Over the last thirty years, I have had a succession of brothers-in-law. One I only met when I was drafted to help him move in with my sister, and at their wedding. Another I only met at that wedding. As brothers-in-law-go, they were OK, and as brothers-in-law go, they soon went.
The other two I got to know relatively well, and of one I was quite fond. I took these things in stride. They weren't marrying me, after all. I wished, them and my siblings, happiness. And I said nothing, as one was replaced by another, four in all, as my family mocked my wish to have the opportunity to try marriage just the once.
Some years ago, when the big economic crash forced me to downsize, I took the last of the bros up on a kind offer to store a lot of my possessions in a storage unit he kept. Just recently I learned that, in the course of his and my sister's divorce, he disposed of everything to which I entrusted him.
No one thought to tell me this was being contemplated, or that it had been done, until much later, when a few odds and ends I guess no one wanted were returned to me. As I began to realize what was gone, I was told- as has been the way of my family for all my life at least- suck it up. Nothing to be done now.
The holidays have been an exercise in dealing with losses. Every day I think of a few more things that are gone. My grandfather's pocket watch. My passport and all my retirement plan records. A collection of miniature buildings assembled over four decades. The best of my art and books. My Eagle Scout medal. Every article I have ever publshed. A paperweight my dad kept on his desk through his business career- the only thing of his I have. There was supposed to be a box of things he wanted me to have, my mother told me, fifteen years ago. She would send it along directly. I am not inclined to check the mailbox any more. She had previously made a bonfire of things I had not shipped out West from the family home in the late 1990s.
Copies of every article I have ever published. Decades of diaries and correspondence. All my childhood photos.
I have not heard from my brother-in-law for years. Until today. I got an email advising that he has endorsed me on Linked In for skills in social media.
Odd timing, this, I thought.
I guess I have to treat this as though my house has burned down, I told my sister, in my sucking-it-up way. It's just stuff. I guess what will rankle for a while is that I have a sense of how I rank in the order of things that I did not fully have before, even after the thumb-in-the-eye from the ex-brother-in-law today. The Scot in me, descended from centuries of cross-indexing grudge-bearers, feels more than a passing urge to show him just what skill in social media can be like when one is on the receiving end.
Then another participant in my internal dialog (like Whitman, I am large, I contain multitudes) reminds me my people are also reivers. It's what Scots do (you'd be better off going with Geico). Deaths in my family, when I was younger and around to see, were always followed by the descent of relatives upon the home of the deceased to get a leg up on the distribution of personalty.
Perhaps this should be taken as a dress rehearsal for being dead. You can't take it with you, after all.
A meditation on Zechariah 13:6 seems warranted.