26 August 2009

All in the Family


Most family pictures are happy pictures, pictures full of people who love one another, care for each other in times of stress and who give of themselves unconditionally.

Then there are other family pictures that look happy to outsiders but are filled with complete sadness to those in the know. When I look at this family photo, I don't see a happy 9th grade Heather (top, right corner) surrounded by her loving family during the 1986 Thanksgiving holiday. What I see is a tense Heather who hasn't seen the inside of her grandfather's house in three years because of family strife. I see two uncles who play with one another but have no clue about raising children or being decent brothers to their sisters. I see my mother who is in Hell just by sitting on that couch and a mother who didn't speak to her sister for eight years. Who didn't attend her funeral. I see an aunt who hated me simply because I existed and who would die nine years later. I see a grandfather who had no clue he was playing favorites and killing his daughter's and granddaughter's love for him every day. I see a step-grandmother who was never emotionally there, two cousins I love but never saw enough, a cousin who would die from a drug overdose 18 years later, a cousin I hardly know, and two step-cousins who couldn't care less about me even though we spent our childhoods practically attached to one another.

I look at this picture every day. I pass by it whenever I cross in front of my bookshelves. And when I quickly walk by with barely a glance I think, Wow. We were a beautiful family. Look at what could have been. But, on the days I stop and really look, pick up the photo and touch each of our faces, I cry. I cry because what I see is a family that no longer exists. I see people missing because of death. I see people missing because they turn away no matter how many times I've reached out. I see hopes dashed and love broken. I don't see a family. I see heartache.

I keep this picture to remind me of what will not be for my family. I keep this picture so that I will never forget.

14 comments:

Lynda said...

Reminders like that are a good thing, I think.

I got along well with my sister, but when I see her picture, I remember that no one lives forever, live life to the fullest, and you never know when it's going to end.

Big HUGS to you!

sybil law said...

It's amazing what pride and stubbornness can and will do to people - even rip families apart. Sad, but it's very common. The best the rest of us can do is what you're determined to do - not let it happen in our own, immediate families.
xo

LceeL said...

Yeah - but now you've got me. I'm part of your family, now. Your cyber family. Your online family. Your family that will hold you and hug you and never, ever leave you.

Yep. You're stuck with me.

As for the rest of those guys - they don't know what they've missed.

Annie said...

I have a few of these photos myself... A family separated by too much distance and stupidity following my grandmother's death. My own personal estrangements, the distance my husband puts between us and his family. My kids don't even know about his mother - his stepmom is all they know - and sadly we all realize it's much better this way. I just wonder how we'll explain it when she dies?

Family dynamics suck. I wish I could give you a big hug right now! I really liked and looked up to that 9th grade Heather, and we're so much more like sisters than I am with my own.

Faiqa said...

So, I kind of hate it when people say "I know how you feel," but GOD I know how you feel. Sometimes, it feels so awful to know that I have to live my live in the negative of my family dynamic rather than be inspired by it.

Gypsy said...

It's interesting, what goes on behind a picture.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

These are the kind of reminders we need. I'm glad you have one.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

These are the kind of reminders we need. I'm glad you have one.

Muskrat said...

I don't have any pics like this, which, I suppose, is good...and bad.

I was always afraid my spirit would be taken by any quickly opening and shutting aperture, so if I did have pictures, I wouldn't be in them.

Patois said...

I do think it's good to be reminded. I don't know that I'd want to be reminded every time I passed by the bookshelf.

Kay said...

I have that picture... well, not THAT picture. But one of the extended family at a barbeque, everyone smiling and looking like the all american, happy family.
But I know the stories, the lies, the betrayals behind those false smiles. I know who will eventually leave her husband, who will cut off the remaining members of his family, who will die a violent death just 17 years later. I know who's crying inside now, who was crying inside then.
I don't keep mine in a visible spot - I can't stand to look at it that often. But when I DO come across it, I wonder... if things could have been different. And for just a minute, I'll pretend that the smiles, the joy, was real.

Joe said...

I'm not even going to attempt to unravel the mysteries of dysfunctional families (mine included). I use my father as an example of what I will never be, and that by itself makes me a great dad.

Oh, and NATUI adopted me as her brother, so now I have an awesome sister too!!!

A Free Man said...

I think we've got a lot of pictures like this one. What's that about not being able to choose your family? Yeah, I get that.

marty said...

Perhaps this picture could become a source of amusement if you would just draw mustaches on each person, be they male or female, as well as on any pets.