Sometimes, around the holidays, it makes me sad. When you don't belong to a family, you don't have family gatherings at Christmas. No big meals at Easter. None of it. While I recognize that it's for the best that I avoid getting together with them, still it makes me sad. Relieved, but guilty, free, but lonely. And the ambivalence runs on forever.
My mom sent her sad e-mail inviting her family for dinner. I felt guilty as I read it, just like I always do. Today, at the grocery store, I met my mom. "Hi, Mom," I said neutrally. And she looked through me as if I weren't there and pushed her cart on by. For some reason, it just really pissed me off today. I broke my own cardinal rule. I turned around as she passed by and I said, "You know, Mom, you say over and over how you want your family together for the holiday. How can I come to your house when you can't even speak to me in the store?" and I went on about my business. I got back to work and had myself a little fit in the lunchroom with good friends who make you feel better about life in general. I got over my fuss-tration. But I got home to an obscene and angry e-mail from my brother telling me what an awful person I was, and it started all over again. I had myself a good cry, accepted, one more time, that there are things that I can not change, and gave myself credit for knowing the difference. And then I took my red eyes to play practice.
My Easter was supposed to be Tim, Cara, and my sister. Good enough. But suddenly things began to happen. I got a call. Dylan is coming home after all. I was glad. Tim said that his parents had called as well. They accepted our Easter invitation. Meanwhile, my sister was also calling. Her two children decided to make the trip up from South Carolina with her granddaughter, Amaya. After calling me to see if I minded having three more at the table, she called my sister-in-law, another family outcast to share her excitement. Mandi was excited too, wanted to see everyone. My sister invited her over. Mandi was concerned about her brother and his wife. They only have each other, and she was afraid that Shawn and Angela would be alone on Easter if she and her daughter came up to our house. My sister, ever generous said, "Debby doesn't care. Their house is big enough. Bring them along too." If son Mike joins us, it will be 16 for Easter.
Several of the other nieces and nephews got wind that three of their cousins whom they had not seen for some time were coming home. Soon the phones were ringing off the wall. We've now got a Saturday night potluck in the works for the folks who can't make it Easter day because they've already got plans. My nephew Jim, wounded in Iraq, back home now, his wife Sarah, Kellie, Dave and the new baby, Kristi and Mike and her two boys, Dylan, Cara, James, Pam, her daughter Amaya who just won the National Cheerleading competition for her age group. My other nephew Bill is fresh home from Afghanistan. He and his wife Ange will miss the shindig by a week. My supportive auntie got wind of the hullaballoo. She hasn't seen the new baby, or several of the kids, and she and her husband are trying to fit another activity into their own busy holiday schedule.
Suddenly, I find myself up to my armpits in family. Not sure how it happened. I have myself another good cry. I thank God for my big house.