I saw my aunt and uncle last week – Danny’s (my dad) siblings. They had been to visit him – the first time they’d seen him in over a year – and then they came to see me.
It was so amazing to be with them and to give them careful hugs (they’re both completely vaccinated). It just felt like home.
I wasn’t close to either of them when I was young. Overall, Danny’s family doesn’t do close. But as I hit adulthood, I made an active decision to build real relationships with them. I now love them both dearly. And I know they love me.
We had some interesting conversations that highlighted, once again, the dynamics of my Kohn family and some of the “less than idealness” that has been passed down through generations.
First my uncle told me that he hugged Danny when he saw him, something he maybe hadn’t ever really done before. He had heard me talk about Danny getting no physical contact or caring during Covid – he is in a nursing home, and first that’s not their strongpoint and second, he’s just not easy. My uncle told me how good it felt to hug my dad.
The three of us went out to dinner and talked about my grandparents – their parents. I commented on how I didn’t really know Leslie (my grandfather – this call them by their name thing goes back at least a few generations). “Leslie was hard to get to know,” my aunt and uncle said. “Both Peggy (my grandmother) and Leslie were really hard to get to know.”
Then somehow the conversation got around to the fact that both of my grandparents had attempted suicide a number of times, in a variety of ways. My uncle and aunt started debating what my grandfather had slit; it reminded me of when Robbie and I had debated whether my mom’s boyfriend was choking her or holding a knife to her throat when he threatened to kill her unless Robbie left the house. Both don’t seem like debates worth having. I mean really, do the details matter at all?
“We are all survivors,” my uncle said. It’s true. In my family, in the world, many if not most if not all of us have something harsh and hard that we survived.
Hearing the family stories always increases my compassion for Danny, and I’m so grateful for my compassion for Danny. He and his siblings were raised by two very unhappy people, and those unhappy people were probably raised by very unhappy people as well.
Spending time with my aunt and uncle (and my family overall) makes it very clear to me that while there may be these harsh, crazy memories and incidents, I love my family, I love being with them, I love being one of them, and I love the fact that I love all of them so much. Again, I intentionally set out to do that and I did that.
When it was time for my uncle and aunt to leave, we all exchanged hugs. Big hugs. They commented that it might have been one of the first times they really hugged each other. And they commented on how wonderful the hugs were. I’m glad for however I’ve helped create that legacy for my family. I’m glad for this one more way to let as much love in as possible – and to Love With All My Heart as much as possible.
We are all survivors. We all need hugs.
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