26 August 2009
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.