Family Functions

We cannot destroy kindred:  our chains stretch a little sometimes, but they never break.  ~Marquise de Sévigné

My fabulous niece, my parents first officially recognized grandchild, turned 20 last week. Yesterday, the entire family gathered in my younger sisters backyard for a pizza party. 

We had a nice time. My family is very funny. Very laid back, very real. My sister and my brother in law are fantastic hosts and always provide the right amount of food, drink, entertainment.  My brother showed up with his brood. We don’t see them often so it was very nice. I took lots of pictures that I have yet to upload.

My sons played on the large inflatable pool and water slide. My 17 yo niece (same name as my daughter) and I compared phones and were teased about our mutual Internet addictions.  My 14 yo nephew/godson has surpassed my brother in height. Nephew is only 14 and will soon be close six feet two inches tall. His voice is changing and it alternately sounds like a duck or a man.  We tease him. He takes it well.

My older sister and I compared our jiggly biceps (affectionately called my "bat wings" by my sons or "pizza hangers" by my other sister).  My thirteen year old nephew Michael talked football all day and told me no less than 10 times that he was the captain of the football team. His fraternal twin sister, Darcie, told me about five times that she was going to be a cheerleader again this year.

My mother wandered the crowd and would often stop, stare and take in all the wonder of her offspring and their offspring. She loves these types of events. I wonder if she felt anyone missing?

Before the day ended, my mother made everyone line up for family pictures. First pictures of my sister and her five children. Then pictures of my other sister and her three, then my brother and his two, and me and my three minus one.

Yes, three minus one. Do the math.

Physically present or not, acknowledged or not, my daughter is in every picture and at every family function.

That overwhelming palpable feeling of someone missing? That’s her.

That feeling that causes me to frantically scan crowds to make sure my sons are in sight? That’s the absence of my daughter working through me.  A child is missing but it is not my sons.

My confused and lost facial expression in pictures? That is what a mother looks like when she is missing her child at a family function.

That deep wrinkle above the right side of my upper lip? That’s where the tears that usually fall from my eyes tend to rest.  My skin has been eroded by twenty something years of salty tears.

I both love and hate these family functions.

Happy Birthday to Nicole.

16 Thoughts.

  1. I feel this. My brother’s wedding was this past weekend and everyone oohed and ahhed over the boys… as did I because their matching vests melted me!… but my heart broke each time.

  2. I was at a family wedding the last weekend in July and had the same feeling seeing my daughter with her cousins from my husband’s side. Even though everyone knows about my son, I don’t think they think of this missing person as much as we do at these family get togethers.
    I wrote a short story recently in which I quoted this Chinese philospher/poet. When I went looking for other quotes,I found this. I immediately thought of you Suz.
    Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage. Lao Tzu

  3. Oh urgh, I used to hate those big family gatherings, it was so painful that she was missing. I can totally relate to this.

  4. I avoided large family gatherings for 20+ years. At reunion, I decided it was time to try to attend some of the functions, whereupon I became the victim of panic attacks. So hard to see everyone’s children and think about all the years I missed.

  5. Makes me think of the cool attitude I held towards family gatherings, kind of a ‘who cares who shows up?’ Really who cares? Why do I show up? So much of my feelings were underground. I’m just recognizing that I CARED. But I kept my composure by acting as though everything was ok. I lied.

  6. Justice – In my experience, that is easy to do when everyone else around you is denying and lying as well. Hugs.

  7. My family is huge – I have seven brothers and sisters and about 13 neices or nephews (yes, I’ve lost count because I can’t remember if the one on the way will be #13 or #14).
    Based on sheer numbers someone is ALWAYS missing. But then we all got together for it: THE COMPLETE family picture. Everyone tosses their youngest on their laps and sits around my parents enveloping them in this warm group of family. It’s THE MANTLE pictures, because it’s complete. Of course, it isn’t, but we all had to ooh and ahh and celebrate the miraculous occasion that we were ALL together.
    At least most of the rest of the time someone else is missing too…at least on those days we are allowed to miss those that aren’t with us.
    The other days are much harder for me.

  8. Right before my son made his first visit to my home, my sister was helping me get the house ready (I was a nervous wreck!). While we were working, she said that it hurt her every time she thought about my son, and that if it hurt her that much, she couldn’t imagine how much it hurt me. It was the first time in 19 1/2 years that anyone in my family acknowledged that I may be feeling pain about losing my son.

  9. Would it be a comfort to anyone if I said: Missing,or mot in the family pictures, lost to adoption or they are happy where they are without you. It is not a logical emoton by no means. But! They are out there somewhere and they have life.
    To lose a chld in death is an attack on the human sole of a parent. He is gone forever. At a family gathering no one will ever see it as you do. And you wrap yourself around your memories.

  10. I have one picture with everyone in it — at my niece’s wedding almost 10 years ago, the first time my family met my son and my granddaughter, then two. I treasured that picture. It won’t happen again because my mother is now deceased. I feel her missing at current gatherings, although (or maybe because) my father’s new wife holds her spot.
    Right now, and maybe forever, my son is conspicuous in his absence, at least to me. Photo ops or not.
    Your daughter’s absence will always be more conspicuous to you. Three minus one. Well put.
    (((Hugs Suz)))

  11. Hello.This is first time for me to visit your site.
    I have three children (6year-old boy,4year-old boy,2year-old girl)
    They are angel, sometimes devil, though…
    I’m happy if you link to my site.It is written in Japanese(some of the words are English) but show pictures.

  12. Ironic. I just got an email from my birthmother telling me she is coming to a city ten miles from where I live for a “mini family reunion.” Of course I am not invited.
    It’s like your situation in reverse.

  13. susan – first, hugs. second, WTF? Why would she even tell you such things? Why wouldnt you be invited? (Would you want to be?)? Is she being passive agressive and attempting to feel you out?
    God. I hate adoption and what it does to the most natural primal relationship a human being can have.
    What a mind fuck.

  14. I’m so sorry you were missing your child. It was beautiful reading your thoughts, and I can only pray that my first family felt those pangs of missing me all the years we were separated by adoption.

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