Wednesday, September 28, 2011

#6 - When someone dies, you can't take them for granted anymore.

(Feels weird to end a blog post subject with a period, but it's weird without the period too.)

I don’t have the perfect image (and I’m not sure what it would be) to use with this post, but I like this old photo, a group of cousins sitting on a porch at a family reunion – that’s Tim on the far right and me standing up (I was very cocky before I reached the age of self-criticism, which sadly occurred rather early). Tim was one of the older cousins and looks bored with the rest of us, LOL.

This title came from thinking about something that is such a cliché that you hate the cliché, but you hate the circumstance anyway. It kind of helps that other people have taken their deceased folks (for some reason I have been using the word "folks" a lot lately, what else would work here – significant others?, never mind...) for granted during life, so you are not unusual – hence, the cliché. But who wants to be part of the stupid herd, the majority.

I could have spent more time with Tim. I could have been more patient with his very-deliberate speech – he was a teacher, who prided himself on clear communication and always-rational thought – and his way of heavily processing info, and feelings, before he shared them with others. Maybe I got impatient with his objectivity toward feelings – although in other ways that was one of my favorite things about him, his objectivity – it made him accepting of and patient with others. Even if he didn’t show strong emotion, it was OK that other people did.

I counted on him, but that’s not the same thing as appreciating. I didn’t not appreciate him – even physically diminished to the point that even he had to focus on his health (mind over matter was barely working for him, despite his every effort), he had an important place in my life - not as a sick person, but as an older brother.

And it wasn’t like I wasn’t prepared for his death in many ways, I had gotten the message he wouldn’t live forever (even now it's hard, out of respect for him and how he wanted to protect us from his reality, to say I recognized his end was near), and I wanted his years of suffering to end – but he wouldn’t have used that word, let’s get closer to Tim-speak, his years of health challenges to end. Yes, to end. And then when it ends – you want a do-over. For them, for you.

Tim and I had the chance to be adult siblings, but I didn’t have the chance for an adult relationship with Mother. To extrapolate from history and our personalities – imaging to the future, like a computer-aged police sketch – takes that relationship out of reality. Our original Scholl family of 6 people was real. It’s long gone in many ways, but it was real. And – it never did have a lot of self-awareness, although we thought it did – being smart people doesn’t mean you know who and what you are, especially as a family – but for our culture (Texan/German/many other things), personalities, small town and decade – we were our closest approximation to real. So I’ll never be able to tolerate a projected, an imaged relationship with Mother that I would consider fake, silly – unreal.

Yes, I was an adult when Tim died, but in a way with his death I became frozen in a youthful sibling relationship. I have written about getting past the age that he was when he died, but he died as The Older Brother, and he gets to stay that way – it’s hard to think of him otherwise. He was always 4 years older. When he died I was still 1 ½ years away from finishing my degree, and I was several jobs ago (many professional lessons yet to be learned, not that I’m an expert now), and newer in my marriage…my 2005 self. We change in 6 years.

It makes me sad that the idea of reconnecting with my mother is the stuff of nightmares (I’ve had actual nightmares) – what age is she, what health does she have – is she younger than I knew her, is she recovering from cancer, is she a walking corpse or ___? I have had some dreams about Tim appearing after death but they are not scary – he utters calm words on a brief (and very unexpected!) phone call, or he appears briefly as part of an insignificant family activity (having dinner, sitting outside) and exudes…calm. Not intrusive.

Hmmm – maybe even in these dream visitations I take Tim’s contribution for granted.

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