Sunday, January 01, 2012

Backwards and Forwards, and In The Middle

We stayed up, and welcomed the New Year.
Ron and Delia shared Captain America with us... and about an hour of campaigning for which movie eight people could decide to watch together! "Which" movie doesn't even matter. The main thing was all of us in the same room, together. Action, explosions, super-heroic feats got us through to ten o'clock, and then Malcolm In The Middle had us laughing until one in the morning.

I don't know why I am lingering in The Valley of Superficial Details, except that maybe the truly deep thoughts and other musings of these last few days are hard to articulate, hard to carry, harder to release, and even a bit fascinating to examine.

I don't suppose it is an exceptional experience to be looking backwards and forwards when at the start of a new year, but I find this to be a particularly emotional and poignant time of reflection, as I have had strange and wonderful reunions with the past, with a long time ago, and familiar stories, with family, beliefs, and this new day. Yes, strange, and wonderful, and quite sad and funny. Parts of me have been quiet for a long time, and I had almost forgotten where I've been.

Michael, Natalie, Mark, Hans, Bill :: Familia :: Por Siempre

Okay. So. I admit. I am being obtuse, vague, confusing, but sometimes there are stories that are not ours, alone, to share. This is one of those stories with deep, personal layers, and complicated subplots, and even irreverent colorful language, a story of functioning dysfunction, and family.

For a long time we all took vacations together, and spent weekends sharing bunk beds and sibling squabbles. We were not "The Brady Bunch." We were tag football in the street, student housing, Star Wars, VW van trips, Calexico, Olvera Street, Alhambra, Alpine, Ensenada, Barrio Logan, Chicano Park, dirt bikes, chicken dinners, VCR rentals, brothers and sister. And more. So much more. Seven moves, one cat, two Pintos...

It can be so maddening... so *&$!in' heartbreaking to realize that time has slipped by and some things, some people, haven't been around, or that too late I learn how much those memories are tied to real people, real events, and how much I miss them. Apparently, Al, our dad, spent his last months saying, "No regrets." I want to have no regrets, but those things that I recall, the things left unsaid, keep sneaking up on me, and leaving a terrible ache...

Family is everything.
Live life fully.
Stay connected.
Figure out what hurts and why, and then if at all possible let it go.
Be true, and be open to other truths, to new truths.

It's complicated, and bittersweet.

I know what Al, Fred, would have said. He spoke colorfully.

This is a new year. I am immersed in this family, and the present, but the last few days have brought back my own childhood, in pictures I have not seen in twenty years, or more, in people that were giants, whose voices live in elusive memory fragments. And maybe it is necessary to compartmentalize our memories and the people we relate with those memories, just to function... to be able to manage all of it... our busy lives. But I've opened a door, rediscovered a world, and am finding not only the past, but the present, too...

We are not little kids, step-siblings, sharing bedrooms, bickering over the front seat, getting busted, watching Bruce Lee, ditching school to watch Return of the Jedi, rehearsing for battle of the air bands, shooting air rifles, tearing down walls, gathering for dinner... what a trip. Remembering, hearing about it from other points of view, laughing, together, again. What a trip.

It's all backwards, and forwards, and in the middle. We have our own families, and new roles, and obligations, plans. And we have a yearning to hold on to something that for a time, got away from us... being together, sharing our past, and getting to know each other today.

There is a new generation. We have to be sure Riddick and Marissa, Dominic, Maria, see Star Wars in the right order, that they can speak at least a few words of caló. I think my sister-in-law, Maria, and I will be making plans soon.

Cousin Julie and Billy.

It's so good to be connected, to know people that can recall a story and share it, and we know the story too. It's so good to have brothers, or a cousin that remind me of something stupid, or embarrassing, or ridiculous I've done, or who can recall a pain that we all felt and survived. I think, maybe we don't even have to heal from every hurt, but if we can share the memory, know we are not alone... it feels better. And that applies to the good stuff too. All of those crazy stories are even better when we laugh together.

I spent my birthday with my family. With my strange and wonderful family. It's complicated, and bittersweet. Family is not a noun. Family is a verb... it moves and changes, it evolves, falls to pieces, forms again, it can be to an outsider seemingly dysfunctional, but who are we to say what works, what does not work? Here we are. Something worked. We keep moving forward, even as we look back, and live in the middle.

Sharon, Delia, Vicki

Recently I told someone, "We cannot know where love will come from, or when, and I think it is a waste to deny it. So if you find love, good. I am happy for you." The same may be true for healing. You never know where you will find healing, or when... but it would be a waste to deny it. My mommy says, "We are each works of art in progress." How true.

Some of us... a family. Our family.

Life is good.
No regrets.

Rest in peace, Fred.


ArtyZen said...

Families - I'm with a part of mine now that is very special to me but have had to leave another part behind to be here. I just try so hard to enjoy what I have and what I've had and I've been lucky - and am lucky. It's not always perfect but it's mine! I'm sure you know just what I mean as I feel I understand your words so well too.

Many happy birthday wishes and all the very best for the year that comes and for all the years that have been already. We do take them with us. Axxx

judy in ky said...

Life takes us in all kinds of directions, doesn't it? I made one life in another place, then came back here to reconnect with family, and am not sure where I am going next. I don't have children to take with me so I feel a bit unanchored at times. I think I was in denial for years after my father died, but I am beginning to feel it now that I am surrounded by family.

Sara at Come Away With Me said...

Beautifully said, Natalie. Here's to family, yours and mine and everyone's, the now family and the family of the past and the family of the future.

Tracy said...

Hi, Natalie! Great to be back in blogland after two weeks away for Christmas in the USA, and catch up with you here now. Wishing you & yours all the very best in 2012--PEACE, LOVE & JOY! ((HUGS))

Maria Velasco said...

I just read your blog to Mike. I had to pause a couple of times because I was crying and laughing at the same time. What you wrote is beautiful and honest. Thank you. We are a family and I look forward to making many memories together soon. Cheers and much love to you and your beautiful family. Happy New Year!

Jennifer said...

There's so much here, so much to talk about and reflect on and process. As we humans do, I hear it through your voice and my understanding of your experiences, and yet I process it with the lens of my own life and experiences. The two things that emerge first are these ideas that I'll share, even knowing this won't be what it really takes (which is hours and hours of conversation): a friend said to me recently that since carrying guilt about the past does you no good, you should always remember that at the time, you did the very best you could with the resources and capacities available to you at that time. It's impossible, I think, not to have some measure of guilt to process whenever there's life-changing events and changes like these, but at least I've found a lot of peace myself in just forgiving myself for having simply done the best I could at the time. The other thing, and this is so vast, is that the loss of family is inevitably entwined with both a loss of your own story, your own history (that's part of what parents carry for us -- those who knew and loved as as children through their own adult eyes), and the deep desire to connect with remaining family over that past shared story. Maybe that's the best part, a gift that comes out of loss -- the shared desire by people with a shared past to both hold on to and reflect upon that past while building new memories/relationships/stories. It's how we heal, and how we grow.