Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I've been brooding, which is why I haven't blogged for a few days (well, that and the fact that my kids are on Spring Break and life has been very full and hectic around here). I thought about posting a chirpy piece on the puttering in the garden the girls and I have been engaged in this week. I thought about not touching on this particular topic that has me brooding here on the ol' blog, but truth, honesty, and my compulsion for disclosure wins again. So here goes:

My great-aunt passed away a few weeks ago. I was informed of this in a letter I received from my mother last week. The letter also informed me that my aunt left me a little something.

So I've been brooding. This all brings up a lot of stuff for me.

First there is the issue of my aunt passing away. She was my dad's aunt (my grandmother's sister), so really more of a grandmother-type figure to me when I was growing up. The truth is, I didn't have much of a relationship with her over the last ten years or so. In fact, next to nothing. We exchanged Christmas cards; I sent her a birth announcement with each new baby I had; we talked on the phone maybe a dozen times over the last decade. She was not the most pleasant person. In fact, she was downright unpleasant. She demanded a lot of attention. She was a busybody and always thought she knew better than anyone else how everything should be done. Every visit consisted of a litany of who had and had not visited her or done this or that for her, and every phone call was a cataloging of who had not remembered or sufficiently acknowledged her birthday or whatnot. She did a lot for me when I was growing up. I think she tried to fill the gap that my parents were unable to fill in the way of providing me and my brothers with material things. I have memories of her arriving at our house on Christmas with the trunk of her car stuffed to the gills with presents for us. She took me in and let me live with her for several months the first time I left home when I was 15. She bought me my first pair of contact lenses and gave me my first car. But she also never gave without expecting something in return - usually unending gratitude. She never let me forget that I owed her. And after my first husband died, there she was, still with her demands, and I just decided that for my own sanity I needed to put some distance between myself and her. And so I did. It wasn't an outright estrangement, it was just a distance that I cultivated.

And now she's gone. She was 88 years old, so she had a long life. But I don't think it was a happy one. She was twice divorced, never had any children, and lived the last 40 years or so alone in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. I think she must have been lonely (but, you know, when you have a knack for driving people away - and I was by no means the only person or even family member she drove away) - chances are you're going to end up lonely.

But I do feel a measure of guilt now - especially since she left me something. I don't expect I will suddenly be rich, but the truth is, it's come at a time when we are trying to get back on our feet financially after Michael being sick all last year. So I'm grateful - very grateful. Also really, really surprised. I never had any expectation of receiving anything from any of my relatives upon death. Why did she keep me on as a beneficiary? I keep trying to figure that one out. This is a gift to which there can be no strings attached - she's gone now, so she's clearly not looking for the gratitude and accolades she seemed to have such a need for when she was alive. Maybe I was too hard in my view of her. Maybe I should have tried harder. I don't know. All I do know is that it is a very weird, almost creepy, feeling to benefit from somebody dying. Despite being grateful, especially for the timing, I can't exactly feel good about it.

And I find myself consumed with the whole morbidness of her death. She apparently did not die suddenly; she had some conditions that became terminal. I have death issues. Being dead doesn't scare me, it's the dying part that keeps me awake at night. I did the same thing after my dad died, and after my ex-husband died. I had all these visions marching through my head of their last moments (which, of course was only speculation on my part). Was she alone? Was she lucid? Did she suffer? What were her last words? Who was the last person she spoke to on the phone? What was the last meal she ate? When was the last time she left her house? When was the last time she laughed? There was no funeral, at least not one that I was informed of. And then I think, well, when you live to be that old, most of your friends are already gone, so who's going to go to your funeral? Someday that will be me, dying, and then dead. It happens to all of us eventually. No more laughter, no more tears, no more running, or walking, or enjoying a hot shower or a favorite song, no more hugging or kissing or making love or fighting, no more heart beating, sending blood through all the paths in our bodies.


And then there's the whole thing with my mother. Should I even go into that? In addition to notifying me of my aunt's death and related pertinent information, she sent me a second letter, again attempting to insert herself into my life. I know it's hard to understand how I can have the door between me and my own mother so permanently closed, but all I can say is that there is just so damn much water under that bridge. It's a fucking flood - there's just no undoing it. I wish she would just leave me alone. And every time she's done this over the years, made some contact with me (always to try to make me see how hard everything has always been for her and how much difficulty I added to her life when I was growing up, I guess as a sweeping excuse for all her parental failings), it just leaves me feeling raw and bleeding all over again. I hate that I am 42 years old and my mother still has this power over me.

So that's it in a nutshell, what's been going on with me.

I will get to that chirpy post about our gardening endeavors though, promise!

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