We walk our lonely paths of quiet decay. Structures, once vibrant and alive, are worn down by the passage of time and buffeted by the winds of indifference. Old ways of being morph into future generations and new structures are born.
Eight babies poured from my mother’s womb in eight years, then someone turned off the tap and the babies stopped flowing. I was the fourth of the eight children my parents raised in our three bedroom apartment. The apartment was unending chaos. With my father absent ten hours a day my mother tried hard to cope but was heavily outnumbered. I remember pouring Coca Cola on top of my cereal for breakfast, eating three different flavours of ice cream for lunch and enjoying endless Kraft dinner. Due to the closeness of age , life was one long battle, all of us fighting for our parents attention. The chaos continued from birth through puberty. We would steal each others clothes and leap in anger at any provocation. I had no solitude, no secrets, no new clothes and no desire to be around my family.
Turning eighteen, I found a job in a small company as an office clerk and left home to make my own way in the world. I worked hard, enrolled part time in bookkeeping courses and found I enjoyed the logic, neatness and continuity of the process. Soon after completing the course I was offered the job of bookkeeper and accepted with extreme delight. My world became confined to 12 feet by 20 feet of office space and my best friends were two metal filing cabinets, holding memories of past transactions. I spent twelve hours a day in that tiny office savouring the quiet, the routine, the order and the occasional software challenge. Far from the maddening crowd and family.
When I first left home my family stayed in touch and later on I would receive invitations to birthday parties, marriages, christenings. I ignored them all and continued plodding along blissfully wrapped in my bookkeeping cocoon. After a while the invitations stopped coming.
Twenty five years had passed and I accepted the speech and the gift from the company in honour of my years of service. I should have been happy with the acknowledgement and the applause of my co-workers, so why did I feel so empty inside. I looked on all those smiling faces and realized that I did not know them or hold any feelings for them. It was then that the depression started. I awoke the next morning and all of a sudden life no longer had any purpose. Arriving in work, I realized it was all business, there was no real closeness or friendship with my office colleagues. I returned home that evening to the empty apartment and felt despair. After a year of this existence I was friended on Facebook by someone who claimed to be my nephew.
I was apprehensive about pushing the confirm friend button but took the plunge. We conversed back and forth for a few weeks. My nephew bringing me up to date on family affairs. Then the invitation came for the annual family reunion. I thought about the invitation long and hard and eventually decided to go. So here I am at the train station, butterflies in my stomach and the beginning of a migraine.
My sister Karen picked me up from the train station. Greeted me with a hug, took my suitcase, bundled me into the car and I found myself smiling nostalgically. She drove to the resort where the family was staying and I found myself surrounded by family, chaos revisited. There were more hugs and kisses, crying, recriminations, strange looks from in-laws and shy glances from twenty nieces and nephews I had never seen. My head spun as I tried to keep up with all the introductions. I was back into the melting pot of family life and I loved it.