Today I feel normal again. I am not sure when my sister and my best friend (it was their mother who passed away suddenly, almost two weeks ago now) will feel normal again. This is a complicated kind of loss. Their mother was only 50 and although her death was sudden, it wasn't really a surprise. When I began to explain it to an older co-worker, someone who has seen a lot of life, he interrupted with a nod of understanding: "Hard life". Yes. She had a hard life and for the latter parts her children and then I were a witness to it. And, oftentimes, when her children were children, the hardness in her life spilled over onto them.
There are so many complicated relationships at play here. And in many ways I am just an observer. But this woman who I had spent so much of my adult life being angry at or disgusted with is gone. It is a relief and a loss at the same time. Her kids feel the same way. But one result of her death is that it brought everyone together.
We (my best friend, her sister who is also my unofficial little sister, their brothers and their wives and I) met in our hometown for a weekend. It was an erie experience, all together. The first morning there I walked from my parents home to the house where everyone else was staying. On the way I passed my elementary school just as the kids were arriving. For years I walked to school as a child this same way but now I, childless, was walking past and realized that I am now an adult, older than some of the parents. I searched the parent's faces wondering if I would recognize any of my former classmates. And then I did. Driving by was a friend from the 6th grade with her elementary aged kid in tow.
There is this whole life that I didn't live when I left my hometown. There is this life there that seems uncanny and strange to me but which is totally normal and so very American and wholesome and apple pie. But even though none of us stayed in our hometown-- we all pretty much fled as soon as we were able, for one weekend, my best friend from kindergarten and all her family were gathered together in the same place we grew up to come to terms with their mother's death and the life she had lived there.
It was not easy. There are so many things I want to write about. I want to write about how my best friend's family is closer to me than my own, about how my unofficial sister really is my sister. I want to write about how my boss asked me: "So, now you want to go to the funeral?" as if I was asking for time off to go to a party. I want to write about how it is impossible for me to describe the relationships I have with people who are not biological kin without telling the whole stories of our lives. I want to write about how I think it was rude that my boss forced me to explain the entire relationship in order to validate the time I took off from work. I want to write about my mixed feelings about my hometown and how, to this day, feel totally out of place and misunderstood there.
But today is my first day at home. There is catching up to do. There is the blog crawl to write about, to comment on, to READ. There is ironing and laundry and a still empty room to rent. And there is my poor beat up and neglected body in need of nutrition and a pedicure. There is dinner to be made and groceries to be bought and order to be re-established. There are chickens to be fed and dogs to be walked.
Being single doesn't mean that I don't have responsibilities or committed relationships but it has forced me to learn how to nurture myself so that I can feel whole enough to be there for the people closest to me when they are feeling less than whole.