After all I’ve lost, family to me has become something you market on the tv to try to catch impressionable teens before they turn radical and fail to become mindless consumers, not something that makes anybody feel a sense of belongingness.
And I agree, that’s a shitty thing to think and something that might get in the way of my having conventionally supportive relationships for most of my life.
But since my parents and grandparents have either died, or remained on the other side of the country, things have gotten so much better for me it’s been hard to argue against a case for no family,
and why my marriage didn’t last, why I don’t want kids, and why I think companionship, if it ever occurs again, will have to be the kind that has separate beds and apartments.
Most nights after work I stare at the television or off into space and think about how lone wolves survive in the wilderness, sometimes taking on the responsibilities of an uncle in an anonymous pack because, despite the loner he’s become, he still seeks warmth, love, and other furry bodies to lick and touch,
how this social behavior, even for introverted loners, can in some cases help the unwanted alpha to survive.
Then I think about the ones that don’t find surrogate families to play a part in, and I imagine them off in the woods at the edge of a cliff, not even howling, but just standing there with the wind blowing their fur back white, their eyes shut, in love with the wind, in love with the moon.
After my father and grandmother died, the last parentals to go, and even though I was married when they did, my world opened like a landscape that never seemed to end.
While having sex I’d think of that landscape, of those fields that went on forever. When on vacation I’d be somewhere else, somewhere harshly beautiful, but cold and unforgiving in my mind. Somewhere much harder than my flaccid erection. If I had an orgasm, I told myself it was the memory of having vitality my old body dreamed about.
I knew I was no longer part of my life, and maybe it’s normal to think like that when compound grief and loss has suddenly run out of things to take.
I remember once when I was a young man sitting in a parking lot waiting for karate class to start beside a rain puddle a sparrow was drinking out of, that I was thinking my grandfather loved sparrows, so, maybe this was my grandfather reincarnated and back to remind me everything was going to be all right, that I’d never be alone. Then it shits out of its one hole into that puddle it was drinking out of, and flew off.
Sometimes there’s just the empty parking lot to commune with and look out across while you wonder how far can I go; how alone can I be? But at least that’s something.
It’s my hope this poem adequately captures how being left behind or abandoned by family when you are a young person can be sad, yes, but more beautiful than sad. The yawning, whimpering space that becoming an unexpected orphan most absolutely gives rise to in the place where your heart used to be, I’d call holy,
and was a way of life for Grandpa and I, because I now know why on nights I stayed over on the pullout, he used to lock himself in the bedroom and pray a few hours before the lights went off and his wife came to bed. He was just honoring that space created from his mother dying of cancer and his father leaving them as she did, and his first wife dying during childbirth, where she brought into the world a daughter he’d never want to see,
and like the sparrow drinking from the puddle, he used to stop in the bathroom, use the toilet, and pour a flavorless cup of disgusting, lukewarm water, and then off he’d go.