My paternal grandmother died almost 15 years ago. I accompanied my father back down to Texas to gather her belongings, bury her, and settle her estate. I was born there, but had not been back since I was a very young child. It was odd to recognize so much of the physical surroundings, like they were a part of my psyche, yet not know it like it was home.
I discovered I was pregnant when I came back home. The discovery felt surreal. Almost like it was a circle of life thing. One generation passes away, another generation is born. It was the beginning of a time of expansion for our family. I had two children, my sister had a child. Cousins were born.
Through time, my maternal aunts and their husbands passed away. My mother passed away this summer, leaving one sister left on her side of the family. My mother’s death hit my father very deeply. He had just regained his appetite when it started to rain.
It’s still raining. They’re still in rescue mode in Houston. They don’t know how many people have been displaced, and how many people have died. They do know my father’s youngest brother, my uncle, was one of the first fatalities of Hurricane Harvey. They found his body in his flooded store 14 hours after the rains started.
I was alerted to the mention of his death making the front page of the Washington Post this morning. I logged on, and gasped. He looked just like my father. My whole life, up until I saw him for the last time 15 years ago, he looked slimmer, darker, younger. Life has a way of catching up to you and making you honest in your elderly years. The day he died, he looked just like my father.
I stare at my computer screen, and I see my father in that face. I read about his clock shop–a store my father started and owned when we were children. I remember growing up in the storerooms until we were old enough to work out front behind the register. And by “old enough,” that was about 8 years old. I wonder if my poor math skills contributed to my father never making much of a profit.
I’m realizing it’s the end of that chain of clock stores that raised me. My father’s doppelganger reminds me that my father may very well be next. I’m witnessing the fabric of my family start to unravel. In a few years my children will leave this house, and we will have buried a few more relatives in that time period I’m sure. One by one, slowly unraveling.
This unraveling feels very fast these days. It reminds me of how each person, each event created the fabric of my own being. There’s a fear of my own stitching unraveling now too. This reminds me to take perspective, that self-care is important, that lovingkindness to others is important. That your profession is probably not worth your life.
Though my last trip to Texas felt like the continuation of circles of life, it no longer feels like a continuation. I’m of the age now where it just feels like fewer and fewer people in old family photographs are around to tell us about that party or that trip or that joke. As the photographs fade, as the fabric of my family unravels, I worry about my father. His soul gets heavier with each loss, as his connections lighten with each loss.
I try to remember this could also be reframed as life continuing on as it will, as it does. And that the fabric of our families, of our beings, continue to be stitched and unraveled each moment in different ways. In many of those ways, we cannot control. I try to remember it’s not necessarily a destruction, but just a change. And change can be difficult because we are human.
It will stop raining. The flood waters will recede. A body will be buried. A store will be cleaned out. My father will go home and continue to stitch.