Since talking to my mom about the undecided fate of the family heirlooms & photos (and then venting about it here) I've been thinking about extended family relationships, and how close I am (or not -- mostly not...) to certain relatives.
Maybe it's because I don't have children of my own that I've been thinking a lot about my cousins and their families (on both sides of my family), and that I wished we were closer, that I knew more of them better. Kind of an alternative way of leaving my mark on the world, if you know what I mean.
But -- I've lived 1,000 miles away from most of my relatives since I got married 35 years ago, so I haven't had the chance to see most of them very often, let alone get to know their children as they grew into adulthood. My mom has passed on tidbits from family gatherings and from conversations with my aunts & uncles, I exchange Christmas cards & letters with some of the ones I was closest to in childhood, and of course, I've been able to stay in touch with some cousins & other people I might otherwise have lost track of through social media.
I've come to realize that while I'd like to be closer to some of my cousins than I am, not everyone feels the same about me. I don't mean that they dislike me, or that they wouldn't be happy to see me if we happened to run into each other or showed up at the same extended family gathering. It's just that everyone is wrapped up in their own families and lives. Even the cousins without spouses &/or kids have jobs, and aging parents they're looking out for, and friends and social activities that keep them busy. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
I've also come to realize that maybe, in some cases, the gap between us has become too wide to bridge in a meaningful way. We might have some shared memories from the past to bond over, but otherwise, I don't have an awful lot in common with some of them. It would be nice if things were different -- but they're not, and they're probably not going to change much. It is what it is...
And you know what? More and more, I'm realizing: that's okay.