Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Family Ties

Dear Jules,
Don't worry- this is not a post about that cheesy show from the 1980's (although I doubt that they even re-run it any more, so you might have to look it up).  It's actually about the feeling of being somehow, inextricably, connected to someone: and how those connections serve to connect us to others.

I think a lot about connections every May 18th: the anniversary of my father's passing and the birthday of my closest friend, your aunt and Godmother Cindy.  It's strange that it's been fifteen years since my father died, and I often think about this quotation from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre when I think about him:

I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you - especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land some broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I've a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.

I love this for so many reasons: every May 18th, I feel that I am "bleeding inwardly"; while the wound might scab over and become less immediately painful, it never really heals.  And I love the analogy of a string tying us to the people we love, tightly, so that we have an almost physical connection, a "communion," as Brontë puts it.  I feel this way about my immediate family and about my closest friends.

I've written in other letters about my dad.  On our wedding bouquet, which you will inherit someday, you'll see attached a little statue of the Virgin Mary that my dad, unbeknownst to me, carried with him everywhere.  So today I went to this little shrine and talked with him about you, about your daddy, about all the things he had missed:

It makes me truly sad that he never saw me get my Ph.D., get married...and, most of all, that he never met you.  He would have absolutely adored you.

And yet I feel that God gave me a huge gift the year that my dad died.  It was the year I grew really close with your aunt Cindy, and I think it no accident that, on a day that string snapped, I was reminded of another string: one that would only grow stronger and more enduring.  I had been living in Worcester, Massachusetts, teaching at Assumption College, and I was so very lonely, so anxious, so unsure of what would happen with my life: my career, my relationships, all of it.  My second year in Worcester, Cindy moved there to teach at Worcester Academy, and we became really, really tight.

Right after your grandpa died, I remember going back to Worcester to pack up all of my stuff; I would be heading to Chapel Hill to begin my Ph.D.  I worried that the connection between me and Cindy might also snap, and it just felt like too much to bear.

But Cindy has become part of my life, part of my family.  We do have more than two hundred miles between us, but she was my maid of honor at our wedding (for which I can't, for some reason, find digital photographs, but you have the album).  When you were born, I asked her to be your godmother, and she flew down here for the baptism:

We've made sure to see one another at least once a year since then, and our relationship has only grown.

Our last visit to Montclair was for New Year's Eve, and it was a perfect way to ring in 2016:

Losing my dad sucked, and nothing will ever, ever replace him, but I am glad that I also have someone to celebrate this day.  Your aunt Cindy has always felt like family and, in a way, she now is (if godparents count).  She is so very kind yet firm, funny yet sensitive, wacky but incredibly down to earth, and, well, just...unique.  On this day, her birthday, I'm grateful that God put her in the world, into our lives, and into my family.

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