mourning among my adopted family

It’s been a rough couple of days, and I find I have a story to tell. Seems I usually do. Actually, this might be more like two stories.

When I was in college, I dated a professor’s son (actually, I dated more than one, but let’s leave the others for another time). His mother taught writing courses and was known to be tough and opinionated. So, of course I sought her out. Academically, she liked me.

My boyfriend / professor’s son lived at home, so there was that inevitable morning when I walked down through the living room and had to say, “Good morning, Doctor, I’ll see you later in class.” Since it was a small school, everyone in my social circle had heard the news by lunch time. This counts among the three most embarrassing moments of my life.

But the real story here is that, when the boyfriend went off to grad school, his mother, my professor, adopted me. I wasn’t her only adopted student but, because I was close to her son, I think she liked having me around as a way to feel closer to him. She fed me elaborate meals and played the piano and we talked about everything from art and politics to gender roles and sex. I met his two brothers, his nephews and niece, his grandparents… After college, I moved closer to his grandparents and would take his grandmother shopping, since she no longer drove.

The boyfriend and I had an off-again, on-again long-distance relationship filled with the usual yearning, expectations, longing and heartache. People around us sincerely believed we would one day marry. For a long time, I think we did, too. In the end, I lost the boyfriend but kept the family. My former boyfriend married. To this day, I call the boys my brothers.

We lost the doctor recently and, over the weekend, I celebrated her life with my “brothers” and “nephew.” A common theme at family occasions is the closeness I share with the eldest of these boys. Apparently this chafes the youngest, my ex, as noted by the middle son who remarked, “Yeah, I’ve heard all about it” not long after I walked into the house over the weekend.

I suppose there may be rules and boundaries that one ought to consider in relationship situations like this. But I’m not going to analyze them here and now. I simply want to share the reason you haven’t seen a post from me in a few days — I’ve needed some time to process a great loss for me personally, but even more so for these wonderful brothers from another mother. And I’ve needed to absorb and recognize that, however young and dumb and unable to articulate our feelings or negotiate our relationship at the time, I broke someone’s heart — without ever really realizing it.

I suspect there may be more to come on all this…after I’ve had a little time to put it into perspective.

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