It's a lonely day, and the only way I know to really cope is to write. A few nights ago my mom called to tell me that my cousin, Ryan, was killed in a car accident in Dallas. He was 25 years old, had served 3 years in the Army including a tour of Iraq. Ryan and I were not close in our adult years, but when I was growing up, I would go visit my dad's family and I loved spending time with my cousins--Ryan included. We grew up together, although we saw each other only sporadically, and he was a fixture. An adorable blond little boy, always laughing.
The news of his death comes at a time of mounting uncertainty for me. A favorite aunt passed away a few months ago from the complications associated with a brain tumor. Another favorite aunt is barely getting by, her health failing her daily. My grandparents are gone, but these people I'm losing or have lost are the ones that were there to pick us up in the wake of both my grandparents' deaths in 2002. They've been with me all my life...my company, my inspiration, the loves of my life.
And where am I? I'm halfway across the country while the people I love most in the world waste away.
I haven't felt this homesick until lately. Up until now I've been trucking right along, working, getting the job I want, all that stuff that seems really important until something like this happens and reality and priorities kick in.
I suppose what makes Ryan's death such a powerful thing (aside from the obvious fact that it's a tragedy to lose him) is that as a result of it I've heard from some of the family members I lost along the way. My cousins Carla and Alissa are two other fixtures from my childhood. Whenever I visited my dad's family (I was closer to my mom's) they were there, happy to see me, and we had a great time. It never mattered how much time had passed, we picked up just where we left off. In the days since Ryan's passing I've gotten calls or e-mails from both Carla and Alissa wanting to reconnect, and I desperately want that, too. Somehow we lost touch along the way. We became teenagers, we all had rocky relationships with our fathers, and e-mail was relatively new and unknown when we began to take our individual paths in life that have led us to this moment.
Last night my mom attended the visitation at the funeral home, and she got to see the mass of Millers. My dad passed in 1999, but he left behind 8 siblings all with children and many with grandchildren. I'd say in all there are probably upwards of 100 Millers in the immediate family. Mom knows how homesick I am right now, and she said every single one of them--aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents--all asked about me. Wanted to know the details of how I am and what I'm doing.
Family is a powerful thing, and I have to brag on both sides of mine and their involvement and caring. I have the most amazing, massive, wonderful, funny cheering section in Texas. No matter how lonely I get I know they're always there, they always care, and they always wish the best for me. And no matter how badly I feel sometimes, how often I focus on my failings, they will always see me as successful, respectable, and someone to be cherished and celebrated. There is great comfort in that, but...
It makes life profoundly lonely to be away from them and their fellowship. I miss Easter egg hunts, birthday parties, and basketball games. I miss the daily communion and the company that's available when family is present.
I guess I just have to admit, I want to go home.