Soundtrack: Jean Luc-Ponty, The Gift of Time
Transitions are rough.
I left my aunt’s deathbed feeling strong. Earlier, my youngest cousin had announced she was expecting a long letter from me. Some time afterwards, mom’s encouragement came to mind: “Keep writing.” The farewell postcard I wrote while sitting with my aunt summarized the healing I had achieved (and thought worth sharing) during this visit. It had taken more than 36 hours to be released from the grip of a stress reaction to a dynamic between my father and my brother on the second day. I was glad to have gotten through it quietly. Relieved to feel calm, I was able to just be present while my aunt rested deeply during an early morning visit, both of us settled into a brief spell of relative comfort. The inspiration to write fit the peaceful situation. Having written, the long trip home was uneventful. When the usual waves of withdrawal hit I was unprepared for their ferocity; mortality driving the lessons home hard.
Family is a journey.
I wrote my aunt about love. The tenacious stubborn kind. The kind that embraces you even if you haven’t visited for twenty-seven years. The kind that acknowledges the fact of having gone through experiences in common: good and bad, historical, present, and on-going. Not necessarily sharing or understanding the experiences in the same ways, but mutually effected by them and thus bound together by their effects. There’s my uncle, telling jokes that make us laugh so hard as a substitute for crying. My cousin’s children, hugging me even though we have never met. In-laws, outlaws and stalwart characters, every single one.
Families are for healing.
The visit had to get divided up, somehow. My aunt might have preferred for us to stay with her rather than dash up Hurricane Ridge, but when I indicated that I would probably go she said, “Well, you better all go together.” I witnessed a similar form of courage from mom when she died nearly three years ago. They were not sisters, but Georgia and Elaine are of the same generation, less than a year apart in age. As it happened, I shared some amount of quality time with nearly everyone, including a side of the family (by marriage) that I had never met before. The indoor/outdoor Fine Arts Center exhibits were a charming surprise, fitting right in to the swirl of family routines, whirlwind tour of family haunts, recitations of familiar and revised family stories, cheerleading for the kids, and somber offerings of solace to Georgia by all our various and sundry means, each according to personality.
Some emotions are excruciating to experience: strong ones can be shattering. The rate and rhythm of changing feelings is also challenging to figure out, not to mention accounting for perceived changes against the stability of a baseline – provided the baseline is not also in flux! Riding the waves together is itself a small miracle. No matter cresting or dipping, treading water or swimming along with smooth strokes, even heading in different directions; families exist in a unified sea. Jack Gunter paints the history of Port Angeles tongue-in-cheek, adding bits of satire to leaven life’s horrors. Whether cows or pigs fly or not, the improbable remains possible, pending creativity and desire.
Lately I have been thinking about loyalty, especially the definition provided by Rudolph Steiner. “I am thinking of the other’s ageless image, after all, I saw it once. No deception, no mere seeming will rob me of it.” I am grateful to partake in the loyalties of family.