We are all broken to some degree. You can’t reach mid-life without being touched by tragedy or loss, and often not even one’s teens. So what holds you together within yourself? Each of us has to find something! Sadly it is sometimes self-harming things like abusing drugs, food or alcohol. Or obsessing over work, money or possessions. And what bonds you to others?
In the Villarrubia family we have a saying, originating with the oldest grandchild, Becky, “Don’t mess with the glue!” For us “family” is the glue that holds us together. And much of that glue owes its binding power to one week we share in a Mississippi state park at the end of July–the stickiest part of a southern summer. I often reference this experience in my musings because it was so important to Malcolm.
When we gather for family events or holidays all you have to say is, “The bat cabin,” “gloop,” “skit night,” or “Intermission” and vivid, rioteous collective memories are summoned and enjoyed once more. Even our summer quarrels and tears are recalled with sympathy and even nostalgia. Proof that the glue holds. We can all recall when Peter Gene, in his innocent and trusting way, announced that the lightning one starry night was Pa-pa, just letting us know he was there. And we all felt it to be true in some magical, mystical, Percy Quin kind of way. Where else would Pa-pa be?
These are life lessons, indispensable to the next generation: family is messy; love endures hurt; it is only with people you trust that you can dare to risk showing your vulnerabilities and shortcomings, knowing you will be forgiven and loved even more because of it. I sometimes wonder if Malcolm didn’t trust us enough to know we would love him no matter what. Or maybe he prized the glue so much he refused to test its strength for fear of hurting us and breaking us apart.
“Malcolm, your death has hurt us beyond words, but the glue is stronger, if anything. We need each other more and value each other more. But we would gladly have taken on your hurt if it could have kept you with us. I hug you to me in my heart. Love always, Mum.”