Maybe I crave a strong sense of family because I grew up an only child. I spent my long summer days alone, playing with my father's hunting dogs and daydreaming. We lived out in the boonies, so neighborhood friends were not to be had.
My childhood was great, don't get me wrong. All of that alone time made me creative, and formed a strong bond with nature traipsing around the fields and salt marshes that surrounded my childhood home. But sometimes I miss a feeling of belonging.
Outside of my close-knit immediate family, I have regular contact with just my parents. There has been some family drama amongst the extended family that has led to some pushing away from both sides. I don't often find myself proud to be related to much of my family. And, thankfully distance doesn't afford me many opportunities to rub elbows with my kin.
But earlier this week, one of my cousins passed away (You know I really hate that term. He died. That's just what it is.) He was rather young, barely 50. Even though Thom and I didn't share the closest of relationships, I have often felt a bond with my cousins, perhaps because they are the closest thing to siblings I have in this world.
Last summer, Thom made the trip from Louisiana to Hampton (where my parents and extended family live). I hadn't seen him since my grandfather died in 1992. I would have loved to made the 2 1/2 hour drive up to Hampton to visit, but I wasn't aware he was coming, until he was already there. Then it was too difficult for us to take time off work. To add insult to injury, my father's siblings planned a large "family reunion" to which I was never invited (neither was my father!) because of the aforementioned family drama. I actually didn't know it occured until the pictures hit Facebook. I was terribly hurt.
And that was my last opportunity to see Thom alive. I'm more than a little bitter.
Then I reached out to another cousin...from the other side of my family, the one with less drama. I found out she was planning a trip from Pennsylvania to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (a mere 2 hours from my home). She has a toddler that I've never met and she's pregnant and considering a homebirth. We have some things we could talk about. I contacted her and offered to make the drive out to visit with her while she was in the state. I mean, we haven't seen each other in more than four years.
But she doesn't have the time.
I know that my offer was last minute and I certainly don't want to intrude on a family vacation, but I think coming on the heals of Thom's death it hit me harder than it should have.
I miss the acceptance and belonging that in my mind a family is supposed to afford. I miss my cousins, and the way we could laugh and play and be ourselves with one another like we could when we were kids.
I guess I'm feeling lonely.