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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

The Wages of Disowning
April 7, 2013 - 2:35pm

As recorded here last week, my extended family recently traveled to Ireland. The trip, especially the Belfast portion, was deeply moving, disturbing and important to us all, given our family's history of disowning and abandoning members because of religious differences. And being in Ireland over Easter weekend — a pivotal time in the history of Irish Republicanism — reinforced our feeling that our family's history was a valid part of a much larger story.

My nephew, who was staying at a hostel near our hotel, was scheduled to meet us for breakfast on the last day full day of our trip, before flying back to Germany, where he is stationed in the army, on an 11:30 flight.

The rest of the family gathered in the hotel's restaurant, as arranged, at 8 AM. We sipped coffee, waiting, until 9, then agreed that he would understand if we visited the buffet tables. Everyone filled their plates, but my brother and I were unable to eat.

We called, emailed, texted and Facebooked him, but got no response.

Bill and Ben, my cousins, and my sister-in-law all assumed that he had overslept, that he couldn't get a signal, or that he might be immersed in communication about a work project.

My brother and I tried not to review all the horrible things that can happen in a hostel in a strange city. (Dublin is not actually strange to us, but in times of anxiety things tend to assume a tinge of strangeness.)

At a little before 10, the others declared that he wasn't coming and we should start our day. My brother and I agreed that that was what they should do, but declared that we were going to our rooms to get our e-readers and meet in the lobby lounge to wait for him.

As I unlocked our door, I got a text from my brother, saying that my nephew had overslept and was on his way to the airport. We joined the others and had a lovely last day in Dublin.

I have been thinking about how many responses that I tend to write off as "my craziness" are actually shared and traceable to this difficult history. Growing up with the knowledge that beloved family members could be there and engaged one day and simply disappear the next, with no explanations or goodbyes, had to leave its marks on a child's mind and heart.

So I'm glad that Ben, and my nephew, have a more casual attitude toward missed connections. They always assume we will see each other again. I have made many mistakes as a parent, and I'm sure my brother would say the same, but this is one thing we seem to have gotten right.


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