Aging tends to create isolation. This is especially true regarding relatives and friends. The most common and irreversible event that causes a loss of precious relationships is death. Parents die. Spouses die. Brothers and sisters die. Close friends pass away. These are relationships that have been nurtured and ideally enjoyed over a lifetime. It becomes very hard to fend off the loneliness, anxiety, and the depression resulting from the vacuum created by these losses. But we must try. Otherwise, we’ll be swallowed up by isolation.
I’m very fortunate. I was brought up in a large extended Jewish family. The elders I looked up to stuck together for sixty years or more, like my parents and my aunt and uncle. My uncle Sam was the fulcrum around which six brothers and sisters, their husbands and wives, their children and grandchildren and some of their friends stayed together. When my parents and my aunt and uncle passed away, the law of entropy kicked in. Like galaxies in the universe, everyone walking above ground drifted apart. I was left with my wife, daughter, and mother-in-law. They are great people, but you’d hardly call them a tribe.
At first, the loneliness was overwhelming. My work exacerbated the problem. I’m a writer, which by its nature, is solitary. And writers tend to think too much, which also doesn’t help. Now, we have Internet technology that, according to articles I’ve read, is counter-intuitively contributing to more loneliness across our entire society.
So, loneliness is a problem for all of us. In my case, I wanted my extended family back. I imagined and day-dreamed having them back. After indulging in these fantasies long enough, I had to face reality; Mom and Dad and everyone else who had passed on were not coming back. Now, my wife, mother-in-law, daughter (Danielle), her boyfriend (Ryan), and three friends comprised my family. It wasn’t a big extended family, but I told myself to be content with it, even though I felt something was missing.
As time passed, Ryan and Danielle became engaged. I’ve always shared a special relationship with my daughter. We have always been close, and we still are today. We kid around with texts and encouragements almost daily, and we try to have weekly dinners. My wife and I always enjoy having dinners with Ryan and Danielle whenever possible.
Last month, Danielle and Ryan married, and something magical happened.
I had met Ryan’s parents on several occasions, and I considered them friends. (Ryan actually has two sets of parents due to a divorce). Since my new in-laws live in Phoenix and we live in Miami, it is difficult to see them regularly. So, they are long distance relatives. But, as I said, something magical happened at the wedding.
My wife and I formed a new bond with our in-laws. We became a bigger family. These new relationships transcend geography. What was missing is no longer missing. I am no longer a lone patriarch. I have the company of a peer group of elders.
I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. I may not get everything I want, but I will definitely get what I need if I keep trying. In this case, my relationship with my daughter blossomed into something bigger and better. I am extremely grateful for the new people in my life.