So I am writing about family connections and what they mean to me. It’s been a hidden thought in my mind for a few years now. Now is the time I bear some light on the situation and figure exactly why it is I keep loose family connections.
Growing up in a military household required a lot of moving around and “get up and go” mentality. I pride myself with this fact because it has come to shape the core of the person that I am. As a child this was the way of life for me and I really didn’t know any different. It wasn’t until I was older and attended college, having graduated on the 5 year program, I realized I had spent entirely too much time in one place. When it came time to be kicked off campus due to college campuses being closed on holidays, I often had to go stay with my grandparents because they were within a drivable distance and my immediate family was somewhere on the West Coast.
It was during these moments of time with my grandparents that I realized how connected and close I felt towards them – despite years of only seeing them annually or bi-annually as a kid. With a few exceptions, a visit to the grandmas and grandpa was a cherished treat and having given the opportunity to fly on an airplane to see them was even better. The exceptions were the times my dad was deployed to Korea and Germany (on separate occasions) and we had to live with my mother’s parents.
They got to see their grandchildren in rare form then and all bets were off when it was time to get our asses whooped. But even then it was a mutual enlightenment. Someone other than mom and dad could tell us what to do.
It is sweet – the memories I have of my extended family. The memories themselves are limited to the few times in my life I had personal relationships with cousins, aunts and uncles. It was the birthday parties, the family reunions, casual gatherings, and various celebrations, which are richly embedded in my mind as experiences with the extended family. I remember the first time I tied my shoe, Grandma L. was there watching me on her bed. It was the punishment I got from my mother (because I had outright disrespected her) while my Grandma L. laughed. It was my crazy Grandma R. (who had a little too much too drink) who walked around all night singing “Winter Wonderland” in everyone’s ear at the family gathering at her house. It was my cousin and I hanging out at the playground talking about boys and which New Edition member we thought was cutest. And I cannot forget the crazy and hilarious sprint races we had in front of 1408 Summit Ave and my daddy falling down injuring his shoulder. Everyone laughed and it was okay because it was all in love.
Fast-forward approximately 25 years later. I really don’t know my cousins. All my grandparents are deceased. A few cousins have passed away. A host of uncles and a cherished auntie is deceased. I thank God my Mom and Dad is still healthy and alive and outside of my own family these are the people I commune with the most. While the rest of the world have close intimate relationships with family members outside of their parents. I find it strange that I do not.
One can blame it on the military lifestyle and the disconnection you may feel on a regular basis. That is a possibility but I feel like that can be balanced once you get stateside and closer to family roots. That happened once dad moved up in the ranks and got stationed near his hometown. The family connection that was re-established was relevant to him and my mom. I say that because the city was where he was raised and she grew up. They had friends and knew everybody, so reunions with these people were beautiful. Me? I wasn’t raised in any particular place and I damn sure grew up all over the world. I was born in Germany, went to a British kindergarten, had my first period in Florida, and had social awkwardness and shyness problems in Germany (on the second tour). I am not complaining it’s just that I didn’t have any cousins to call on or go hang out with when shit got rough for me.
The only way I can honestly say I keep in touch with my cousins now is on Facebook. That social media tool is at least good for that. I keep loose family connections unintentionally because I don’t know of my family – point blank. The younger ones don’t know me and the oldest ones don’t really know what to say to me because I am not that baby girl cousin anymore. It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just the way it is. This is how I’ve lived all my life. I avoid any type of intimacy with people for fear that I will lose them by some unforeseen circumstance. None of my family knows my likes, my fears, my favorite sports team, about the guy who broke my heart in college, or anything personally relevant to me. I feel like that is privileged information and I keep it locked in an emotional vault until I feel like I can trust someone with the info. My guard is forever up and I want to break it down but I can’t. I feel like to vest time in a person and building a relationship will ultimately hurt me in some form or fashion. This probably stems from moving around so much as a child and having to sever friendships/bonds that I had created in the short term of stay required in the military. I became a little numb I guess. Hell, I’m surprised that I’m even married. But even that has experienced some of the effect. I rarely bond with anyone aside from my kids. I sometimes wonder if maybe this is normal and I am overreacting or is just older version of me in my loneliness getting to me.
I don’t know. I have no answers for this. But what I do know is that I love my family regardless of the last time I seen them. Unfortunately it seems to always be at funerals, but I would love to get to know them better. And I hope they aren’t judging me because they are definitely closer to each other. Who’s supposed to reach out to whom? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. It’s just my thoughts. That’s all.