There are lots of things that cause distance in families. Something a member does or doesn’t do and the repercussions of it reverberate throughout whatever family unit exists. We are all united in one way: whether even by the lack of a family, we all had one. What happened to it has something to do with us. There are numerous combinations that make this happen. Drug abuse, molestation, depression, insanity, shame, regret, divorce, stepchildren, child protection services, poverty, excessive wealth, among others. Maybe some or all of these have played themselves out in my family, but if they did, I wasn’t around for it. For all I know my family was born distant, or was made so by circumstances that I couldn’t get to the bottom of if I wanted to, and the truth is, I don’t. That distance lives on, in me.

I am an American mutt, so read that to get some background info on my story. It seems that the infection has been passed on to me that my half-siblings inherited, which surfaces in random acts of contact with my parents after practically years of silence. One by one, whether by my parents initiative or their children’s the siblings have made contact with my parents over the last few years, sibling that still keep no contact with me and never have, really. My father has a sister he doesn’t speak to and my mother has a sister she doesn’t speak to. We’d be a silent family if we ever allowed the throng of us to be gathered in a single room at any given time, which, to my knowledge, has yet to happen. The only thing that united us was a dining room table, at which 8 of the 9 children in my family had eaten their meals before leaving home and making their lives on their own. This table had a large wooden base and if you looked under it, you would see a face, like a jack ‘o lantern, drawn in permanent ink that I had done when I was maybe two. The table was passed down to me and I promptly sold it one month to pay the rent while I was in college. That’s the way most heirlooms end up in my family, as someone else’s find. No big surprise there.

I won’t waste my time trying to untangle my family’s past here, but you can be sure I’m doing it somewhere else. Instead, I wanted to focus on what this situation has done to me, how it has threaded into my life as the sole single, longest unmarried member of my distorted family. I find the results both chilling and interesting, like it’s this scenario happening to someone else. Everyone who knows me in daily life knows how guarded I am, how seldom I let people into my life where they may actually play an active part in it. It’s not so much that I shut people out but that I don’t actively search for opportunities to let people in at all. I live alone and don’t go out much and make very few friends, and those I do make are from gatherings where my attendance is in some way required: work and church. Looking back on one particular year in my life, every guy I met that I had any interest in I met at work or in bars I frequented; if I didn’t see them on a regular basis and was forced into conversation with them, they didn’t exist to me. Even my now close friend Sandi I met in a coffee shop where a guy I liked at the time was working. The friends I made in college were also pretty convenient and I’ve managed to maintain a few of them that I felt were worth the effort. And now, I’ve been making a few friends online and some of them have also become real to me in some way or other, but even still they are kept at a digital distance. There is a subconscious act of control playing into almost everyone in my life who is close to me at all, and I can’t help but think that it can all stem from my family’s structure.

I went to a college in VA so that I could be as far from my parents as possible. I moved to New Orleans after graduation for that, among other reasons. I see my parents maybe twice a year for a weekend at the most, and talk to them on the phone maybe once a month. I’m sure they would like to see or hear from me more, but they’ve never pressed the issue, respecting a line that their own history has drawn for me. My parents never got divorced, never beat me or abused me, never neglected me in any parental way. They just never seemed that interested in my life outside of what I willingly told them. And I reacted to their indifference with my own. It sounds cut and dry, but it isn’t, but it’s a start. It’s a start towards my own healing.

I simply cannot let this go on. I can’t allow myself to carry this distance with me into my life, into whatever family I hope to create one day. Realizing that I have a problem is the biggest part, but it isn’t always easy to try to rectify it. So what have I decided to do? I chose to move back home with my parents in VA next year, leaving whatever friends I’ve made here and start over, with my parents’ home as my own. All around me in this city are reminders of my failures, and in addition to that, I have done my time here and am ready to move on. Maybe the place I end up in will have more permanence, maybe it will be more conducive to the things I want to work on in my life. I want to allow myself to commit to an area, to live in it, be a part of it, allow it to grow on me, something I have not been able to do in New Orleans, the cornerstone of transience and temporary escapes.

Has anyone else been a member of a distant family? I could use some pointers. I hate that this is a GTYN, but I would appreciate any additions or msgs regarding this node. Thanks.

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