noun: periphery; plural noun: peripheries
- the outer limits or edge of an area or object."new buildings on the periphery of the hospital site"
synonyms: edge, outer edge, margin, fringe, boundary, border, perimeter, rim, verge, borderline; More
- a marginal or secondary position in, or part or aspect of, a group, subject, or sphere of activity."a shift in power from the center to the periphery"
I was perusing Facebook (as I am known to do. 25 times a day) and saw another one of the "Light this fake candle picture for someone in Heaven you are missing this holiday season". Which made me think, "Why would anyone do that?" but then, "Who would I light a candle for?"
I have some family members who died. My grandma (mom's mom). My uncle (mom's brother). My great grand parents. But I thought about how sure, I miss them, but probably not much more than if they were here. It sounds bad, but there is a reason for this.
Growing up, we were always on the outside of our extended family. I saw my grandma (mom's mom) probably the most, but even then she'd do something that pissed my mom off, and we'd not see her for a while. Same with my aunts and uncles and cousins. It was like, my mom would be "friends" with one of them that would put up with her and her horrible life and her abusive, drunk husband. But then they'd say something (I assume. I was never completely privy to the information) and we wouldn't see them for months. So I would spend nearly every waking hour with a set of cousins, only to have them ripped from me.
My dad's family--I can count on 2 hands the number of times I've seen them...on one hand or no hands for some of them. They're in New Jersey, and, for most of them, I probably come to mind only when they see me on Facebook, and maybe not even then. I am always on their periphery, and they are on mine. I am sure that if I died, they might "light some candles on Facebook" but it would be for them thinking of the loss that isn't, and not really thinking of me.
My grandparents: I still love them. I used to love them dearly. Then my love for my grandmother dimmed considerably when I visited at 18, and she bought me a bridal magazine and asked me to pick things out (I was with Brian 2 years. And young and stupid). So I showed her things I liked. Then she went to her sister and told her how selfish I am to want such an extravagant wedding when my parents were on a fixed income. It dimmed more when she came to visit a few times and did nothing but talk on her cell phone to the people back in Jersey. My kids are here that she hardly ever sees. I'm here that she hardly ever sees. But all she could do was have drama on her cell phone, like we weren't even there. She doesn't even visit anymore. I have no desire to go there.
My grandfather? Oh how I loved him the most! The biggest thing he gave me was whispering in my ear, one time as a teenager in one of my darkest hours that "I was the first, and I was the best". So much love!! He loved me and I loved him and all was right in the world. Until last year. He's sitting next to me on the loveseat, and he's complaining how my cousin threw away her full cheerleading scholarship to get married (to a guy for about 6 weeks. But don't worry, we saw all the elaborate wedding pictures for the wedding my grandparents paid for and heard about how wonderful she is). Anyway, he said the sentence that forever put me on the periphery of his life, "I would have been so proud to have a granddaughter to graduate from college."
Here I sat, right next to him. The granddaughter that never asked him to pay her rent, or raise her kids, or throw her bail. The granddaughter that got married at a reasonable age (and paid for her own, non-elaborate wedding) then had her kids. And never had to ask anyone to take care of my kids while she got evicted (again) or off drugs (again).
There I sat next to him. The granddaughter that graduated from college. The granddaughter that was, indeed, starting graduate school. The granddaughter that thought she was going to grad school, in large part, to make her grandfather proud. To give that to him. And in that moment, he took so much away from me. It was like being ripped away from the only person who lived out there who I thought gave a damn about me.
I just patted him on the knee and said, "You already have a granddaughter that graduated from college, Grandpa". And I got up. He stammered after, "Oh yes, and I'm very proud". But at that moment, I knew the truth. No matter how many times a day I thought of him, no matter how cherished the handful of memories I had of him, no matter how I can still smell his den (where I learned my love of history) and his garage and picture holding his hand walking through the woods, or helping him stain a picnic table or feed the dogs, or smelling his A&P coffee, or thinking about him taking me to sit with his buddies down in Highlands at his friends bait and tackle store in the morning, no matter all of that, I was always on the periphery. Always on the outside. Always an afterthought.
I wasn't even going in this direction when I started this post, but I guess that's the beauty of a blog. Maybe it's all coming out because my grandpa is coming for hunting season in the next 5 days. It's probably his last time; he's getting older, the trip is long and he has a lot going on back at the Jersey Shore. Cousins who need him. Maybe he doesn't think I need him because I didn't ask him for all the stuff my cousins did: The bail, the rehab, the kid raising. But he's so wrong. I took care of myself because that's what you are supposed to do. But instead of making him love me for that, it pushed him away? I don't know. Maybe it's to the point where I am 41, and he's 84, and I can ask him if that's what he thinks. And tell him he's wrong. And maybe, in the end, I can get out of his periphery.
But maybe, just maybe, this is why your best family is the family you choose. My best friend Jess is the sister I never had. She listens to me and I listen to her. She's probably the only one reading this right now. I don't feel like I'm on her periphery. She has so much going on in her life, and she still never makes me feel like an afterthought. Never makes me feel like I'm not important, and not worth her time. I always feel like she's happy to hear from me, and that she loves me and misses me.
And where this post was going in the first place, was me thinking about how my own, immediate family keeps us on the periphery. If we don't do things they like, or we don't do things their way. Does my brother think about me when we aren't together 6 months at a time? We get together and it's fine, but does he miss me like I try not to miss him? Even though we live about 5 miles away? But I only hear from him when he wants something. I heard from him last because he needed job references. I had to suggest we go out for his birthday, otherwise I would not have been included.
I don't want my kids to be surrounded by people that put them on their periphery. I want them to feel loved, and wanted, and important. I feel badly that my parents didn't care enough about me to want that. I feel really badly that they don't care enough about their grandkids to not do that; that there is no happy medium. Either they don't come around ("Because you don't want us" or they're pissed at me for something) or they are smothering, here every day, telling everyone how to live and what they do wrong. I love my dad, but he's Jersey people. He's so self-absorbed; when I was diagnosed with MS, he called to tell me how horrible his life is now that he has a daughter with MS. I can't even make that up. Any problem that I have becomes something he has wrong, only more horribly. I know he loves me, and I know he loves my kids, and I know our interactions would be different without my mom's influence.
And I guess I walk away from this very long blog post with this: That although there are family members that have died that I'll miss, and there are family members in my life that if they died I would miss them, but my heart has to be with people that care about me back. I give so so much of myself, all the time, because I'm supposed to. Because it's the right thing to do. Mostly because I WANT TO. But how much of myself can I give anymore, when it's not given back? When I am an afterthought?
I have to give to people who give back.