Monday, July 11, 2011

Pathos (consider yourself forewarned)

I've had an ideal family for so much of my life. I was so blessed and didn't even realize it until much older. I had 4 living grandparents and 2 living great-grandmas that I was old enough to personally remember. I have lots of cousins that are a variety of ages, and family reunions were filled with laughter. My parents have a great marriage that I look to as a model of what I want, and I have many siblings that I'm pretty close to and that have generally made good decisions.

But my situation has been changing over the years. I get worried about some decisions I see my siblings making and I've cried for them in daytime and nighttime because I miss them and fear that I'm not doing a good enough job of being a loving older sister. Last year one of my great-grandmas died; I didn't know her all that well, but she's the first direct-line progenitor that I have memories of who has died (my great-grandpas died after I was born, but I don't remember them myself). When she died, I felt bad because she's my family, and now I can only know about her through stories my mom collected into a biography that was finished just after my great-grandma's death. That's family history and a family relationship that has to be put on hold now until I die and see her again on the other side. And as of this weekend, I'm now down to 3 grandparents, since my grandpa just died.

This grandpa was tall, had leathery brown skin from working in the sun his whole life, and had piercing, bright blue eyes that have been passed down through the generations since. I only saw him and my grandma for a couple weeks every summer because of the physical distance between our families, and he was always intimidating to me, especially when I was a small child. His health - physical and mental - has been deteriorating for years, so it wasn't really a surprise when my sister told me that he took a turn for the worse and we realized he probably wouldn't last more than a week. After talking to her, I grieved a little because I knew that he would likely die while I was in Austria, and I likely couldn't go to the funeral. I mourned because I could have possibly seen him in the month before I came to Austria, but made a different choice; I could wish as hard and regret as much as I want, but it can't change the past. I mourned because I can't go to the funeral to pay tribute to my grandpa or to see my family. And again, I mourned because I shouldn't have let myself be afraid, and I should have gotten to know him better, and tried harder to visit or write my grandparents. And now I've lost the chance with him for the rest of my mortal life.

So there's not much to do. As soon as I finished talking with my sister last Thursday I wrote a postcard to my grandma and prayed for it to arrive well (apparently the mail takes about a week to travel, and my grandpa died the day after it was sent). I'm still here in Vienna and still taking classes and still unable to be with my family, so I'm making the most of it. If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that my family's been on my mind more and more heavily over the past six months or more. School is great; friends are great; work is great (well, usually); but family is the most important, treasured, ennobling responsibility and relationship we have. My dearest hope to God is that I can do right by them. Nothing else matters as much as they do. And no other failure scares me more than the possibility of failing my family.

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