Sunday, February 19, 2006


I had a nice, long post planned on the subject of Grace, but something happened that changed that.  

Actually, I may still write about Grace after I write about this something else.  They fit, in a weird sort of way.

I happened to check the obituaries in the Pittsburgh paper online tonight, and I discovered that my last remaining aunt died (well, except for the one in TX who I only know in theory).  No one called me or anything, and had I not decided to click on that link tonight, I may have never known.  I certainly hadn’t known that her husband had died, or another one of my uncles…at least until tonight.

My feelings about all this are terribly mixed.  This is the aunt who I could never get a clear read on; sometimes it seemed like she supported my academic success and independent nature, and other times it seemed like she reviled it.  This is the aunt who has never forgiven me for an incident that happened at her grandson’s First Communion party, when I was 18 and too stupid to know when to gracefully give in and ignore other people’s insults.  This is the aunt who informed me at the visitation for my mother that as soon as Mum was in the ground, our relationship was over.

On the other hand, she was also my dad’s closest sibling.  He was godfather to one of her children.  Her daughter is my godmother.  I know she and my uncle helped my dad out of more than a few tight spots.

I find that I can’t cry over her death.  I really want to, and I really want to feel regret that I can’t fly to Pittsburgh for the funeral.  But honestly, I don’t.  No one has made an effort to stay in touch with me since I moved down here.  Heck, no one has made an effort to stay in touch since I left for college.  It was almost like my dad’s family viewed my childhood as a burden to be borne until I was of age, then they forgot about my existence.  As much as I don’t want to admit it, that hurts.

I told my shrink about all the feelings of inadequacy my extended family had engendered in me.  I explained how my mom’s family really didn’t value education, and to them, college was just a waste of four years and a bunch of money.  I explained that, because I was by far the youngest of my cousins in my dad’s family, there was never anything special or unique about me, because someone else had already done or accomplished everything I did.  I told him how sometimes I hated myself because I was just me – not an attorney, or a chemist, or an IRS agent, or a special education teacher.  I don’t have the mechanical skills that are so prized on both sides of the family, and I’m almost 35 years old and haven’t married or popped out any children yet.

We spent almost two full sessions counteracting all the lies they told me.  And even despite that, I don’t know if I really believe the things I learned to tell myself.  It’s hard for me to believe that despite the fact that I haven’t found my career niche, despite the fact that I don’t have a graduate degree yet, despite the fact that I don’t know anything about the stuff under the hood of my car and I always end up with pieces left over when I try to put together do-it-yourself furniture, I am a good, talented and worthy person.  If anyone else in my family, other than my parents, had told me that just once, I might not have so much trouble believing it.

I don’t know why their approval, especially from my dad’s side of the family, is so important to me.  I suppose it may be because it’s the one thing my dad really craved and never really had assurance of.  My dad adored his brothers and sisters, but they never really did right by him on an emotional level.  Instead, they held petty childhood grudges, they reinforced the fact that he was less successful than them or their spouses, and they – especially his brothers – made him feel like less of a man than he really was.  Yet all he wanted, the only thing he felt was missing from his life, was their approval and acceptance.  

I know I wasn’t consciously aware of that as a child – how could I have been?  But I think I sensed it subconsciously, and decided that if that approval was so important to my dad, it should be important to me as well.  So I tried.  I really did.  But I never measured up.

Damn.  Seeing her obituary has dredged up all kinds of stuff in me that I thought I had well and truly dealt with.  I didn’t realize it until I hit this point in my entry.

Well, I suppose all I can do now is make peace with this the best I can.  I know that at heart, she was a good woman, and I know that she is in the presence of God tonight.

I guess the post on Grace will have to wait after all.  I’m not feeling very grace-filled at the moment.

No comments: