It’s Only Lonely Once Everybody Has Left

My aunt died at her ex-husband’s funeral, just over a week ago. I don’t know many of the details, but I gather that she suffered a heart attack while at the funeral. It happened on a Saturday afternoon, and by Sunday evening my immediate family was gathered in my one-bedroom apartment.

I love my family, I really do, but I wasn’t ready to see them until the Christmas holidays, when we’re all scheduled to gather at my parents’ home, designed to house a family of four. Each time I go back, the spaces I once called mine are slightly more taken over by something that my parents decided fit there. Like those spaces, it seems that as the years pass, the amount of time we spend together as a family shrinks.

Anyway, at the best of times, I really don’t like having people over. I don’t really want anyone coming over for dinner, spending the night, or asking for a clean bath towel. I like my own space more and more. But, I’ll never say “no” to my family.

I cleaned up as best I could, but I had twisted my knee pretty badly on the Thursday before the funeral on Saturday, making walking and bending pretty difficult. My place wasn’t “mom-clean” but it was “bachelor-clean”. My parents arrived around noon,  and by the time I had gotten back from picking up my sister around 5 pm, my mom had cleaned the kitchen and bathroom. I still had to wash the bedsheets, which my mom would’ve done if I had left the laundry room card.

The week passed well enough. I worked a few days, my family attended family events, and we all went to my aunt’s funeral. I’m not involved with my extended family in any significant way. I respect them for being part of my family, help them when they ask, ask for help from them when I need it, and only really see them when my folks visit.

I’m much closer with my immediate family. My sister and I get along really well, even though we live completely separate lives. I have a short fuse with my dad, but he and I both know that he’s going to try his best to get a rise out of me whenever he can – it doesn’t take much. My mom and I get along, like a mother and a son do.

Thing is, I don’t miss them when they’re not around, but only after they’ve left. Sure, I think about them, and I avoid their text messages and phone calls when it’s inconvenient for me to chat with them. I worry about them when I know something is happening in their lives. Never, or very rarely, do I miss them.

It’s a funny thing, independence. It’s as if all of that time I spent with my family when I was younger was meant to prepare me to go off on my own, attempt to try my best to become a man, make a life for myself, and start a family of my own. I was supposed to leave my parents’ home, work out the details of how to create a life for myself, and then impose my values and ideals on somebody else with the help of somebody else. Right now, though, I’m still working on getting myself sorted.

I see some of my cousins change as soon as they have a wife and then children. They become family men, and delight in the company of those with whom they share blood. They ask after me more often once they have a little one in their charge. When I do see them, they give me conflicting advice: it’s about time that you settle down, find a nice Ismaili girl, and start a family, but the bachelor life is a good one and there’s nothing wrong with just having a Canadian girlfriend, if you want one, for the rest of your life.

You know, even my parents don’t ever ask me if I’m dating someone. They wait for me to bring it up, which I only do if they see my phone light up and a girl’s name is on the display.

Where was I? Right, having my family visit.

It was great eating meals prepared by my mom, talking to my family over dinner, having my dad remind me that an hour had passed and that I needed to go move my car, and sharing laughs as a family.

Now that they’ve left, this space I live in feels quiet. It’s never too loud, but it’s only this quiet once everybody has left. The washroom is always available, there aren’t any air mattresses to navigate as I cross through the living room, the TV is off, and the only voice I can hear is my own as I read aloud what I’m writing. Everything is how it is supposed to be, but slightly wanting.

It took me so long to fill up this space with reflections of me, only a few hours to fill it with my family, and the sound of the last suitcase being pulled down a hallway to empty it. This space will become fully my own again, and in short order, but until then I’ve got to put everything back in its proper place once I find where it was all misplaced.

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