Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Half a World Away

My childhood was not spent surrounded by extended family. Though my father was the oldest of eight and my mom the second oldest of five, we lived half a world away from most of our family. They were still in India which was a long 30+ hour plane ride, not to mention thousands of dollars a pop. While a couple of my mom's siblings and their families moved to "the States" eventually, and another visited often while on business, for the most part I was quite removed from my cousins, aunts and uncles, as well as my paternal grandparents. 

Over the course of my life, I have spent in total perhaps 12-15 weeks with my cousins in India. We would visit every five years or so while I was growing up, but after my father's passing, my mom and I have never gone back. The expense has only increased and with a grieving mom in retirement and my own career just starting out (and not in a fiscally lucrative field), traveling back just hasn't materialized. In her grief, my mom rarely connected with anyone who was still in India, and I had no point of contact.

Some of my cousins in more recent years contacted me when they were sent to the United States on business. I regret not taking more initiative to visit my cousin who was working on an assignment in Wisconsin a few years back. More recently, my youngest cousin found me on Facebook. Since then, I have been able to get in touch with many of the rest from my dad's side of the family. Perhaps it is a result of now having my own family, but with this round of contact, I am more determined to be sure to stay in touch. Too much time has passed not being a part of each others' lives. While it is entirely a virtual connection, it is at least a connection. I've been able to see their children, their spouses, their work, their friends and vice versa. 

Today I learned of my aunt's recent passing after a battle with ovarian cancer. It is a little surreal and awkward. While my memories with the family are few, there are treasured ones among them. It is awkward to receive condolences, though, when I barely knew her. I remember her fondly from the little time I did spend with her, but it was so very limited. I know now that my cousins felt the same way. There is a great fondness, even though there was not much actual time spent with one another. My cousin sent a picture of me with my aunt as she told me of her passing. It was such a sweet gesture, filled with so much love at such a difficult time for her.

My aunt and I - I am about 6 years old I think.

I am sorry for not having taken more of an interest in staying connected with my family in earlier years. In the egocentrism of youth and the spoils of grief I never took the initiative to be the one to reach out. Who knows if we will find a way to visit India again, or if they will ever make their way here, but social media has given us a chance to reconnect, so now it is a matter of nurturing our adult relationships. Even half a world away, these modern times make it possible to be nearer to one another than ever before, and for those second chances I am grateful. I know that when we reconnected, my cousin shared recent photos and stories of my life now with my aunt, and that brings a smile to my face, though I wish I could have seen her again. I pray for her soul and for the family's peace, and would so appreciate your prayers as well. 

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  1. So sorry to hear of the loss of your aunt...prayers for you and her soul, dear friend:)

  2. I too had very little contact with either side of my family. After my dad died (when I was only a few months old) my mom relocated to California when the entire family lived east of the Mississippi. Given that I grew up in the 50s and 60s it was very difficult to cultivate long-distance relationships. I only got to know the cousins on one side of the family when I was in my 40s, and I've never met the cousins on the other side of my family.