It’s no mistake that I love weavings, quilts and other works of art where I can experience the continuity of life as created by a woman’s hands. It’s also no surprise then that I feel the loss of human threads unraveled, or those lost track of and which create great holes in the tapestry of families and humankind. I’ve been on a bit of a mission this last year or two to mend a few gaping holes in my personal history.
My much older sister was pregnant while our mother was pregnant with me. That was in the days of homes for unwed mothers, when parents sent their daughters away lest they bring shame upon the family. The other five kids and I never really knew about Stephen, although the older kids remembered her moving away very suddenly, never darkening the family doorstep for at least a year.
As she lay dying of breast cancer at the age of 57, my sister made me promise to find her son. She had thought about him for 37 years, crying each November as his birthday neared. Shame, fear, dread and guilt flooded her as she neared her next incarnation.
A year and a half ago, I found her son, my nephew. We are just months apart, with me the elder by five months. We’ve met a few times, chatted on the phone, chatted online. We are like two wary wolves, circling the dead deer, eager to jump in together yet unsure of how to share. It’s hard to share when you don’t know what it is.
Yet this lost boy, this relative of mine is connected to me through bloodlines. I loved my sister so dearly; she was the most kind, generous and funny person I’ve ever met. I want to love Stephen for her, but he is still a strange 52 year old man, and I unable to decipher my role as aunt.
So we do the dance. Two people connected by someone who will never converse with us, remember with us, or create memories. But until he steps on my toes, I’m willing to learn the steps.