Goodbyes

You guys, December is winning.

This is my Uncle Everett, back in 1944, when he was ten years old. He died in the wee hours this morning.

1944-everett-stoller-10-yrs

A couple of people have asked me today if we were close, and I’m not sure how to answer that. The answer is likely no, at least in the way that they’re asking. We didn’t spend a lot of time together. I had seven uncles just in my mother’s family, and that doesn’t take into account the aunts and aunts-in-law and all the relations on my father’s side. There were a lot of them, and then they had children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and the numbers spun out of control.

But he was an immutable part of my childhood. When I realized one day that parents could die, I asked Mom what would happen to me if she and Dad were both gone, and her answer was that Uncle Everett and Aunt Marge would take care of me. I breathed in a sigh of relief. And there he was, for the rest of my years until I turned 18 and considered myself grown up. Somewhere in the background of my life, not flashy, but always there in case the very worst happened.

This is the trouble with big families. You love a lot of people. You say a lot of goodbyes.

I am for real a grownup now, although no one told me that being a grownup would feel quite so much like groping along in a dark hallway hoping you get hold of the right door handle. Or that no matter how old you are, when both your parents are gone, you feel just a little bit lost. Or that the goodbyes accumulate, each one recalling the ones that came before.

It is December, and that means I am a certified hot mess, so maybe I’m maudlin. I know this is life, and this is what happens, and it will be fine. I will be fine. But if you stop to ask me, I will also tell you that I am tired.

And I am tired of goodbyes.

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