The Blessing of a Broken Heart

It has been a whirlwind of a week. My parents and my husband and I traveled to Arizona for my oldest niece’s college graduation. Yes, college.

I don’t write too much about my family, partly because I feel like to a certain extent it is an invasion of their privacy, but also because I like to keep some parts of my life–well, private. Also, it’s complicated. So for brevity and privacy’s sake the short version is this: before my oldest sister passed away a few years ago, I hadn’t seen her since the college graduate niece was two. For a large portion of that time she and I didn’t communicate (again, complicated)–which means I missed out on a lot. Like the opportunity to be a real sister and an aunt.

When you’re young and stubborn, you feel like you have all the time in the world to be forgiven and to forgive. Life is short. Forgive quickly. Love with your whole being.

This is the third time I’ve visited Arizona in as many years. The first time was for my sister’s memorial, the second time was last summer when my brother and I visited to get to know our nieces, and now this third time to celebrate my oldest niece’s graduation and spend time with her sisters and one of my two nephews.

It still feels strange calling them my nieces and nephews. It feels strange calling myself their aunt. There is hesitation when introductions are made, I don’t know if it’s because of the anticipation of possibly being asked to explain our complicated family or if the titles feel premature.

I don’t feel like I deserve to be called their aunt. I wasn’t there for their childhood. I wasn’t there to do things that aunts should do. I don’t even know what an aunt should do! We spoil them right? Let them do stuff their mom wouldn’t? Tell them not to tell her until after I’ve shared at least half a bottle of wine with her? Not like I can do any of that considering all but one is an adult. The only thing I know for sure is to love them. I know I know how to do that one thing completely and with my whole heart.

There is an urgency I’ve never experienced before, a desire to know these people whose DNA resonates with mine, to spend as much time in the presence of similar souls who share a familiar sense of humor, an infectious laugh, a well-known eye-roll.

Part of me thinks I have so much to make up for, but it’s more that I have so much to catch up on. They are their own brilliant, beautiful people and there is nothing I could do to affect the past, all I can do is learn about who they are now and hope to heaven and earth they allow me to continue to be included in the adventure of who they will become.

Tonight, a piece of my heart is left in the desert, broken because I know there is never enough time, but safe because I’ve left it where love is.

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