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Family Fray

              I used to see these shows on television like the “Brady Bunch” or the “The Cosby Show” and they were so happy and tight knit. No problem was too big or small for them to get through. Sometimes, they would fight but, by the end of the show, they would have everything worked out.  I believed that family was supposed to weather the storms of life together until my grandma died. 

That was how the picture of my family started out.  We'd get together on holidays and birthdays.  All my aunts, uncles, and cousins would all show up at my grandma's house and it would just be overflowing with this loud, kinetic energy.  We'd all sit around the table and talk about the goings on of everyday life.  I felt love and security in that fold of crazy people energy.  My grandma was the center of the universe and we just all rotated around her like the sun.  April 7, 1987.  That is when my whole view of life and family changed. 

At the time, I was at Shriner's Hospital having one of my last surgeries that would hopefully get me up walking.  My grandma would come and visit everyday like clockwork.  She would usually show up early and stay with me for a while. That day though, I waited and waited to see her face at the door of my room.   The hours kept ticking by.  I was riding up and down the hallway in my wheelchair just thinking that she was stuck in traffic somewhere or maybe she wasn't coming.  Time just kept going and I was getting this feeling of dread in my stomach.

            Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, mom showed up.  She sat by the side of the bed and told me that grandma had gotten into a car accident and had died.  My world just shattered and my soul broke open in a flood.  I couldn't comprehend a world without my grandma.  This was the first time that I had any experience with death but, somehow in the back of my mind, I knew that nothing would ever be the same again.  She was 49 years old.

            It wasn't obvious at first because my family still went through the motions of doing the family gatherings and holidays. They still had the smiles and the laughter but, everything started to look stilted and skewed. There were misunderstandings and little spats among one or two them but, never one big blow up. Like the continental drift, we were all slowly shifting away from each other and inside our individual worlds. There was just this quiet resignation that this was the way it was going to be now, as if there was nothing left to hold them together, so, why bother pretending?

  My aunt Joanne and Uncle Frank were the first to seclude themselves from everyone else.  They were always  considered the black sheep of the family and my mom, Uncle PJ, and Aunt Janet didn't really think too much about it when they spent less and less time around other family. At first, we might only see them on major holidays but, as time went on there was just less and less interaction and then nothing at all.

Then, Uncle PJ was the next to break away.  My mom and Aunt Janet would sometimes still get together with him every so often and we’d see them at Christmas.  He stopped making the effort to even talk on the phone. My mom would try to get him on the phone after that and try to find out what the problem was but, there was no talking about whatever issues there were.

 It was my mom and Aunt Janet who were the last to stay in touch.  They seemed to be the closest of the whole bunch and their bond seemed to be unbreakable.  The final straw was when my Aunt Janet got a divorce and she just started to change for the worst.  My mom was struggling with trying to get on disability at the time and I think my Aunt Janet was thinking that this was just something in my mom's head.  My aunt Janet retreated and my mom was struggling enough in her own life trying to keep her head above water. 

Now, it is just my mom, sister, brother, stepdad, niece, brother-in-law and I.   My mom doesn’t even bother trying to pick up the phone anymore. She has resigned herself to the fact that this is the way that her family is. It hurts to you to the core to think family would do that to you but, my family is an example of how everything that looks perfect on the outside might not be so nice on the inside.  The ending doesn’t get wrapped up in a nice, little happy package at the end of the day.  Sometimes, you are left with the frayed edges of people that are too angry to fix what broke them in the first place.