I feel like I should leave. They’re talking about events that I wasn’t part of or asked to be part of or didn’t even know about. I know they mean “their side of the family tree,” but it hurts. I constantly wonder if I’m not part of “the whole family,” then who do I belong to? It’s almost like my mother was the only person of the three of us (mom, dad, and me) that they considered a proper relative. Once she died, my dad and I became something else.
I have my dad, daughter, husband, and in-laws (four of them in other states). But, I still feel homeless. I have our family house, but no Family Home that I can return to that is full of memories and comfort and safety. I still feel family-less because I’m not part of the story anymore. At best, I feel like a guest star.
I don’t live near my relatives any longer, so distance makes it challenging to feel like I’m in the narrative, but it all started when we lived in the same area. I thought we would get closer after my mother passed, but I felt more left out than usual. They got closer, it seemed. My mom was the bridge between our sides of the family, and now that she’s gone, that bridge seems gone too.
It’s not like we don’t communicate or visit (well, before the pandemic, we did), but a sense of family doesn’t seem there anymore. Maybe it’s in my head. Maybe I’m jealous of the family life they have, one that I don’t have anymore. I don’t get the adventures with my parents anymore, I don’t get the special stories anymore, I don’t get the afternoons spent at home with my parents hanging out with my daughter and husband. (My father is in a retirement community, and we visit, but we don’t go out and do things together.)
Even though my family expanded numerically when I got married and had a child, it shrunk exponentially when I lost my mother. I fought for years to try to wiggle my way back into the fold, to have what we once had before, or to get closer. But now…I’m tired. I’ve let it go. I’ve accepted that I will now be the last to know what happens with my family members…if I get to know at all.
My daughter has a cardboard house. I made it for her by taping two giant shipping boxes together. She likes to direct me in there, close the “door” (cardboard flap), and play “Where is mommy?” She does the same with my husband. Yesterday, she wanted me in the box. Then she told her dad to get in…all 6’3″ of him. Somehow the two of us fit. Then she crawled in…our mini-giant. It was tight and cozy and ridiculous because we couldn’t move. But it was great.
Then my husband chuckled and said to her: “The whole family is in the box.”
The whole family.
Maybe all I need is a box, strapped together with some shipping tape, and these two goofballs…who made me whole.
This is seven years.