I have been estranged from my paternal family for going on 15 years. It’s a long and complicated story. I do not regret it. But there are times when I wish it were different, where I wish things could be different.
Being estranged means that when common circles are crossed, there are whispers behind my back and that complete strangers will stop me and tell me what a horrible daughter I am. It means I sometimes get messages on Facebook telling me that I am going to hell. It means that when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a long time, there are long, awkward silences when I can’t answer, “How’s your father?” It means that every time I pass through my home town I feel frightened and I pray that no one will see or recognize me.
And those are hard and painful things, but the worst is that being estranged means that some of my grandpa’s last words were about me and I didn’t even know he was sick. I didn’t get to say goodbye or tell him that some of my fondest memories were of him or that my daughters have his eyes. I didn’t go to his funeral. I don’t know where he’s buried.
Being estranged means that my grandma is a dot on a Google map. I don’t know if she’s still there or if she’s still alive or if her mind is in tact or if she still dyes her hair jet black. I can’t thank her for teaching me how to fry eggs and shop at a thrift store or for giving me my loud mouth and big…personality.
Being estranged means that my aunt doesn’t know that I love chickens and cows because of her and that every year I looked forward to spending as much time as possible with their family on their little farm. It means they’ll never know that they were the stability and love that I needed when everything else was unsure or that I always felt safe, accepted, and happy when I was with them. It means that I will always wish I had been there to support my aunt when my uncle passed and it means that I will never know my cousins and their families as adults and peers.
Being estranged means that for a long, long time I denied half of who I am and all of where I came from because I was afraid of who I might become if I didn’t. It means that now, and for always, a part of me will be missing.
I don’t regret cutting ties. When it comes to boundaries and maintaining a stable and safe home for my family, no amount of sacrifice is too much. Sometimes, it’s really, really hard and painful and I wish it could be different. But it’s not.