To be validated as a human being by someone who isn’t being paid to do so. You’re a human, you have the same human hopes, dreams, problems and heart like everyone else does.
I was briefly reading a few things I wrote during the year after H died. I was entirely in denial over how much pain I felt, and just how much his death changed everything. People of this younger generation say that sort of thing about anything at all–”this changes everything.” But, there is very little, if anything, in life that really changes everything.
I’ve also thought about how I’ve rarely addressed in my endless self-analysis the fact that I felt kind of betrayed when my older brothers left home and never looked back. When I was a little boy, I worshiped the ground that they walked on–I don’t think it’s too strong of a statement, though it is probably a cliche. I looked up to them in almost every way as examples, and didn’t think of them as outsiders to my family. When R left, the trauma surrounding it was never addressed by my dad or mom. I’m talking about the trauma a child feels when a family member is effectively excommunicated–it’s like losing a limb. When R2 left, he came back a few times, but I can see now through the eyes of an older man who has known many other families that he was for all intents and purposes estranged from us the day he went off to boot camp. He never looked back, and never wanted to. His embracing of his birth family and rejection of my father (and effective rejection of me, too–he only talks to me if I bother to call him) cleared away any indication that he still saw himself as a member of our family. I suspect he keeps the Norman name out of sheer laziness–he doesn’t want to file the paperwork to change his name to H, his birth father’s surname. Perhaps he does still hold out for some kind of inheritance from my dad, but I don’t think he’s all that opportunistic about it.
Losing the two older brothers I looked up to so much, and then losing H–all before I turned 23–was really more than I could bear, and it did stunt my growth as a young man trying to fully realize his adulthood, there’s no denying that. Of course, some of my fears and immaturity that prevented me from growing up at a normal pace were all of my own and nobody else’s, but I think it’s the aspect of losing family that I would never get back as family that I’ve generally tended to overlook or only address in the most superficial sorts of ways.
It’s almost impossible to discuss it with anyone. Most people I’ve tried to talk to about it with are generally of a mind of: what are you bitching about, you had a nigh perfect childhood, your parents never divorced, your dad paid for your college and generally bought you whatever you wanted, you never lost anyone other than grandparents during your childhood (meaning actual death, of course, though R died when I was 18 or 19). During the first six years or so that we lived in Missouri, my dad seemed to be not quite there. He was available at the usual appointed times–for dinner, to say good morning and good night. He took us to the public library every weekend, and occasionally took us to a park. But, I don’t have a whole lot of memories of him just hanging out with us kids and paying a lot of attention to us. That was my mom’s job up until about the time R left, and then my dad slowly started to hang out with us more. By the time H was ten or eleven, my dad started spending a great deal of time with his youngest son as I was already lost to teenage apathy and disdain for doing things with parents.
So, if you were to try to get at the heart of what has motivated me in almost any choice I’ve made, good or bad, be it friendship, work, romance (or lack thereof)…anything–it’s a a sense of trying to find a cohesive family to belong to–a family that accepts me as I am, needs me and my particular contributions and doesn’t see me as being redundant–loves me. I’ve struggled to find this sort of thing sometimes at churches, sometimes with drinking buddies and people who were so far from being compatible with my true self that it is astounding I haven’t somehow managed to wind up in more trouble than I ever did. But, there is no family like that, other than the one I am trying to start with A and L. No church out there, as far as I can tell, really does want my time and talents.
What I’m going through right now with my so-called home church and what I went through in Waco has been a series of quiet acts of desperation that verge on the heartbreak. I’ve wanted so very badly for the churches in my communities of my present denomination to be the kinds of homes they claim they are, and appear to be to some people, that I’ve probably blinded myself to potential opportunities for real spiritual growth elsewhere.