In The Wake

In The Wake

This weekend I was in Connecticut for my Nana’s funeral. It was, obviously, very sad. She’s the matriarch of my dad’s side of the family, and not having her around any more will be strange. As my parents were the last of five children to have children of their own, and because we lived in Texas, far away from my other cousins and aunts and stuff, I never knew Nana as well as my other cousins did.

The period that I spent the most time with her and my Grampy was when they lived with us in San Antonio because Grampy had to live in assisted care and my mom didn’t work then, so she could help take care of things.

So basically it was during my grandfather’s long, slow death from Alzheimer’s. As you can imagine, this was not a fun time for either us or my Nana, so my relationship with and feelings toward her are a bit more complicated than some of my older cousins who’d spent summers at her and Grampy’s house in Florida as kids, eating homemade cookies and looking for seashells.

This separation, both in age and in location, has also made my relationship with the rest of the family a little fraught. Not just me, but my sister and brother as well. Not that my family’s not great, it’s just that we never spent as much time with the rest of the clan growing up, so now I tend to feel nervous and awkward around them much more than they feel about each other.

You may recall that I am generally a nervous and awkward human. It was because of this, and also because he just started his new job, that I told Frank not to come out (he would’ve had to have taken a day off.) I figured since he’s not “technically” a Ference, he wasn’t required to show up. It’s weird, though, watching the degree to which various of my cousins’ partners included themselves or distanced themselves from the family life.

Of course, everyone asked after him, and that’s nice. I think they like Frank. I hope so anyway. He is a likeable fellow. And I hope no one felt chafed that he didn’t show. He offered a million times. I just, I don’t know, with my extended family I just feel weirdly exposed sometimes. Shy, young, and unsure of myself. I feel like in terms of bringing a significant other into a family situation, if you are nervous around certain family members, having an also nervous partner only amplifies the weirdness.

I got back Saturday morning, but I still have a weird hangover of emotions from the whole thing. We’re a very stiff upper lip-type group, and Nana’s death was not surprising, as she’d been very sick for the last few years, so I never really felt okay just crying and being sad. I feel like I have some pent-up sadness that I don’t really know how to release.

But also and on the other hand, I always come away from these things feeling bad about myself. My family is very successful, financially and socially and in lots of other ways. Some members attach more importance to money and power and success than I do, and others are very slim and attractive and socially able.

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As much of my life as I’ve spent getting comfortable with the idea that I like my never-going-to-be-wealthy career choices (nonprofit with a side of writer) and that it is wise and okay to eat what my body tells me and love whatever shape comes out of being healthful and sane (short, chubby), and being proud of showing off Frank (also never going to be rich [writer], also socially awkward sometimes,) a weekend with my family can wash a lot of that away.

So now I feel like a jerk for thinking about myself when I’m supposed to be mourning my Nana, and also actually being sad about Nana, and also just feeling weird and insecure and like a goofy teenager all over again, and also extra double feeling like a jerk because I know all of the insecurity and worry is for no reason and manufactured by my own brain, because my family’s cool and likes me and I shouldn’t worry about it.

It’s strange how you can go along, feeling like an adult in control of her own life, fairly independent and cool, and then revert back to a complete adolescent mess in the course of thirty-six hours. I guess most people’s families make them feel strange, to some degree. I am just lucky that it’s only my extended family that freaks me out. My nuclear family–mom, dad, sister, and brother–are pretty much low stress. I can’t imagine going through this every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and random visit. Oh families. So weird.