When I was small I wanted to be her. I thought she was the most beautiful, graceful, perfect creature ever to walk the earth. I loved everything about her from her curly hair—so unlike mine—to her pink painted toes. I looked more like her than I did my own mother, and I often wished she was my mother. When she asked me to be in her wedding I decided she was a goddess. If she had told me she invented sliced bread I would not have been surprised.
When I was small she would give the best hugs. She never complained if I wanted to cuddle. If I could, I would have melted into her, soaked her up, drowned in her.
Of course this hero worship did not last long. I don’t know if it was the pain her husband caused me or if it was just part of the normal aging process, but eventually I saw who she really was. A beautiful person, but flawed. The older I got, the more flaws I saw until not only did I not want to be her, I didn’t want to be near her.
She was my aunt and I have not seen or spoken to her in five years. I still love her. How could I not when she was my favorite aunt as a child? Due to a schism—isn’t that a great word? It makes me feel so smart!—due to a schism in my family I no longer have contact with her or her children, except through Facebook.
Have you ever walked by a mirror and caught a glimpse of yourself out of the corner of your eye and swore it was someone else? I did that the other day and swore it was my aunt.
I nearly threw up.
Then I studied my face and found all the little family resemblances I could find. The nose, the eyebrows, the eyes, even the shape of my face, are all like her. And my father, and brother, and cousins. I hate it. And love it.
I love my family, even my aunt. Who did not protect me or her children from the pain her husband inflicted on us. I love that I resemble them so much. But I hate it too. I hate that every glance in the mirror reminds me of her. I hate that I can never speak to her, hug her, hear her voice. I hate that I cannot have contact with her children in real life. I watched those kids grow up, saw their first steps, their school plays, first boyfriends and girlfriends. Now I’ve missed their weddings, the birth of their children.
Every time I look into the mirror I’m reminded of what I’ve lost. A whole chunk of my family that lives in my heart but are, more likely then not, forever lost to me.
One day I may tell the story of how thirty-odd years of cracks resulted in a schism (that word again!). I hesitate to publish it in this forum as those who do not know the story may stumble upon this blog. It’s unlikely, but possible. Some of those people would be hurt. Some would be horrified. Some would never speak to me again.
I’ve been told (by my counselor) that I should tell the story again and again until it no longer hurts. Until I can forgive my aunt and her husband. And myself. By telling the story on this blog, I may even help someone else. I don’t know.
All I know is that every time I look in the mirror lately and am reminded of my aunt, all I can think—all I can say—is “yuck.”
Blessings to all of you.