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Countdown: 15 Days?!?!?!

April 17, 2007

It was a very bad weekend.  A family member went into surgery, and we lost her, so I will be taking some of my already-busy time to help get her things in order.  Everyone I know who died either was not close to me, or had a surviving spouse/child who deals with those sorts of things, so this is new to me.  I know other people have done it before, but I never have.  How do you package someone’s life?  How do you know what goes where, and to whom?  This family member was not what you’d call “endearing” and it adds all those feelings of guilt you never want to associate with death, but it also adds to the confusion: If a person doesn’t have that specific connection (as I do with my daughter), how do you know what they would’ve done?  You really don’t.  If I die tomorrow, my daughter gets everything, not just because that’s the line of succession but because she’s part of me and therefore she can have all those other parts of me to check out later when she really wants to figure out the me of me and not just the me that’s Mom.  Okay, so she might not get that from listening to the Bangles CD that was bought to replace the first album I ever got, but then again…she might.

“Family” comes up a lot in literature because it is, in a way, our most complicated connection.  Blood and bloodlines become both a reason and an excuse.  Family literature brings to light the complexities of created families vs. biological families (see my review of Gish Jen’s The Love Wife).  And, like I always say, how bizarre and confused is a culture that separates family from sex by making incest taboo but then tells us, upon finding the right sexual partner, “Make this person part of your family!”

Growing up, I loved the sweeping epics of the ’80s that revolved around multiple generations of family: Sidney Sheldon’s Master of the Game, Danielle Steel’s Family Album (note: read the second book description, not the first; there appears to be an error there because the first one is NOT correct in any way).  Both could be considered trashy, and Sheldon’s isn’t exactly what one would call “realistic,” but they both deal with that idea of blood, and what does it mean, and what do you forgive.  I am not a big Danielle Steel fan in any way, but there’s something very real about Family Album; EVERY family is a drama.  Can I say that while Anne’s story in Family Album is pretty crazy, is it any more crazy than my own life story, or the story of how my parents got together?  Probably not.  And everyone I know has stories like these, stories that don’t sound real but are.

Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers is definitely up there as one of my favorites as well.

This love of the family connection might be why romance novels aren’t doing it for me anymore.  The man/woman connection just doesn’t seem as significant to me anymore as the character/world connection.  That’s why when I DO read romance novels, I like good secondary characters, family and community members.  The way it is in real life; not just “the good buddy” but “the overbearing mother” or “the absent father” or “the cranky neighbor” and so on.  We don’t live in a vaccuum, nor do our relationships.

Unfortunately, I can’t dwell on family much longer; there are only fifteen days left in the semester.  I have four papers to write, three exams to take, a multitude of Greek quizzes, and–okay, I’m getting frazzled again.  Best not to think about it and just DO.

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