Monday, July 26, 2004

Sadness

 
I was just informed that my uncle Steve died.  He was diagnosed with liver cancer a couple of months ago, and apparently it just went downhill from there.  My memories of Steve, my mom's brother, though few, are very fond.  I didn't know him well, but he was always very warm and kind to me.  I remember he once gave me a crisp $2 bill printed in 1976, my birth year.  It meant a lot to me and I still have it in one of my journals.

I never associated much with my mom's side of the family, due to the prevalence of addiction and general familial dysfunction.  Pretty much everyone on that side of the family is addicted to one thing or another, and Steve was no exception.  While most of those family members tend to dabble in alcoholism, or smoking, or pot, Steve was addicted to heroin.  In fact, as long as I have known him, he has always been addicted to heroin.

As my mom tells it, Steve's addiction was less about getting high and more about maintaining.  He never, ever seemed fucked up when I'd see him.  In fact, if my mom hadn't told me, I likely would never have known.  He was a handsome man, his demeanor calm and relatively soft-spoken.  He just took heroin to be able to manage, to pacify his withdrawal symptoms.  It's really sad.

I just got off the phone with my mom, who is understandably quite sad at the loss of her brother.  We talked a bit about him, and I found tears springing to my eyes.  It's true I never really did know him all that well, but I don't have a single bad memory of Steve.  He was unfailingly kind to me. 

My mom said, "That's exactly right.  He was a great guy.  If only he hadn't gotten involved in heroin.. what a great life he could have had.  He could have been a family man, worked, gotten married. "

It's true.  He would have been a loving husband and father.  My mom never really knew her father, who died of melanoma when she was little.  She told me today she always felt that Steve, out of all of her siblings, was most like what she imagined her father was like.  I can see that, the similarities, because I have always had the impression my grandfather was a wonderful man, one I wish I could have gotten to meet. 

My mom mentioned that when she was visiting California last, she'd had the urge to contact Steve, but for whatever reason hadn't.  That she wished now that she had.  She said, "It's so weird.. to not listen to your intuition, when it tells you you should do something, and then find out something like this."

I'm guilty of this exact thing.  My grandmother (dad's mom) for an unknown reason stopped talking to me right before she moved from California to Minnesota, where my aunt and uncle live.  Since her husband, my grandfather, died, the little bitter kernel she's always had inside took root and blossomed.  She's become incredibly negative and bitter, my grandma.  I understood it because of things she's told me -- for one, she gave up a promising career in New York as a dancer in order to marry my grandpa -- but when she let it take over her personality, the bitterness and anger began getting directed at people I love.  My mom, for instance.  I don't feel like I should have to defend my mom to my dad's mother; I feel that Grandma should know better than to take pot-shots at her.

I didn't know how to deal with it, with finding myself suddenly and uncomfortably forced to listen to her pick my mom, and to a lesser degree myself as well, apart.  I knew my grandma was considering moving, but you know, I figured she'd let me know if and when it were to happen.  Apparently she believed that the phone operated in only one direction (me calling her)  because the only time we spoke was when I would call.  I think a couple months passed without our speaking, and when I tried to call her at Christmas to wish happy holidays, imagine my surprise and hurt when the number was disconnected.  How fucked up is that, my own grandma moves out of state, and doesn't even call me???

Now, I can understand her anger at me.  My grandpa had died, and I was one of a few remaining relatives in California.  In fact, I was only an hour and a half from her, and I think she was lonely and pissed that I didn't stay more in contact or come visit her more than I did.  I take responsibility for it.. I'm a shitty person sometimes and am not very good at the correspondance thing, particularly if people don't pester me.  But I still am in a bit of disbelief that she'd move and not even let me know her new information.

I did see her and my aunt, uncle, and cousins over Christmas while living in Minnesota.  Grandma and I didn't talk all that much, other than the fairly embarrassing/amusing conversation we had on the couch, where she pretty much grilled me about whether I had a boyfriend and whether that was by choice.  My then-18-year-old cousin Danielle was sitting there, too, trying really hard not to burst into laughter, because she might be the only one on my dad's side of the family willing to understand that I'm gay.

All of that ramble to state that I should contact my grandma.  I know I should.  She's getting older, and I would hate myself if she passes away without some sort of reconciliation.  And I would hate myself; I'm not sure I could forgive myself for it.  I already feel like such a huge bitch that I waited so long to see my grandpa in the hospital (I'd selfishly stayed away because I was afraid, afraid to see my wonderful Grumpy all sick and weak), and then he died exactly a week afterward.  I'm grateful that I did get to see him, but so sad that I'd been so selfish to wait so long.

I want to write more, but it'll have to come later.  Time to go work out with Angie, and do laundry.


Currently Playing...
Song: Veruca Salt - Somebody
Book: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

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