One tragic side effect of my mother's death, was that her kids no longer get together to celebrate her birthday, or all convene together in the same place at the same time to take her out to dinner, or have chinese take out at her apartment.
The passing of one generation of adults can leave their offspring without the glue of shared social events to bring them together. When I was a kid, I spent so much time with aunts and uncles and cousins. I only have one aunt left on my mother's side, and I have not seen her since before my mother's passing. There are family members I love that I haven't seen or heard from since the funeral. I guess they could say the same thing about me. You know how it is — we relied upon our shared family bond to keep in touch. And that shared bond was our parents, aunts, and uncles. I have cousins living closer to me now than at any time in my life, and I see them perhaps once a year at best. I have seen my sister, bless her heart, twice in the past year. I don't think I've seen my brother in a couple years. My wonderful cousin Susan in Texas is one I've been able to see more often than the ones that live here in Los Angeles.
The last time I was in Seattle I visited my (ex) in laws whom I love with all my heart, and every moment was a joy. My former wife has the complete "archives" of pictures from family events, and the home movies. Family is a great source of joy, strength and support. I love hearing from my nephews and neices, and wish there was a wedding, Bar Mitzvah or some other reason to see all those cousins and their families again. As time goes by, and life swiftly heads towards the closing credits, I treasure more and more those days gone by when all our lives seemed forever intertwined…be it in Walla Walla, Seattle, Palm Springs, or summers at Loon Lake, Washington. My dear friend Allen Goldblatt once said that nostalgia was just another word for depression. Maybe he's right. I am a confirmed sentimentalist, and I recall so well my sister begging my father for the keys to the car to take me to the A&W, my brother and I having "good old fashioned cowboy fights" and my Uncle Phil reeling in silvers in front of his cabin.
What brought about this longing for the security and solidarity of the past? Well,there is one thing that is guaranteed to trigger memories: the sound of a train. I was sitting here in Glendale, California where I am enjoying the kind hospitality of a friend, and writing the ending of my latest book, Fatal Beauty. The door was open, and the cool bight breeze was blowing in just as I leaned back my head on the couch and closed my eyes. And then I heard it…the train. That sound, merged with the temperature and breeze and early evening sunlight merged together in my mind and I was no longer in Glendale, and it was no where near 2009. I was transported back in time….a time when both parents were alive, my brother and sister and I were all together, and summers went on forever. I could almost smell the Noxema that my sister wanted rubbed on her sunburned back.,,see the fishing poles labeled "Claudia" and "David" in Uncle Phil's boathouse…hear the lap of water against the dock…from there my memories skipped like flat rocks on clear water — from summer lakes to Seder services in Spokane, High Holy Days in Walla Walla, those giant dinners that my Aunt Esther used to host at her home, and Thanksgivings in Palm Springs.
I could go on…but I didn't… I pulled myself back to 2009, the looming deadline of my new book, and logged on to Twitter. Thank God for Twitter. I know how my neice celebrated her anniversary, and that my nephew Lee visited my sister today in Ventura. Facebook and Twitter are for me a life line to my family — it's not as personal as a shared meal or fishing outing, but it's better than facing the disquieting reality of total disconnect from everything I imagined would last forever.