“Four girls and four boys he had, robustious little heathens, every one of them, as he said himself. But good fortune is not only good fortune, and over the years things happened in that family that caused some terrible regret. Still for years, it seemed to me to be blindingly beautiful. And it was.”
Doesn’t that just say everything about families? Blindingly beautiful. And terrible regret. Inescapable.
I am reading Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and having the unaccustomed experience of savoring every page. I don’t usually have the patience even to read every page, so eager am I to get on with plot and life. But the woman has a gift. She understands what it is like to be alive, what it is like to live simultaneously knowing the blessing of your own life and the dismay when others judge.
“I don’t think it was resentment I felt then. It was some sort of loyalty to my own life, as if I wanted to say, I have a wife, too, I have a child, too. It was as if the price of having them was losing them, and I couldn’t bear the implication that even that price could be too high.”
People think I have chosen my life, and in many ways I have. I have chosen not to be whipsawed by others’ judgments, no matter how close to me they are, no matter how well-intentioned. But did I choose to be alone? Not really. Still, it has been a blessing to me to learn to love solitude.
I love my mother, my sister, my brothers, their families. I would like to know them better, as people rather than as the figurehead roles they prefer to play in my life. It is a source of unending sadness to me that they see me only as the one who left, the one who does not behave properly, the one who is to be judged and found wanting. I am expected to behave in certain ways because….well, just because.
I have definitively opted out of that game. But should anyone want to start a new way of relating, I would be all over that. Like white on rice, like a duck on a June bug, as they say down South, where I come from. And where I can never return.