I write a lot about my family of choice, meaning the Spousal Unit and the kiddos. I have written about my beloved mother who passed away 5 years ago but I don’t write much about any other family. Real life friends especially newer friends have also noted that I rarely talk about my family. No, its not because I am respecting their privacy but rather my family of origin has been dying for a number of years.
Movies and shows like Soul Food, would have you to believe that all Black folks have close knit family connections, truth is we are just as screwed up as any other group. Once upon a time in America, Black families did stick together through thick and thin but the sad reality is that for many of us those days are gone. What we generally have these days is a case where one or two family members will go out of their way to hold the family together because of past affiliations, normally this family member is a woman. She normally wears herself out trying to be there for the family…its quite hard. Just as an aside Lisa over at BWBTThas talked about this at her blog in the past, there were times I did not agree with her but she put a lot of food for thought on my plate. If you are not familiar with her blog, go check her out.
Anyway one might ask can a family die? The answer is yes, see shared past bonds don’t carry into a shared present or future state of being. In the 5 years since my Mom passed, I went from thinking I had a tight family to realizing that sadly our family is dying. After my Mom’s passing I jumped into the role of trying to be the matriarch of our branch of the family…calling family and friends, trying to maintain the bonds that I thought had existed. I think they did exist but for many members my mother was the linchpin holding it all together.
Sadly after several years and little in terms of reciprocation I was forced to realize that no one gave a damn and in the past several months it hit me if no one else cared why should I? There was a part of me that wanted to maintain connection because of my kids, it breaks my heart that both my kids have greater connections to their father’s sides than my side. My son does at least have memories of my Mom and Granny and had spent time with my family when he was younger, I know that a desire to connect with my family especially as a biracial boy played a small part in decision to head back out to the mid-west with his Dad. Though now after almost 2 years out there and little in the way of actual connection with my family, he rarely mentions my family….this breaks my heart.
Yet I cannot make family appear. My little girl is at an age where she asks a lot about family and truth is I have no answers for why she doesn’t know my family. The fact that she has an army of great aunts and uncles and cousins whom she will never interact is no longer a burden I can carry.
Families die for the same reason any relationship dies, lack of interest, time and overall connection. I recently looked up a cousin online who is only a few years older than me and works in the same field and after one stilted conversation, I felt like an idiot for even trying to find my family.
Yet as a Black woman and traditionally the one in the Black family to play the role of family keeper, I am throwing off that role…don’t want to wear it. I often think that if someone wanted to find me, it would not be hard at all. A google search will pretty much lead you to me since I am a published writer. Hell, I live in a town small enough that if you put the wrong address on a piece of mail there is still rather high probability that the letter would reach me. The mail folks know me.
Nope, families die all the time I suppose and while its heartbreaking, its not the end of the world. Instead one can create a family of their choosing, finding people they connect with through a sense of shared values and interests. Families can come in many different forms and not always based on bloodlines.
Just writing this makes me sad on one level yet I know in America, I am not the only Black woman making this choice…Black women can not be the only ones to hold the family together, we need cooperation from every member of our families of origin.
So if remember of your family origin is not what you need it to be or want it to be, there are options. They may seem painful initially but in the end severing the ties can be a liberating experience.