Where Is My Family?

Empire State Building Observation Deck, July 2012.

I just spent the weekend being a tourist, wandering a very hot (but not at all humid) New York City with five of my favorite people: my son, my sister-in-law (well, ex-sister in law if you want to be all literal about it), her husband, and two of their three awesome children, both of them statuesque blondes in that beautifully unselfconscious way that comes with youth and a Midwestern upbringing. We hit some of the major sites: Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building—which never disappoints! But of course, I wouldn’t bother to go there on my own steam; I need the Visitors to show up before I deign to hit the sights, just like every other New Yorker. It was a perfect (and perfectly exhausting) day.

And yet, when I got into bed that night, tears slipped out of my eyes and into my ears.

Where is my family? Where is my posse? Where are my son’s brothers and sisters? How did I end up so alone on this earth?

Yes, I know: I have tons of loving friends and colleagues and an army of well-wishers out there on the Internets, but It. Is. Not. The. Same.

My brothers and I have not discovered a new rhythm of connection since our parents died. We lost the center of our family when they passed away, in a very literal sense. Without my parents’ house, we have found ourselves without a place to gather. It’s quite possible I have seen them both only three times since our parents’ memorials two years ago. (Two years. Good, god, how did that happen?) We are all living up-in-the-air transitions, not all of them triggered by their deaths, but certainly hastened by them: one is ending a marriage; one is newly engaged, though still living with his former girlfriend of more than a decade, the de facto mother to his 15-year-old daughter, real estate keeping them tied together. There are layers of additional heartbreak in all these changes in their own lives: I love my brother’s wife; I don’t yet know my other brother’s fiancĂ©e; I miss being able to stay in my brother’s farmhouse, which is now not a home but a burden, a symbol of being stuck.

Where is my stable, my steady?

I know I have so much, so many pieces of luck and good fortune that sit on my life’s balance sheet. But I have never been one to count life by its coins. I count life by the connections that sustain me. And right now, on that front, I feel I am running frighteningly low…




About stacy

I am a writer, author, mother, former magazine editor (last at Redbook), optimist, and, above all, a searcher. I'm still searching for whom I'm really meant to be, after a series of very jarring losses. Since then I've been trying to figure out what's next. Or, in other words, how to fill in the blanks.
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11 Responses to Where Is My Family?

  1. Oh, babe, I have no words for you. I know that ache. Right now both my mother and my aunt are in the hospital / rehab recovering from recent incidents. My aunt has a husband (my mother’s brother) and two children as well as teenage grandchildren to rally round. My mother has… me. And I feel the paucity of that acutely. Friends are amazing but family is different. And all I can offer you is the hug of a friend, but it’s here any time you need.

    • stacy says:

      Thank you, Varda. Yes, that’s it: Paucity. Not enough-ity. When my parents fell ill, I remember calling my boyfriend and saying “We need to have two kids, stat! Zack can’t do this for us alone!” It’s at the beginnings and ends of things I find myself looking around the room for my family.

  2. Laurie says:

    I wish I didn’t relate so specifically to this experience, but I do. I’ve struggled to write about it in a way that doesn’t appear to dismiss the great relationships I do have, because these feelings are often so misunderstood. You do it well, and I thank you for giving me something out there that resonates and makes me feel, in similar depths, not so alone.

    • stacy says:

      I agree that there is a “not so alone” in being able to share these feelings with other people—especially because you can acknowledge the feelings, validate them, and then not feel you have to do me the “favor” of chasing them away. Thank you for that, above all. xx

  3. amy says:

    I feel the same. My dad died and my mom and I have been drifting apart (unrelated). I have little relationship with my brother. I am married with 1 son and my husband doesn’t want anymore kids (and he is now recovering from cancer and is unable to have any more of his own) and I feel ALONE. My husband has 3 great sibs and fantastic parents and we have lots of nephews (his side only) but I am missing my own people. I look at 2-kid families on the street and my heart aches. I see my husband with his sibs and my heart yearns. Even though I am close with his sibs and mom I wish I had my own people.

  4. Sherry says:

    This really resonates with me too, Stacy. I just got back from a 5 day “vacation” with my two young kids (hardly meets the definition of vacation), but anyway, my husband didn’t want to go, and he and I are in a terrible place anyway. My mother joined us but was mostly unavailable because of her own health problems, depression, etc. She wanted to spend most of the trip in the hotel room. So as I took my kids out, I had this overwhelming sense of aloneness. Aloneness in the world, and that I might always be this way. The happy foursome of families that passed us all day at the amusement park sent my heart deeper and deeper into sadness.

    My only brother lives far away, and while we are close, we don’t see much of eachother. I haven’t seen my father in almost 7 years. And now with this abrupt realization of how unavailable my mother is to us right now really digs salt in that wound. All of my “nuclear” family is alive, but just can’t make the connections to keep us close.

    But I think it is the slow withering of my family that I had with my husband and my two children that I am mourning more than anything. That is the one I chose to fill the void that I had with the rest of my family. And that is dying now too.

    So interesting…as I think more and more about this over the past few days, the defiant little voice keeps saying, “but you have so many friends who care, so many extended relatives, you should be grateful.” But somehow, that doesn’t bring any solace. I just feel alone. And lonely.

    Gosh, it sounds so pathetic, doesn’t it? But it is nice to be able to tell the truth, the cold, hard, awful truth, sometimes.

    The fulfillment has to come from somewhere. So when it isn’t in the places that we want or expect it to be, we have to find it somewhere else, I guess. Peace to you, Stacy.

    • Stacy @bklynstacy says:

      Sherry, thanks for this thoughtful comment. I relate and connect to it deeply. And yes, you are right we have to find the satisfaction elsewhere. I’m trying to wean myself from places where I hide to recover–video games, internet surfing–and instead invest in refresh, refill, rejuvenate (reading, exercising, meditating)…. It’s hard work to do that stuff when I’m feeling sad, but it’s time. Wishing you success on your lonely road; please know I’m rooting for you. xx

  5. Laura says:

    More and more I wonder if this, this emptiness, is just a product of being a certain age. Is what we have ever enough?
    I just ended a five year relationship – better to live alone and be lonely than to live with someone and feel that way anyway.
    Single, no childen, and no relatives close to where I live – some days I cherish my ‘aloneness’ and other days I wonder how it went so wrong. Friends are great but I also sometimes wish for my own people.

  6. I get it. There are my sons. There is one cousin who lives hundreds of miles away and whom I see every 3 years… or 10…

    Somewhere, there are other relatives, but basically, I’m alone. And yes, with a few exceptional friends (some also long-distance), and from time to time a wonderful relationship.

    But long gone are the days of a large family around a dinner table deep in discussion and laughter, and it’s a void that’s hard to explain to those who would happily buy themselves a bit more distance from their families, which I also understand.

    I sometimes wonder which is worse – to have family from whom you are estranged, or to have none or almost none. Family stabilizes us in so many ways, even as we may find ourselves freed in others when we are on our own.

    As for that 5-year relationship, perhaps the healing process will take its own time and offer other discoveries, even ways for you to grow closer to your siblings again. I hope so.

    Sometimes the journey feels so painful. And then, one morning, we find that it is less so.

  7. Scott says:

    I haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping up with your blog so I just read this post today. It is a very beautiful post that brought me much pain. I feel the loss of our parents and their home almost every day. I miss my siblings and do not know how to keep that connection. I worry that we will just continue to drift further apart and that terrifies me, I was already worrying about that in the middle of the hell of our parents’ illnesses. I learned so much about myself during that ordeal and it helps me continue to make changes that I need in my life. I appreciate the insights into your life and thinking that this blog gives me. It helps me feel closer to you.
    I love you so very very much.

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