Monday, May 7

Death, Family, Love

My Great Aunt Bernie died this weekend at 92. She's my grandmother Dottie's twin sister. My grandmother died in December 2001. I miss her very much, more than I thought I would. My strained relationship with my mother made me keep my distance from her family. It saddens me to think I missed out on so many years of getting to know my grandmother because I was so hurt by mom's bullshit. I told Grandma this when she was in hospice care a couple of weeks before she passed. I truly am sorry I wasn't mature enough to understand who and what I lost at the time. I'm grateful I know now.

My mom's family is pretty interesting. It's a matriarch of crazy, strong, independent women. There were three sisters at the top, my grandmother, Aunt Bernie, and Aunt Gerry who passed away back in 1995. Since I've been reading the bible...

Aunt Gerry wed Jack and begot two daughters, Diane and Patty. Aunt Bernie wed Berger and begot Gail, Jeannie, and Brucie. Dottie wed Barney and begot Janet (my mom) and Brian. Somehow the sisters and their families all managed to end up living in the same apartment building on 49th Street in Sunset Park. There were plenty of other family members in the neighborhood, too. My mom has some hysterical stories about them all, usually involving the adults being bombed and the kids running amok. My favorite story isn't a drunken one, just a typical Irish/German woman giving the business. My grandfather Barney's real name is Bernard. He used to go by Bernie, but when my grandmother met him she said, "That's my sister's name, so I'll call you Barney." The bloodline of ballsy outspoken women runs deep.

Out of the seven kids between them, five went on to beget 14 grandchildren who begot 22 (and counting) great grandchildren. My Uncle Brian and Aunt Mary Ann never had kids. Brucie died at a young age. I believe he was trying to break up a fight in the streets one day and one of the thugs stabbed him. My mom said it was horrible and that's what broke up Aunt Bernie and Uncle Berger's marriage. Unfortunately Aunt Bernie also outlived Jeannie, who died last year.

I can't imagine losing a child. When I think about having a kid, I worry about something bad happening. What happens if he gets sick or I hurt him or he's is in a freak accident? I know I shouldn't even consider these things now, but they are out there. I wouldn't wish the loss of a child on anyone.

I'm afraid of dying for a couple of reasons. My biggest fear comes courtesy of a Tales from the Crypt episode where a guy is conscious through his autopsy and coffin burial. That sounds awesome. My next fear is the act of dying. I hope we all die fast and peacefully in our sleep. I guess that's really it. Fingers crossed death isn't a bad panic attack or a claustrophobic nightmare you can't escape.

Spiritually I have no problem with death. I like believing I can talk to my grandmother whenever I want. Even my freshman softball coach Mr. Neuse, who passed away a few years ago, pops into my head when I go to a game or pretend to make an unassisted triple play in my living room. I shudder at the idea they watch me shower or have sex or worse, have sex with myself, so I have a strict rule - no visits when I'm naked. Or at least don't let me know you're there. Shudder.

Of course if anyone I am close with today died I would be devastated. I am sad over Aunt Bernie because family is family, even if she was only a regular at parties rather than someone I knew on a personal level.  She was a good, decent woman, and I'm happy she lived a full life.

It's a funny thing, family. Hurt, love, happiness, pain, such a mixed bag of emotions and experiences. I'd love to punch my mom in the face right now, but I won't because one day she won't be here. It's also her birthday today, so that would just be rude.

I don't say this nearly enough...I love you, friends. Be well.

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