Yesterday my mum’s ex-husband died suddenly but not unexpectedly. He’d been suffering major health difficulties for a long while (though the exact details aren’t clear to me), and his wife’s side of the family revealed that he probably only had a few hours left yesterday afternoon.
What makes this complicated is that while he and my mother were divorced for more than 30 years, he was the father of most of my siblings. The other two siblings were a product of my own father’s first marriage which also ended before I was born. So I’ve always lived in a strange world where I have a large number of siblings but am somehow a bit of an only child too. My youngest sister is 10 years older, and the oldest 18 years older.
As a result, the two groups of siblings grew up as their own units, and to some extent they all grew up together due to the timing of my parents’ marriage. I suspect it’s less to do with that, and more to do with the age gap that means that I often feel a bit apart from them. Or at least I lacked the traditional sibling relationships that they have with each other. I try not to dwell on it; after all, I can’t do anything about it.
I’ve found some degree of that missing relationship in my eldest nephew – son of my eldest sister – who to some extent I did grow up with, as he is only 4 years younger. I spent a lot of time with my second nephew until his latest extended phase of alienating himself from all but his closest family by his selfish attitude and actions. Their younger brother from my sister’s second marriage is great too, he’s 15 and seems keen on my company – Christ knows why though, he says I’m “cool” but I have no idea why, judging by my life at the moment, as well as my distinctly uncool hobbies that I play down where possible. Anyway that’s a whole other can of worms.
So their granddad has died too, and most of my siblings’ father has died. And I have no connection to this – I met him a handful of times, but there was no reason for me to know him, nor did he and my mother finish on good terms, so I’ve never heard much good said about him. His actions also seemed to betray his selfishness towards his offspring, and the only milestones I was ever aware of in his later years were big feuds or notable missed occasions (birthdays, births etc).
In that sense, his death might allow my siblings to draw a line under all this, accept that their relationships with him were dysfunctional, but move on. Alternatively there are plenty of resolved issues there, who knows what damage those will cause? At least they all made it to the hospital before he died.
I’ll stress now that I didn’t want this blog entry to be self-centred, but my detachment from this drama means I only really have my own standpoint to comment on. But the difficulty for me (and my father) is how to support the family after this event that really has nothing to do with us. My mother is in an altogether unique position, she doesn’t seem particularly affected by his death – and I’m inclined to believe it’s not a front, after all, she’s never said a good word about him and 30 years is a long time – but she is still the other parent, and needs to support her kids through this.
I don’t know, I suppose I just need to be there. The timing could go either way, my eldest nephew got married last weekend so we are having a party for the new couple. It’s going to be a weird afternoon…