Tuesday, January 2, 2018


Words have such different meanings sometimes.
Like brother, or cousin.
My oldest brother feels more like a cousin,
and my two closest cousins feel more like sisters.
My family is a big mix of half-siblings and step-siblings and double cousins;
we are close, but not weirdly - this is New England, so emotions aren't really allowed;
we have superfluous drama,
and actual trauma.
We are a family like any other,
but sometimes I feel like the only things that make sense in this world are the things that I knew as a child, or the way that I perceived the world and my connections to it, as a child.

Those cousins who lived next door, and spent so much time with my sister and I, they felt like an obvious extension of our family;
the (half) brothers who lived with us felt like brothers,
but they were gone every summer,
and graduated and moved away by the time I was 6;
the (half) brothers who didn’t live with us felt so much like cousins that I sometimes couldn’t remember, of all my male cousins which two were actually my father’s oldest children.
Their names both started with the same letter as my father’s, which may have been the first pneumonic device I ever used, long before I knew the term.

And so, on this Christmas Day, I spent some time adding to the slow building of a relationship with the oldest (half) brother, whom I never lived with as a child.
He lives on the same quiet, winding street as my in-laws, a street that leads a short distance away from the great, teeming sea in which my brother and our father and our cousins and uncles and grandfather all made their living from the helm of a lobster boat.
We share bowls of seafood chowder, and tell stories - similar but distinct memories of our father and the other members of our family that we took turns knowing.
As the goodbye hugs are being liberally shared, I say to his sweet wife, “I was thinking I might like to borrow my Dad for a while…”
“Of course,” she said. “Robbie won’t mind.” She led me upstairs, smiling as she acknowledged that it probably seemed like a strange place to keep him, but didn’t hesitate to lead me into the happy and real space of their lives, clean but laundry-strewn, and pointing to the dresser where his urn sat.
She asked if I wanted some time alone with my Dad,
which caught me off guard;
that would have been far too much for my carefully constructed walls to withstand
So I just shook my head and blurted out, “No, I’m not ready for that,” with a half-laugh.
I touched the smooth metal and smiled a little:
I hadn’t remembered it as being so big;
I loved the simplicity of the details on the vessel.
“Why don’t you run it by him after I leave? I don’t want him to feel pressured,” I said.
“Sure,” she nodded.
I couldn’t really look at her. I wanted to leave.
It felt like I was being selfish by wanting to have him, when I was his final child,
not the son he’d given his own name to.

I left, and she texted a little while later to let me know that I could stop in any time,
the house would be open.
I’ll pick up the urn tomorrow,
And tuck it into the pile of luggage and Christmas gifts in various stages of dishabille that fill the cargo space of my car, and take him with me to a home he never knew. 
Maybe this one would have been more hospitable.

Related image
Owls Head Light, Owls Head, Maine.
This lighthouse stands guard over the waters my family fishes,
and has fished for...really, about a hundred years. 

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