Where Am I and Where I Have Been

Haven’t journaled in quite some time, blogged less frequently even. And the creative writing? The poetry has stopped. Thoughts are there but there’s no typing done. Dreams of European cities and past lovers and potential future lovers- it’s all there, the material, but I’m too tired to do anything about it. I promised not to use the word ‘tired’ anymore, but it’s there, undeniable. Creativity vanishes in the mundane.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Our family shrinks annually. Last year we went from 8 to 7 and this year we’re down to 6. The men in my family leave or are left. What remains is my brother, 22 and only drinking light beer after his run in with the law almost a year ago, and my grandfather, the loyal step-father to my mother and aunt and ever faithful gentleman to us all. My father disbanded from our ranks last year due to he and my mother’s separation (although you won’t hear him call it that- just a temporary solution). And this year it’s my uncle who has left or been kicked out, depending on whom you ask.

The men in my family have always been my favorite and yet they’ve always been the ones to disappoint me- to lie, to cheat, to yell, to drink too much and far too often, to care only after the other person has been forced to stop caring, to hurt, to blame, to guilt-trip… My mother left after 20+ years of alcoholism and verbal/mental abuse (with a possible mental illness that went undiagnosed and unspoken), and yet it’s still my father I feel heartbroken and miserable for when he calls me and I can tell he’s been crying. I said only yesterday that perhaps we should re-invite my father this year, my chest concaving at the shock and hurt in my mother’s face. I’m terrible at sticking with allegiances.

And my uncle? My favorite person in the family, hands down. He and I went to every Hobbit movie premier together, strangers staring at us wondering at our age difference and if we were dating. He went to art school in Pittsburgh. Lived with a gay roommate. Aimed to travel and live part of his life in Amsterdam but never did. Played in a rock band. And he cheated on my aunt after seven years of marriage. With a woman my age.

I wasn’t told until after I came back from my summer in Europe. My aunt was there at the airport, alone with a new haircut. I think I knew it then. His absence will be heavy. Who will sit in his chair or make the noises of approval during dinner? Who will ask me if I’ve ever read this book or that? There’s a gap in my life without him. My father is still my father after my mother leaves him. But who is my uncle to me now? Perhaps a new stranger.

It’s strange how much can change in a number of days. It seems as if I can remember the hallways of my middle school instantaneously, as if I walk them in my dreams nightly. And yet last week I spent time with my second cousin, whom I haven’t seen in over six years, and now he’s in middle school, no doubt wandering his own hallways, finding the right places to peck girls on the mouth or his favorite bathroom stall. Time is an abstraction and yet it’s what separates this seventh grader and I; it’s what makes him laugh when I tell him honestly that middle school seems like yesterday; what makes him answer quickly and turn away when I ask him what he’s involved in, when I compare it to what I used to do. But I’ve lived this life, I want to tell him. Listen to me and live it truly and fully before it’s gone and you’re left to prowl the hallways of your innocence at 23. Life goes on. Will I ever spend time writing about anything else?

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