Yesterday my best friend’s dad passed away. We went to visit her family over Christmas, and it was clear that he would not live much longer. I am going with her to the funeral.
I’ve never been close to death — never wanted to be. I avoided being near my family members when they were dying. I guess it frightened me, or at least my emotions frightened me.
Sometimes it was due to an issue I had with the individual. For example, I had hard feelings towards my paternal grandmother due to a variety of seemingly small incidents (and a couple of big ones)
that had accumulated over the years. When she was close to dying, I was living in another city attending graduate school. I could have gone home sooner, but I waited, and by the time I reached home, she had already died. I was greatly relieved.
But that was 21 years ago, and I have changed in those years. Two years ago, my maternal grandmother passed. I am living in another city again, and I was not there when she died, but I had visited several times over the preceding year, and I had no issues with her. I wish I had been there. I don’t know if it would have made any difference to her, but it would have made a difference to me.
I have usually tried to follow my own path, even though sometimes it was not in my best interest. My hobbies, my music, my clothing, even my thoughts and feelings, were often chosen with the distinct purpose of being different.
I felt that the only way I would ever be noticed was to be eccentric.
Otherwise, I thought, I would just fade into the background.
Sometimes I wanted to fade away, and at those times I went along with the crowd, concealing what was truly inside me. But I always felt like a stranger, a part of the world but separated from it by an invisible membrane. Even when I tried, there was something in between me and everyone else. Whether I fought against it or lived with it, it was always there.
Now I have a son who, I think, has grown up with a membrane around him too. He makes choices with an eye to getting attention, even if it is negative attention. In fact, he prefers the negative because he doesn’t feel worthy of anything else.
I look at him and wonder, how will I ever reach him? How can I help him see that he doesn’t have to be separate, or a stranger, or a person that just doesn’t fit in? How can I invite him to become a part of our world?
Perhaps I will have to push through my membrane in order to get through his. I’m scared, but for his sake, I will face my fears.