A Family Affair
I was gone for a while, but I'm back now. My family celebrated my maternal grandmother's 92nd birthday, and I got to spend some time with my mom, sister, and niece--all of this as I close in on finishing a history of my father's family that has occupied me for the past few years. My interest in family history began about the time my daughter was 13. I could see so much of the past encoded in her, even though she was a newly wrought being, that I began to wonder what legacy she and I unknowingly carried and transmitted into the future and how each of us left our own unique imprint on the familial baggage. I think my interest was also a late stage of my own separation from my parents, an assessment of who they have been and what they have been to me, as I progressed into mid-life. I see how much I am a reflection of those who came before me and how I am so different from them. I have gained a deeper sense of how my daughter is woven from me and how she is the product of her own choices and desires. Like all parents, I exist in her life as a landmark, not a map.
A health scare has had her medi-evac'ed to Germany for tests: we are awaiting a diagnosis. The word that has us so willingly patient is cancer. The thousand questions raised by this single word will have to wait until we know for sure, but the possibility alone has me ruminating on the interconnectedness of all of us by blood, tissue, and bone. Just as L. C. (my daughter) was arriving in Germany, her paternal grandmother was admitted to a stateside hospital for internal bleeding. Her father and I both noted the synchronicity of these events. What did it mean, I wondered, that two important women in his life--his past and his future--were losing blood? What sense can I make from the possibility that my daughter's body has turned on itself, like an artist deprived of a creative outlet? The poem that undergirds our existence is a multifaceted thing. It hums in the wires of our communication or lack of it, blares into our slackened senses from time to time, jolts us as a new stanza begins. The language is always the diaphanous stuff of dreams and ancestors, understood only in the most remote quiet and darkness of our individual souls.