Monday, September 27, 2010

The Power of Escape

Oh crappy week for this drunk writer. Well, crappy with a side of great. Which is strange. But my aunt died suddenly last week and this weekend was the funeral - don't worry, no need to send the cyberhugs or whatever. She was not healthy but she leaves behind a family that is left grieving for the mom and wife they had years ago and the mom and wife they wished they'd been able to have and the mom and wife they could have had. It's complicated.

But the side of great was that my extended family is entrenched in those years where the only times we get together are weddings and funerals. And we're about out of weddings. But for as problematic as my aunt was (and at one time really beloved) EVERYONE came. And I mean from around the country and even my uncle in Kabul made the epic trip home.

And the hugs were amazing. And the catching up long past due and when the sun set my dad and his brothers unleashed the stories that we've heard a million times and some we've never heard and some with surprise elaborations. And it made everyone so so so happy.

The next day was tougher and everyone started drinking (which was strange because my Aunt died of alcoholism) and the stories stopped and people were not as happy. Every one's grief had lost that bright edge of happy memory.

I know people read romance novels for escape - to find some happy in not happy times. And usually I say it with a shrug like it's the more minor of it's charms. But stories and storytelling with a good dose of happy - it should be a part of a health care system. I'm not joking.


Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, Molly... Our family has moved into that phase where the only time we're all together is funerals, too... and it's so tough and as you say, kind of dual edged.

And great point about romance novels being part of the health care system. They do think that watching comedies helps people cope with pain and illness, I expect romance novels offer the same amount of comfort and relief.

Stephanie Doyle said...

I hear you as well with the weddings and the funerals. As a child with older parents than most I went through this period where it felt like every other month an aunt or uncle was dying. Then I lost my dad and you have that point where you think no family events will ever be fun again.

Then we did a birthday part for my Mom. Her last remaining sister and brother came. My family, nieces and nephews were there. It was a such a great time.

Family is a great and wonderful thing... most times. And those stories are our history. Very important stuff.

Eileen said...

We passed through the funeral stage and have reemerged into the Bar and Bat Mitzvah and graduation phase with, I believe, the wedding phase not far behind. Stay strong, sisters. It's all a big cycle. Turn turn turn.

You're right about the stories. There's something so healing about sharing those wonderful stories about someone that is a real balm.

Now about our job as storytellers . . . I don't know how many times in my life that I've disappeared into a good book and had it help me through a tough time. The books aren't always one hundred percent happy, but they really help.

Maureen McGowan said...

I think you're right about books helping, even if they aren't all happy, Eileen.

I think maybe it has to do with empathy... Vicariously feeling other people's problems as we read their stories helps us work through our own problems.

Eileen said...

Definitely! I remember reading The Pilot's Wife not long after my husband died. Processing that woman's grief really helped me process my own. There's a scene where she throws her wedding ring into the ocean and thinks that to be relieved of love is to be rid of a terrible burden. I so related to that!

Sinead M said...

Reading a great book absorbs me to the point where nothing else exists, while TV allows my mind to wander too much.

They are a great escape and absolutely necessary.

Eileen said...

Hmm. But TV leaves my hands free to crochet. :-)

Maureen McGowan said...

LOL Eileen, I used to knit and watch TV all the time. Now I e-mail or read twitter and watch TV... Books do capture my concentration better. :) (And so I usually choose TV.)

Patrice said...

Sorry and glad for you and your family, Molly. My own family has pretty much moved past the funerals bit (with the potential sitll for a wedding and babies!) but my husband's is moving into the funeral gatherings. Two over the past two years...and I'm anticipating more in 2011. Ugh! While I enjoy the escapism of happy endings books, I LOVE the escapism of action/adventure movies. Those characters face seemingly impossible odds...and still come out ahead (esp. if Hollywood's involved!) As corny as it may sound, they inspire me to 1) count my blessings (at least I'm not being hunted/shot at by really scary bad guys!) and 2) suck it up (ditto parenthetical reasoning.) Patrice

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