The good stuff about being an only child:
–being the only one to lick the batter off the beaters
–not having to wear too many hand-me-downs
–growing up to have your parents become your best friends
I loved being an only child. Oh, there was a brief time when I urged my mom to adopt a playmate for me, but mostly I loved being the dreamy bookworm who had no problem talking with adults.
My parents moved away from our extended family when I was 8 so I learned to create my own Tribe. As I grew older, I started forming a family of choice: dear friends whom my own daughter would grow up to call “aunt” and “uncle.”
Still, my parents and I were a tight unit with our own memories and jokes, an exclusive triad. Even after marriage and the birth of my daughter, my parents were the curators of my childhood stories.
And then my mom died three years ago and my dad died last month.
And then came the bad stuff about being an only child:
–the knowledge that there is no sibling who can miss your parents in the same way you do
–the realization that no one can vouchsafe a memory that is starting to fade a little because no one else was there when the memory was made
–the understanding that mysterious papers or objects found in old safety deposit boxes will never be explained because you didn’t know about them and you didn’t know to ask
And that is when the Tribe steps in. They say you are stuck with the family you get, but my family by choice chooses to let me in, to fly across the country so that I have my Tribe with me at funerals, to call and to let me say ugly, hateful things or nothing at all, depending on where I am in the grieving process.
An aunt at my dad’s funeral – not one of my more tactful aunts – said, “Now you know what it feels like to be an orphan.”
Orphan as in without parents, yes. But orphan as in alone in the world?
The Tribe won’t let that happen.