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 fiancée; 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…