08/15/2021 Diggin’ up bones

My aunt passed away yesterday. She was the last of the aunts and uncles, both paternal and maternal. She was the youngest of 8 kids on my mom’s side. I thought one uncle, one of my mom’s brothers, was still alive, but had to Google it. Nope. He passed away in 2010. And then I got to thinking about my dad’s youngest sibling (there were 3 kids in my dad’s family) and wondered if he was still with us. Negative. He passed in 2019.

So they’re all gone.

Now as I get older, it’s harder to remember stuff that happens. But you’d think I could remember big events like this. I could forgive myself for not knowing about my mom’s brother as he was not a part of the family in the traditional sense. He was actually the black-sheep, if you will. (Every family has one. We do. One might argue we have 2, if you count me.) But my dad’s brother? When I was growing up, he was an ever-present fixture in our lives-I should have had a memory of this. I wouldn’t have gone back to the Midwest for the funeral or anything. It just shouldn’t have required a Google search.

Perhaps I can blame my lapses on my disease, time, geographical distance…but I think the real culprit is my disconnection from my natal family. No, no, no. They try to keep me in the loop, but I just don’t feel like I belong. I never have. So most times, communication from them is a mild (okay maybe not always so mild) irritant. If I could just figure out how to remove myself from the group text messages, I’d be fine.

But no. After whatever big news is shared, there’s often an endless stream of exchanges that remind me I’m the outsider. I rarely participate. Someone once told me that if what you have to say will not add value, keep your mouth shut. So I do. Oh, now, don’t start. If someone is sharing something about them, personally, I reach out to them individually. I’m not totally without concern, sympathy, or empathy for what they are going through. I just don’t care to broadcast my thoughts and feelings to everyone. Some things should stay private and between two people, lest they be misconstrued and then judged.

And yes. I realize that by not replying to everyone I run the risk of being judged as a cold, harsh, unfeeling person. But if you remember yesterday’s post, sometimes, in order to live happily ever after, you have to say Comma this Poop.

Whew! That was a long preamble to this post.

Where I was going with this was that my aunt’s death put me in that place of ruminating about the past. Good and bad memories came flooding back to me. I like to call this “diggin’ up bones”.

Like Randy, I have more than my fair share of bones to dig up in the relationship arena. A lot of them aren’t pretty, which is probably why the title of the song fits. And while I related a little of it to a friend, last night, it certainly wasn’t all of it. For now, you’re going to have to be satisfied knowing that my ex passed away 2 1/2 years ago from our disease. Yep. Where most of the regrets and devastation in my immediate vicinity lie, is squarely coupled with King Alcohol.

Yesterday, I pulled out a couple of the very few personal items I packed in my one suitcase when I did my geographic in 2007.

One was my charm bracelet. Man I loved that thing! I loved everything about it. I loved finding charms. I loved receiving charms. I loved wearing it. I loved the sound it made on my wrist. I loved the attention it drew.

(Now, there’s one charm here that I know will provoke offense in some people, and I am truly sorry for that. It is a part of my past that I cannot erase, but you’ll be glad to know the High School has since rectified that egregious mistake.)

The bracelet itself, and my very first charm, a palm tree and hut, I got from my parents. They bought it when they were in Hawaii sometime in the early 70s. That would have put me somewhere in my tweens, I think. I don’t recall them actually giving me the bracelet and charm. They may have even waited to give it to me for an event like a birthday or something.

Regardless, there are a lot of early memories on that bracelet. Birthdays, vacations, weddings, graduation, nursing pinning, Prom–you get the idea. It was meaningful.

The last charm I added was from my honeymoon in 1986. Why I chose to stop collecting charms then, I can’t articulate. Maybe it was the underwhelming response from my husband when I wore it. Maybe it was an unconscious declaration of “that was then, this is now” as I embarked on a new life. Perhaps the passion for it simply just abated.

But memories are swirling around in my head, today. Some are clear as day. Others are just a shadow; a clip; a blur. Not all of them are bad. In fact, I’m trying to focus on the good ones. But you know how those regrets just seep in, right?

And since my ex’s passing, I’ve done so much self-reflection that I am simply exhausted. Perhaps it’s a good thing that most every physical reminder of the past is in a storage unit back in Indiana. They have been there for 13 years. I went back to that unit once a few years back when one of my brother’s got married. Luckily I had my son with me to temper the inevitable flood of emotions that came. I did bring a few items back with me, but for the most part, what my ex didn’t take when he moved out, remains safely locked up 2000 miles away.

Memories of Dad and vacations-past.

But yeah. I’ve been taking stock, lately. What legacy am I leaving for my children and grandchildren? They certainly have the predisposition to my (our, if you consider my ex) disease. And they have many of the same memories, albeit from a different perspective.

Mom’s ring. No one wanted it because it was out-dated. I simply love it!

One of my children has written me out of every good memory. I’m in an indefensible position. This adult child remembers what they remember. And they’re still very angry; there’s no way I can change that. It does me no good to recount the good times. It does me no good to initiate a conversation about it. The pain that brings me, especially today as I think about my own mortality, is incapacitating.

Now, I’m not on the verge of death or anything. But if you’ve had someone you love, or several someones, die at an early age, especially if you shared a life with them, you’ll know why I am where I am, right now, with all of these memories and regrets slamming through my consciousness. Add the ism, and you’re sitting in hell with me going: yep. coulda woulda shoula.

I think about how I used to focus on the negative. To some degree, I still do. But I’ve at least come to this point of forgiveness for my parents’ shortcomings. They didn’t behave as heinously as I did as a parent whilst in the grip of my disease, but they left some scars. I wish this hindsight came a bit sooner, when it could have made a difference for everyone.

My mother gave these to me while she was still alive, in her 60s, if memory serves. They were a gift to her and my dad on their wedding day. She said she wanted to experience my joy at receiving them. What she did not know was how precious they would become to me and how it’s not having them that brings me joy. It’s knowing that she loved me that much to part with them while she was still living.

But now, when I look at the few material possessions from my past that I have with me, here in CA, the most immediate feelings I have are of comfort, love, and memories of happy times. I hope all of my children reach that point before I die. Not for me, but for them. So they don’t live with the regret of not creating new memories now that have the power to heal the not so happy memories. The bad ones will never be completely gone. Of course not! What I’m getting at is that by doing the work now, maybe, just maybe, they can avoid repeating the mistakes of their parents.

It’s time to break the cycle.

I wish I had these moments of clarity decades ago. Perhaps there’d be no need to sit here, diggin’ up bones.

But seriously. Who the hell knows? Even with major tweaks in the fabric of our lives, we all could have still landed here, in this exact place.

That doesn’t mean we get to stop doing the work, though.

So I’ll keep digging; not just so I can heal. But so my children can get to know the best of me and maybe replace some of those hurtful memories of who I once was and the wreckage that I created in their lives. Just like for me, I suspect it wasn’t all bad for them. They’re just not far enough past those memories right now to see anything else.

I’m not even sure I’m far enough past it.

And therein lies the rub.

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