Rampant with Memory

What makes a family?


My brother suggested something to me yesterday that is now clamped around my heart.

It is about potential loss and the possibility of holding on. We all have the choice to deviate from–well, from family. Specifically from sisters and brothers.

People drift away, he said. Caught up by death while remaining alive.

We become orphans once our parents die and this rupture stabs us with with a measure of grief. Isn’t it something we dread in an infantile way?

In my instance I ask: who will bandage my scrapes? Applaud at my graduation? Cry when I move far away?

Freshly comes another challenge: how to continue family? I mean blood family, not the family many of us choose out of a basic desire to be loved.

The loss of original family has been experienced by many of us. Sometimes it comes crashing down and we react by creating alternative families among our lovers and friends.

I think of gay men during the ugliest of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80s who were cast aside by “family” and sought companionship and love elsewhere in their community. Attending funerals where no one else would come.

I think of how my partner and I don’t trust holding hands in public even though we can marry and raise children together. We seek family elsewhere, a safer where, with others who share, or sympathize, with our fears.

I think of refugees to Canada forced to leave people behind to endure poverty, torture, and death; people left behind who lose their lustre, without love, and often their lives.

And the new Canadians hope for a welcome here.

But it is the potential loss of blood-family that bludgeons me now. My brother’s prescient words and the whiff of a possible reality. Once our parents are gone–will we survive? Does it matter?

I am not sure whether we will survive but yes, it matters.

Meanwhile, my partner, our son, and my friends are the ones whom I believe truly love me.

Meanwhile, I’ll bank on them.






Noreen Shanahan

A creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries–life stories, local histories, flesh & blood anecdotal details.

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