I grew up in a full household, grandparents, aunties and uncles, cousins, neighbours were forever at ours. It was loud and busy everyday. I was brought up by different hands and cultures and languages. At the time it was fun, it was always a party when people came from Halifax, Huddersfield and London to stay over or to have dinner. My grandmother’s friends grandchildren became my friends. Their parents were my parents friends. It was a family affair but we weren’t family.
There came a time when we all lived separately, but still came together. As we got older and through the years people got old, ill and died. With every death the closeness with other families disappeared and became fragmented. My heart felt uneasy, something was missing.
I have a vivid memory of waking up, alone in the attic, scared and confused I ran down 2 floors, heard the commotion of people sat together and chatting, threw myself onto the floor and banged my hands and feet so they could hear my screams. I was throwing a tantrum. Why? Because I was left out. I got scolded and till this day I don’t know if it was genuine fear of being alone in a very quiet space or being left out of adult conversation and the ‘fun’ they were having from what I gathered.
Being alone was equated as lonely and not fun when I was growing up. As I grew older we spent less time at my grandmothers, the nuclear family grew and there was no space for everyone. I mean this in a mental sense not physical. It felt as though there was enough people in the party now and we weren’t always invited. I lost contact with my grandmothers friends and their grandaughters. My mother became isolated and we stopped visiting people including my grandmother.
When my grandmother died, her death was the welcoming of the final thread of friendship and connnections snapping. She went too soon and her friends still lived and still do.
In 2020 my grandfather died 20 years exactly after my grandmother. At his funeral I saw all the old faces, and apparently I have not changed. I still hold that same anxious but smiley face. I felt the warmth of some of my grandparents friends and the coldness. Where had they all gone, and why did they not keep the connection with us. I felt uneasy, angry and sad. I felt that they could have done more for my mother, but it appeared that once my grandmother left they had no reason to stay in touch.
That togetherness was so important to me when I was young, it’s made me who I am. But its also brought fear of loss and loneliness and pangs of anxiety when ‘its too quiet’. I need people around me, the need to feel a part of something or a part of a group.
I don’t know how to be on my own. I wonder if this is the case with other people, do they miss being together when it stops or do they just not realise.
I studied sociology and psychology and I read that there is a deterioration in western society of nuclear families and for example of being part of a culture that needs grandparents, aunties and uncles to always be there, central in decision making all your life.
There is an emphasis on self care, that I have also employed and on being part of a group, something you share in common, but I feel this is always seperate from family and friends and neighbours.
I see being together more deeper, I feel they are connections that have lived a lifetime, lived with you and for you and breathed the same experiences at the same time. I see this when new groups of migrants and immigrants come to England. They have a togetherness that is different to what I see in my life now.
My grandparents friends were people who they shared the plane with on their journey from India and Pakistan the first time. They needed to be together in order to live at that time. This is something I won’t experience now, but I am so glad I have seen it in my lifetime and I can see it continue in the same way with new waves of migrants.