Driving home from a recent family gathering, I was filled with angst and uncertainty. When I visit with my family, I am always left with these uneasy feelings. We do not have an easy, natural relationship. Getting together always feels like hard work. As I said to my husband, it triggers feelings of not knowing my place in the world.
Thinking further, it's not that I don't know where I belong now. I belong right where I am, with The Mister and The Nugget. I have dear friends who are closer than any of my family ever have been. I am close with The Mister's family and appreciate the love and support they have given me. Still, once in a while I feel...rootless.
My parents divorced when I was 3. After that, I saw my father a couple of times a year for many years. It is my understanding that he didn't pay child support and, knowing her, my mother would have been too fiercely proud to ask for it. Because of the fighting between my mother and step father at home, I moved to my father's house when I was 15. I moved out when I was 18 and went to college. My mother died when I was 19. For many years, I had no mother and did not speak with my father. Some of that was my foolish childishness. Some of that was my father's social awkwardness. Some of it was simply that we had never developed a real relationship and didn't know one another very well. I know we are both sorry about that fact, but neither of us knows exactly how to fix it.
I have siblings. Half brothers. Step brothers. I have some nieces and some nephews. I have aunts and uncles and cousins. Most all of them live in and around the same town. Sadly, I am not close to any of them. The fractures that started in my childhood with my parents' divorce and continued through years of loss have deepened and I have been unable to bridge the divide back to my family; they have been unable to bridge the divide back to me.
Sometimes I get angry about it. My father never visited my home until I was 33 years old. Not once as an adult had he visited my home until then (and only then because my son had died). I cannot imagine letting my child go all those years and never once bothering to see where she even lived. "What kind of parent does that?" I ask myself.
Other times I feel guilty. I have gatherings to which I never invite members of my family. It really just doesn't occur to me. I don't really seek out opportunities to visit with my family; I do major holidays and events and leave it at that. "What kind of a child does that?" I ask myself.
Most of the time, I just feel sad. I think my father has done the best he can. I really do. It just hasn't been good enough for him to be a good father. He loves me, I know that. He just has no idea how to demonstrate that. I am lonely for the relationships that I hear others describe with their parents - fathers who coached sports teams, mothers who baked goods for school events, siblings who call and visit and are involved in one another's lives. I have accepted that none of this will ever describe my family of origin.
I am determined, however, that my family of choice, my daughter's family, will do better. That we will value one another over everyone else. That I will be the mother who bakes and plays and plans outings. That I am the mother who hugs and says, "I love you", and who talks through things. I have chosen a husband who is caring and open. We value the family we are building and talk frequently about our commitment to each other and the fact that ours is a forever marriage, that we took each other, truly, for better or for worse.
The roots of the tree I was born to have withered a lot. I am going to water and nourish the roots of the tree I am growing. My daughter will be grounded in this family, she will know where she comes from, where she always belongs and that we will be here whenever she needs to look back. I am rooting myself right here, along with The Nugget and The Mister, right where we all belong.