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On Generations and Family

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Photo by Liz Brenden on Unsplash

When I was 14, I babysat and cleaned houses and worked at the library and earned enough money to buy two pairs of short shorts, the kind in which any pockets would have been longer than the fabric itself. Then, I went out into the world. That summer was also when I was allowed to go by bus on my own out of the village. I wasn't yet allowed to go to the big bad city by myself, don't worry, only as far as my recently widowed grandmother's house.


So, I put on my short shorts and climbed the bus. I had to switch once in Beer-Sheva, which doesn't count as a city (although it definitely is). I arrived at the Kibbutz, where my grandmother and two uncles (and their respective wives) lived, a few hours later. My grandmother, who came to get me from the bus stop, paled when she saw me, and her lips tightened. Years later, after she was gone, my dad told me about the phone call he got from her later that evening, giving him an earful about sending his daughter on a bus with nothing on.


Anyways, shortly after we arrived at my grandmother's house, my aunt came over. This aunt was the one my grandmother never liked. I'm not entirely sure why. Perhaps because my uncle was her second husband and my grandmother never forgave her for the first one. She couldn't fathom anyone considering her beloved son for anything other than a first choice. But she was the one my grandmother called for backup for their conversation with me about women's bodies in public spaces.


I won't go into that particular topic because it's not the point. The point is, my aunt was a teacher, an educator, with every bone in her body. I wasn't very close to her. Perhaps I never forgave her for that "talk". It's one thing for your grandmother to scold you for wearing shorts; it's another thing for your aunt to do that.


The reason I'm telling you all this is that my aunt passed away last night. The funeral, which I'll miss, is this evening. There's something convenient about being too far away to be swept up in all of it. But there's also something very lonely in the "business as usual" way I'll go about today. And I keep thinking that my parents' generation is dwindling. My dad, my uncle, and my two aunts are gone. If I were a dramatic person, I would say something like Death is closing in. But, as anyone who has read anything I write can tell you, I have a bit of an issue with drama (not a great trait for a writer, I know). And besides, I have long made peace with Death. And also, it's a terrible cliché.


I think what bugs me more is that my family is scattering. My family was always a tightly-knit, overbearing unit that did everything together, or at least it felt that way. Growing up, I knew what was happening with my cousins because my mom would get weekly updates from my aunts and would pass them along. With my aunts gone, I'm starting to think about the kind of relationship I have with my cousins. We're not as close as we were growing up. My parents' generation is the glue holding my family together, and that glue is fading.

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