All my life I heard about people having estranged family members. I could never really understand it. You might think your brother or sister is a jerk most of the time but they are still your brother or sister. I’ve had my own difficulties with my family over the years but it never occurred to me that they wouldn’t be a part of my life anymore. It was kind of beyond my imagination.
As I got older, I met some people who had made the choice to not be associated with their family members anymore. It still seemed odd to me but slowly, over the years, I started to begin to understand.
My father-in-law ran away to the Second World War at the age of sixteen to escape the religiosity of his missionary family. While he eventually became a successful and iconic Canadian comedian, a sister of his still wrote him a letter fifty years later asking him to come back to the flock and make something of his life.
My mother-in-law had a falling out with each of her two siblings. One issue was about money when estates were being settled. One was of a more personal nature. I always thought it was lonesome that when you have kids you grow up with, the only people who shared your parents and your home and your mother’s cooking and your father’s music, that you cut them out of your lives, I always thought it was a bit tragic.
I have family members who don’t talk to each other anymore. It makes me sad. I think they are missing getting old together. That can never be replaced and time is running out. My wife’s mother, who didn’t speak with her sister for years, almost decades, happily accepted a visit, because she was suffering from dementia, and had forgotten what issue had separated them, each their only sister, for so long. It’s the single good thing I can say about Alzheimer’s.
My wife and I started the process of doing our wills this week. It’s a stark reminder of the fleeting elements of our lives when you start looking at numbers in black on a white page and realize that all the colour that hangs on your walls, all the music you’ve heard and loved, all the pretty words you’ve spoken, all the smiles and the laughter, it will only last in our minds and the memory of our loved ones.
I once had very wealthy ancestors. They are gone. The money is long gone. And when I’m gone, I don’t think too many will even remember their names.
So we’ll give some money to some kids we cherish. Whatever’s left. And we’ll give some money to some charities we value. And that will be that. And my only wish is that any one I’ve ever loved not fight over anything and that everyone keeps talking to each other and still hugs at Christmas and calls on birthdays and laughs about the good times and the less good. It would be a legacy I could get behind.