|The family tree is dead. A new one is started.|
My family is gone. Not totally dead, mind you, just spread out and no longer a part of my world. Bear with me. After some background, I promise to get to the point of this post.
Before you feel badly for me, I will say that I still have my wife and son and am happier today than I have been in years. The loss is not a reason to mourn. It was merely a circumstance of life, one from which I learned an important lesson.
My parents, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and beyond are all out of my life. Some died. Others simply ceased communication. It was nothing I did personally to drive anyone away. Like people tend to do, we all somehow drifted apart over time. Everyone got absorbed in their own lives; and we seemingly lost everything we had in common, except blood. And blood, though thicker than water, proved too weak to be the glue needed to keep us together.
Sad? You bet it is. And I have struggled for years to figure out what went wrong and how I could bring these lost family members together again. For my part, I felt deserted and thrown away. It hurt for years. But you know what? Sometimes you cannot fix things, especially when the break was meant to be.
Growing up, we had a big (and, I thought, happy) family. Everyone got together often, not just for special meals and/or holidays. My grandparents home was the epicenter of this close-knit group. I think many families during this period operated in similar fashion. Times change. Much like our neighborhoods, individuals and families started to move apart and communicate less. The more connected we all became electronically, the less we saw each other. "Busy" became a popular excuse.
For my family, the end began with the death of my grandfather. Once he was gone, his children - my father among them - jockeyed for dominance and fought over the estate, which included land that all felt to be worth a small fortune. My grandmother lived for years after her husband's death, but she became a pawn, viewed as a walking checkbook at best, a burden at worst. It made me sad, as she deserved far better.
It's been more than two decades now and the property dispute rages on. Everyone is just waiting to see who gives in or dies first. Over the years, my parents and the aunts and uncles all tried to bring the next generation into the fray. My brother and some of my cousins gladly joined the battle, eager to get their piece of the pie. I moved away and refused to participate, which played no small part in my break from my mother and father. The facade of support quickly crumbled. More on this in a bit.
The family land, a once-cherished plot where happiness reigned, became poisoned by greed, hatred and manipulation. The place was dead to me. I cared not for any monetary potential it held. I missed the magic that lived there and the close bonds it nurtured. And that mature decision by me, to take the high road, not only made me unnecessary to so many people, it exposed how my family really felt about me. I was not as loved as I assumed, nor was I respected. As people began to form their own adult lives and strive for the prize, I became irrelevant.
Even my own parents expressed how disappointed they had been with my every adult choice and the path I have chosen. I was told my career had been all but worthless and that they saw me as an inadequate parent (because I chose to homeschool, of all things). Those who were supposed to love and support me viewed me with disdain because I was my own person and not living according to their vision. So be it.
Families fracture. It happens every day. But that does not have to be the end. As an avid gardener, I found an example I have applied to my home life. When a large tree is cut down or destroyed, very often a piece of that plant can be utilized to start new growth. A cutting or scion is gently coaxed and given time and love, to stimulate a magical process whereas a new tree will sprout from a scrap of the old one.
From the debris of tragedy, a bright new future is grown, with the name, appearance and traits of the old tree. My family tree is dead, after years of decay. But I have created a new family, stronger, closer and growing from the love that still resided in my heart. Never give up. No matter how completely alone you may see yourself, so long as you are alive, you possess the one thing needed to grow a new start.