My maternal grandmother was moved early this week from the “independent living” place she’d been for the last several months into an assisted care facility.
She’s old. I think she’s in her 90s. Realistically, she probably doesn’t have a lot of time left. It’s already been years and years since I last saw her… and that was a literal lifetime ago. She’s never seen me, just the boy I used to be. And that may never happen now.
I’m trying not to think about that too much, because when I do, it hurts. And it leads to thinking about all of the extended family that I’ve never seen, may never see, nieces and nephews and cousins…
I hear a lot about the value of “chosen family,” and how it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to create your own association of people that you’re incredibly close to when your “family of origin” has failed you. That whole thing has always struck me as an attempt to find a pony in a heaping pile of manure — to find some way to spin a terrible situation as actually a really good thing to be grateful for. Maybe it’s just because I’ve never had much in the way of positive, close relationships, or because so-called “community” has frequently felt hostile and unwelcoming, but “chosen family” has never felt like a real thing, like a real possibility.
Growing up raised by Mormons, we called every other church member “brother” or “sister.” It was a title, a form of address, but I think it was supposed to evoke — and invoke — the same sense of “chosen family” that I’ve heard spoken of by so many queer people in the Bay Area. It never rang true, until…
Skyrim. It’s a testament to the quality writing and voice acting, I suppose, but honestly? Babette, Astrid, Festus, Arnbjorn, Nazir, Gabrielle, and Veezara… they all felt more like family as fictional characters than any real people I’ve dealt with. I think I could’ve been happy living with any or all of them. It felt right, so perfectly right when they called me their Sister, and I cared for them as sisters and brothers. That’s the first — and only — time I’ve had a glimpse of what family might feel like. Of what home could feel like. And it’s just a fantasy.
Home and family are just fantasies.