At thirteen years of age, she had yet to accomplish more than simply survive. She'd long since gotten over the nightmares of her childhood and though ready to embrace adulthood with a clean slate, she found that yet again she was faced with a new altogether different pain. At the moment, she sat, enthusiastically if a bit overwhelmed, surrounded by family members whose names she'd already forgotten amongst comments of, “Oh, she has his eyes,” and “It's Teddy's girl!”
A loving child by nature, the attitudes of her elders had mainly gone unnoticed with an unassuming smile and nonchalant attitude. Today, while not entirely aware of what was happening, she would begin to feel a seed of sorrow for something she had never and would never have. As she stared at the family tree, proudly displayed on the peeling side of the park party gazebo wall, she discovered her name had been omitted.
No worries, thought she, perhaps they had simply forgotten since she lived so very far away and never had much opportunity to mingle with this side of her family. She happily scribbled her name under that of her late father's. Her optimistic bent became less and less easy to hold as she failed to receive an invitation to her aunt's wedding, nor an invitation to following reunions, when all but one family member failed to remember her birthday.
To never have had a father was unfortunate but easily livable. To have never had a loving and supportive family was unbearable. When new technology made it easier for her family to pretend to care, they utilized it with abandon. No, they never were so crass and mean as to ignore the child of their beloved son and brother; they had always talked to her, always been there. Of course she should care about us when we cared so much about her! How dare she approach us so tentatively and with such caution! How ungrateful!
She was no longer ignored, indeed she was the center of attention! Look at how much better she thinks she is than they! Look at how she flaunts her fancy college experience! She thinks she knows so much, ha! What does she know of life, of hardship; I had a baby when I was 17! How dare you ask for help when your younger cousin needs money to pay for his baby's diapers!
If she had known all those years ago, that her missing name had no been an accident, would she have changed, done anything different? Why me, she might ask between sobs, am I so unlovable?
Of course not, my dear, her mother responds, you're a kind and generous and loving woman. I knew this day would come and it was terrible knowing there was nothing I could have done to prevent it.
Confused, upset and more than a little bit hurt, she left the restaurant. At twenty-two, she had done more than merely survive. She burned with a passion for life more eternal than the universe itself. In every day and in every moment she searched for beauty wherever it could be found; carried a smile for every occasion. She looked up at her friends as they followed her out to the car and turned back to them.
You know, she said, you guys are my family. I fucking love you guys.