My youngest living uncle died this past weekend at the age of 87. This uncle was my mother's sister's husband. He and I were not close. I'm not sure why as I related much more comfortably with most of my other uncles and aunts. His children, my cousins, were close in age and spent many hours together at family gatherings and holidays.
I went to the wake last evening and funeral today. As is the custom in our family people visit with one another during the wake and get together after the funeral for a catered lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant.
Weddings and funerals are grand displays of the prominence of family and procreation in our various cultures and ethnicities.
There was a time when all of my many cousins were getting married and having kids. Their weddings were celebrated and their pregnancies announced and their babies baptized and the kids birthdays commemorated. Holy Communions, Confirmations and graduations were all excuses for family get-togethers.
These events and ceremonies have a way of defining expectations, rewarding and reinforcing conformity and strengthening ties to extended family. As one of few who did not conform I had perhaps a heightened sense of the different quality of "belonging-ness" as it applied to my cousins versus myself.
Eventually my relatives gave up asking the dreaded question "So, when are you getting married?" or "Do you have a girlfriend, YET?" We all pretty much went our separate ways. Many of my cousins got divorced, some remarried, some did not. We continued to get together for those special occasions, usually funerals, some weddings, a family reunion or a milestone birthday.
I thought I had pretty much adjusted to having a tangential place in our extended family and never gave it much more thought, until today. Many of my cousins are now Grandparents. Some had their children and grandchildren with them today and relatives were daunting all over the little ones. Prayers were said in thanks for family and for carrying on the family. Those whose grandchildren were absent had photos on their smart phones and were proudly displaying them for all to see.
I had that feeling once again, of that different quality of belonging-ness that procreators get to enjoy by virtue of passing on their DNA. It is very different for the dead twig on the family tree.
I am certain that even if Leon and I were to marry, and even if the marriage was celebrated by my extended family, it would not be the same. Neither for them, nor for us. I'm not sure I can put my finger on it precisely, but I think that that sense has always played a part in my reservations about same-gender marriage.
While I support the evolving definition of family and same-gender marriage for those who choose it, for me, it does not quite equate. What do you think?
P.S. Talk about "belonging-ness". If you have a Catholic/ethnic identity, that adds another layer to the quality of "belongingness" for sure. At the funeral Mass today, the priest announced before the Communion "We invite all who are Catholic and properly prepared (code for not living in sin) for the Sacrament to please come up to receive Communion." This was never a standard announcement at Mass and the individual conscience and personal spirituality of congregants was always respected.
Now, as we have seen in the news here and there, priests are likely to refuse communion to individuals who they perceive as unworthy (read living in sin).
This "New" Catholic Church is for Card-Carrying Members in Good Standing - All Cards Will Be Checked for Expiration Dates and Will Be Confiscated If You Are Found To Be Divorced/Remarried, Gay, Lesbian, Gay or Lesbian and Married, Unmarried but Living as Married; a Democrat, Voted for Obama, Practicing Birth Control or Have Sympathies For Any of The Aforementioned.