Hey, I really want to thank those of you who so kindly commented on the last couple of posts I’ve done on my family. I have found your expressions of sympathy quite dramatically moving. Thank you, very much.
Some of you have been kind enough to ask how it all sort of ultimately went with my family. The very short version is that, unsurprisingly, it went awfully. As a teenager my sister moved to Hawaii (she now has four grown children I don’t know at all); I moved all over California; my biological mom remarried twice that I know of and moved I don’t know where; my dad and his wife (my stepmother) moved around the South for awhile, and ended up in North Carolina.
North Carolina, California, and Hawaii. Could we be any further apart and still live in America? It’s … so perfectly metaphorical.
I have lived the years since I left my home as a teenager without any family beyond my wife. I can’t say I missed having a family—a dad I could turn to, a sibling I could confide in, a mother who cared what happened to me–since no one can miss what they never had. It wasn’t really until I was in my late-thirties that I began to understand that people with families go through their lives with a surety of identity that is utterly foreign to me. People with families, I saw, operated upon a bedrock of solidity; their lives were infused with the knowledge that they were part of an ineradicable, supportive whole. Who they were had a tangible, dependable past that continued to inform their present, and that they knew would continue into the future.
All that sort of thing is totally beyond me. I have no idea what it’s like to live with that.
If I could rewrite my life, I don’t think I would. Life hurts, no matter who you are. Most people’s pain drags itself out over the course of their life; I know I’m already over the worst of mine. It’s pretty sweet, now. Because I had no family interfering with the process by which such things are supposed to happen to everyone, I had to create my own psychology—my own philosophy, value system, artistic aesthetic, way to love and be loved. I sure wasn’t good at all that stuff right off, or anything. I’ve wasted years of my life on drugs and alcohol; I’ve stolen; I’ve done my best to prove I’m unlovable. I’ve spent time in an insane asylum (strapped face down on a plastic-covered mattress, listening to the screams of patients who’ve been sold for the night to local deviant perverts). In a lot of key ways, my life’s been terrible.
And so has everyone else’s. What matters is where you end up; how you got there becomes, finally, irrelevant. For 30 years I’ve been married to a woman so fine she’s obliterated every wall I had. I’ve come into the writing voice I struggled all my life to find. I’ve got a theology (and, by extension, a cosmology) that I believe in and trust.
I know who I am.
So bingo. I win.