Surprise Family Death

It was nearly bedtime and I was doing what I usually do. Just winding down. On rare occasions, I’ll just google the family, as you do. I mean, I’m estranged from the majority of my family for reasons I’ve never spoken about publicly and probably never will. Thing is, because of the estrangement, I’m only friendly with one family member and that family member is someone that I have become less close with over time. We would send each other holiday cards and maybe once a year or so we would call each other, sometimes it’s for a birthday, sometimes a holiday or a death, you know. She would be the one to call us if anything major would happen. A family birth, a broken bone, something. But we didn’t get a holiday card this year. Sometimes that happens. To be honest, my Aunt B (we will call her) has been in absolutely terrible health for about the last few years. So we don’t hold it against her or anything. I mean, why would you hold not receiving a card against someone anyway?

So there I am, googling things because that’s the only way I find out things for the most part. And to be honest, I probably only google once or twice a year. I (for the most part) count on my Aunt B to tell me) and two, I just don’t care that much. There’s a reason we’re estranged, but there’s also the fact that it’s depressing to look and there’s only one of two things that ever comes of it:

  1. No news.
  2. Bad news.

So what came of it this time?

My Aunt B has died. Yes, the lifeline to my family. To be completely honest, I found this completely shocking. It really hurt me that absolutely nobody called me to tell me. There are plenty of people in the family who absolutely could have called me, who simply chose not to call me. This happened back in January and I found out about it in April. April. I found out on my own, through google because nobody had the humanity to tell me. I told Master Pravus about it when he got out of the shower.

“Oh my gosh! Not Aunt B. She used to actually talk to you, she was so nice…”


“This is so sad. How?”

“Don’t know.”

And I thought about it a little bit. I was thinking for a while, about an article about celebrity deaths. About how they never need to disclose the cause of death of course, because that’s private information for the family. Private information. For the family.

I was adopted.

I never felt like my adopted family was home, or family. My Dad felt like home. He really accepted me for just who I was, and whatever I was. He may have tried to write parts of me off. The weirdest parts with dumb excuses that made no sense, but I think he tried to just do the best with what he had. I felt outside a lot. I didn’t have that sense of wholeness and belonging. I didn’t feel really accepted fully as just Faete. For Faete. There’s acceptance, being just loved fully for who you are. And I didn’t get that. It was more a place of limited inclusion. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have love in my heart for every person who I grew up with, and that includes the people I keep soft tabs on.

There’s a part of me that felt really sad thinking about whether or not I was among the group of people who deserved to know what took my Aunt B. Did she die in her sleep? Was it one of her many ailments? Did she know that we still loved her? All those little grief-stricken thoughts one has in the middle of the night when they’re overcome with grief and despair.

I thought about random bits.

Her orange lipstick. The only makeup she ever wore. She wore it everywhere, but only when leaving the house, and only put on in the car the second she arrived.

We would play old school Mario together. We did it at nearly every holiday function growing up, too because she hated being social, and I loved playing Mario.

I adored her cooking so much! Everyone said she couldn’t cook, but she didn’t use a lot of spice, and I loved it so much. I would gain about five pounds every time I visited and everyone would ask her what the secret was since I never ate my Mom’s food. The secret was: her food was delicious. 🙂

My Aunt B was the one who taught me to sew by hand.

She made me my first costume for the first on-stage play I was in, and then she helped me sew the first costume for the first play I directed and then acted in. I learned so much from her. I wouldn’t have the Mewtique without her.

She used to take me for weeks at a time to her house in the Summer when staying with my family was too overwhelming.

Her coffee. She had the largest coffee cup I ever saw and anytime I drove anywhere with her I had to hold it for her because they never make a cup holder big enough. It was so big. I bet it would hold a gallon!

We used to laugh about dark things together. She had the most twisted sense of humor. I loved her so much for it.

My Aunt was super empathetic, she could stop any argument by just explaining the other side to you in a way that there was no way you could have possibly have considered that before, without making you feel guilty at all. It was a magic super power.

Calling her “Auntie” instead of “Aunt” for her entire life because it rhymed with her first name. She hated it, but couldn’t escape it because everyone did it.

I had a huge family, and I think they all meant well, but throughout my life, my Aunt is legitimately the only one who would call and actually show up for things that were important in my life. She wouldn’t just come when invited. She would offer to do things that she knew would help. I have so many memories of her. She never acted like things were work, especially for family. She would make the drive. She would just get directions and be there, early. She’d just come. And now, she’s gone.

Being adopted has always made me feel a sense of not really belonging. It has made me choose family instead of having a real “Gotcha Day.” In the moment, as Master Pravus and I reminisced about my Aunt, my brain walked back to that article again. “The cause of death of a person is private information. For the family.”

I hadn’t chosen to estrange myself from my Aunt, and I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to find out about her passing this way. Yet, this is how things happened. You can’t force family. You can decide what feels like family, but family is an adjective, it’s not a noun. If you want to be a family, you have to act like a family, and my “family” chose not to tell me about my Aunt. So was I ever really a part of their family to begin with?

After a little cry I realized, The cause of my Aunt’s death was private information. I was a spectator now and importantly, spectators aren’t family. As sad as my Aunt’s passing is, and as much as I know she would have wanted me to know she had passed- that wouldn’t be her decision to make. And sadly you cannot force anyone to stay in your life. That includes family, whether or not you’ve done anything right or wrong.

Whether or not my Aunt was my Aunt, or a neighbor or a celebrity I would still carry grief for her. I grew up with her, and she made the effort to stay in contact with us when we moved and even after we moved back. She seemed to love us, and you don’t have to be family to love someone. It’s complicated to be adopted. It’s complicated to love. It’s complicated to want things to work out in the right ways all the time, but they won’t always. It’s complicated to be an outsider looking in. I still loved B. My heart hurts.

Rest in Peace, B.

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