Great Uncle J. I never met him. I think the last time my grandmother saw him was long before she was even a mother herself. According to her he'd driven the family from New Jersey to Pennsylvania with his borderline lawbreaking antics. She always held a grudge that her father had to leave a good job with the railroad to come to Pennsylvania. She didn't speak to him, didn't know where he was. But faded photos in the top drawer of the attic dresser reveal they had some bit of contact after Jerry had gone to California. Did the mysterious Vera in a few of them send them on to my grandmother?
Her father. As far as I know, if he had brothers they never spoke to him after he married a Protestant. His entire Catholic family disowned him. In my china cabinet here are just two pieces of cut glass which crossed the Atlantic with his immigrant family and somehow entered his possession, later passing to my grandmother after her brother J. headed west and faded into the photo album.
Uncle T. My father's older brother. He is a Philadelphia lawyer. If you're familiar with the expression, yes...by most accounts, he lives up to it. He's still living but I haven't laid eyes on him since we buried my grandparents four months apart 18 years ago. Before that he and my father didn't speak for a decade over a bottle of wine. I have only a handful of shadowy memories of him from my childhood. The only remnants from him are the frayed edges of a rent family.
My brother. We were both still at home when he stopped speaking to me. His silence lasted 7 years. One day in the midst of the silence and out of desperation I asked, for the sake of Calypso, to borrow his car to get her to the doctor when she had a high fever and a choking cough. He handed me the keys. I thanked him deeply. When I later returned them he inquired about her. Months later we sat together until the wee hours of the morning at his request and were reconciled.
He is a man of few spoken words. He is a very solitary and reserved person. My children have grown up knowing him. They love him and know he loves them. When they were small they loved to play with him. As they've grown he has enjoyed being able to converse intelligently with them. My children and my brother seek each other out at family functions.
Recently, Calypso said she asked him why he didn't speak to me for so long. She was told what his rationale was as it related to a particular incident at the time. He added that he and I, as well as the other parties involved, all could have handled things far better than we each did respectively. He's right.
Regardless, of our personal history I am very thankful my brother and I have not repeated, for the duration of a lifetime, the family history of leaving behind only dead artifacts with no glad stories to warm the cold surfaces of paper and glass. I smile knowing my children look forward to seeing my brother; that he makes time to be a part of their lives even in his own way. I am thankful we've done better. I pray my own children never feel the iciness of of angry separation from each other. May that sort of legacy be what fades like crackled photos and shatters like glass.