A few weeks ago my familial partner in crime, the cousin and I, embarked on a mini roadtrip up to NorCal to visit family. It was raining as we drifted through the grapevine, as we headed further north my mind raced and my brow settled into a deeply pensive expression, I think this might often be the look you will find on my face these days, constantly trying to work out the puzzles of life, trying to see where all the pieces fit.
I made a heavy decision when I was 12, I had no idea what I was doing, and in no way knew that life would be so drastically different. When I moved to SoCal so many years ago it was impossible to see the scope of the decision I had made, and sometimes I wonder if I will spend my whole life trying to mend and repair the things I broke as result of my move. This decision was on my mind as we ventured further down the highway, it caused my brows to furrow heavily and still weighed on me as we pulled into my Aunt & Uncle’s driveway hours later.
I was nervous to see my family and was worried my defection would keep me from being close and developing strong bonds, it was this weekend that I learned that TRUE family is always willing to welcome you back into the fold and give you the opportunity to prove that life has indeed changed, how can I forget the open door policy enacted by the matriarchs of my family generation years ago?
I have a younger cousin, whom I never had the chance to become close with, half because of geography and half because I wasnt sure how to reach out, he without question pulled me back into the fold, cuddled, hugged, and treated me like a big sister without question. My Aunt and Uncle reminded me to stay close, to call more frequently, and most importabtly, reminded me that family is your lifeline, something I think I might of forgotten, or possibly an idea I never learned.
After spending some time cuddled up next to my younger cousin on the family sectional talking about art and ipods he finally looked over in my direction, lifted his eyebrows slightly, and glanced at me in a sideways fashion while mimiking my facial expressions and smartly asked me why he caught me looking at the world sideways so much, ha ha. Well little man, I guess you’re right and very perceptive, the world is often turned on its side in my life. I really never expected such revelation in life to come from an impromptu family road trip.
I have a very small tattoo behind my right ear, truthfully its a little grimey, its been on my body aging for 6 years, a permeanent reminder of a date that will live on in infamy the rest of my life, the date that a small piece of my heart drifted off to heaven. On Jan 13 2004 I lost a member of my extended family, Dan. Dan was hopelessly dapper, deeply Italian, and my fathers oldest, dearest, and only friend, he had always been my “Uncle” Dan, and apart of my new life in California. Dan had always been waiting in the wings helping to guide and keep my path straight and brought balance and love to life with my father the bachelor.
My fairytale slowly started to smudge and darken after my “Uncle” Dan lost a courageous battle with cancer in 2004. The night before he passed, I remember waking up violently from sleep, I laid in bed kicking the sheets around as the light of the morning slowly slipped through the blinds, every nerve in my body felt tense and I could not shake this phantom feeling nagging at me as I tried to drift back to sleep. Eventually I grew frustrated and decided to steal a few moments away in a hot shower. While standing in the shower aimlessly lathering my hair, wondering why I could feel such a shift in the universe I go the call I hoped would never come, alone and soapy in the shower my heart stopped beating, Dan had finally found rest. I raced to his home, shampoo still bubbling in my hair to say goodbye. Dan was the first death I’d ever experienced, and still to this day, 7 years later, when I should be a little closer to letting go, I can’t and I still hurt and miss you with every cell and molecule in my body.
I wish that this day in history 7 years ago could have been different, I wish you were around to scold me for my tattoos, hug me at the holidays, and here to keep my dad in line. I am happy you feel no pain any longer, and that you finally have REST. You have influenced my life and touched my heart in ways I could of never imagined, thank you for being my family, even though we never shared the same blood, I really do miss you every single moment of every day. I love you and promise to never forget the man you were and the smiles your memory inspire. I miss my Uncle Dan and there will never be a Jan 13th that I dont think of you and wish you were still here.
It’s because of Dan, because of my cousins, because of my Aunts and Uncles, because of the elemental need for love and family and to be apart of a tribe that keeps me pushing forward in 2011. It keeps me mindful of growth, it keeps me from running away when the seasons change. It keeps me looking for a man that Dan would be proud to say was my partner, it keeps me grinding to own my own business to prove to my family I made it and have something to contribute to the lineage, its what makes me pick up the phone and call my mom when I’m tired, and keeps my lips moving when I’m tired of explaining myself.
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
Regrets I’ve had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption