The idea of family is one that’s coming up for me a lot lately. Last weekend we had a birthday party for my grandmother; she turned eighty on April Fools day, so the fact that we had a birthday party for her in July confused her no end.

Most of the members of my mother’s side of the family descended upon us, and I got to see cousins I haven’t seen for a long time, relatives I couldn’t recognize by sight, and little babies I was just meeting for the first time. It was really cool hanging out with my cousins, although most of them are older than me and have families so it was a little bit of me feeling like a little child. It’s funny how we don’t really have that much in common– they’re not really in the same culture I’m in, they don’t eat the food I eat and they probably can’t relate to a lot of the things I’m doing– but we have this intricately tied history, kind of like war buddies, that means we connect on a level I can’t connect with anyone else. No one who isn’t in my family understands what it’s like in our family. It’s wonderful being able to have that connection again.

The second thing that happened that makes me think about family is my grandfather, pictured above, just died.

I don’t really know what to say about that, because I don’t know what to think about it. My grandfather was pretty important in my young childhood, but I didn’t see him much after my parents divorced, so it kind of feels like loosing something I already lost. But death does this thing to your mind; it changes the world. Literally; there is a part of your brain whose whole purpose is to keep track of what the world is like and every time you encounter new evidence that the world is different a different part of your brain is responsible for correcting it. I don’t how, but death just doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t make sense, and so this one part of your brain is holding onto ‘this person is alive’ and this other part is trying to correct it and it sends you off in a whirl. When my father died I spent months with my mind like a broken record, all of it’s energy trying to reconcile the world. And then you come out of it, finally convinced and the world hasn’t changed. The earth still goes about its orbit and your neighbors and the people in the coffeeshop you go to and your co-workers– almost no one but you has noticed that things are different.

My grandfather was a pretty amazing man. He fought in WWII as the radio operator on a submarine, then stayed with the Navy for a while, stationed on Key West, where my father was born, then France. When he got out of the Navy he went and lived in the Mid-West for a bit because he thought he was sick of the sea, but then he gave in and moved out here where he became the pilot for a Alvin, a deep sea submersible belonging to the Wood Hole Oceanographic Institute, that explores the deep places of the world. On one expedition to the mid-Atlantic ridge the scientists he was piloting found a worm they named after him.

 Family and community are deeply related. Your family is part of your community and communities are often made up of families. I like to think that a community is the family you choose, but the truth is that all your family is important, even when you don’t see eye to eye.

Alex’s community, Ionia, is mostly his family, but I have to face the fact that whatever community I end up in won’t have my family in it, and even when I start a new family, not having the rest of my family around will still feel like a loss.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Awww… this is beautiful, sweetie. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it! He’d have probably been embarrassed, but who cares?! He loved your Dad so much. I think he got broke with Steven died, too.

    I love you!


  2. *when, not with…


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