This weekend was spent in Nebraska, with my brother John and his family. A pleasant time was had, particularly since they were the inheritors of Mom's dog Rufus, a loveable and dopey critter who seems to have been assembled from spare parts. (He has the body of a sheep, the ears of a jackal and his tail...I think it's a propeller beanie.) It was the first time we'd gotten together without a weird sense of abscence, an unspoken awareness that Mom was no longer around. I din't feel numb, I didn't feel guarded, I didn't feel...that I wasn't feeling. I just relaxed.
Yet since I've gotten home, I keep wondering, why John? He and I have always been close, with similar (though not identical) tastes and senses of humor. And I'm still close to my sister Ann--we talk on the phone, hang out occasionally. But what about my sister Julie and my brother Mike? I haven't seen them or talked to them in months. What about their kids, or the kids of my late brother Keith? I don't know anything about them anymore.
This is my family: We don't talk. We don't communicate. We used to, sort of, in the sense that we used Mom as a sort of message board, knowing that if we told her something that was going on, word would get passed to other family members. (Even if we preceded it with the words, "Don't tell anybody about this, but...") Everybody talked to Mom, it was easy and comfortable. She could be cranky but was generally non-judgemental, and always seemed interested in what you were saying. Even friends of ours would take the time to talk to her, and feel comfortable doing so. She was the Universal Mom.
Without her, what happens? Is this family decaying, collapsing, or merely evolving? Do familial bonds have to be renewed, are they always assumed, do they even exist? One of my first thoughts when Mom passed away was, if I got remarried (which, at this point, seems about as likely as getting struck by a meteor, but...), I wouldn't have to go through the whole introducing-the new-girl-to the-parents bit, and I wondered if a coupling without family blessing was somehow less legit.
Which is silly, of course. Life is what it is. There's no right or wrong way to live. Sooner or later we all say the Big Adios, and bit by bit we're all forgotten. So I should strive to just be in the here and now, to be comfortable in my own space and skin. When my own life is in order, then matters of family can work themselves out.
Or not, and that's okay, too.