CA Mertes (2 of 3)

Family. Even the word is fraught with so much baggage, such different meaning for every last person. Responsibility. Love. Resentment. Siblings. Parents. Loss. More love. Good memories. Bad memories. The concept of family is daunting to me on so many levels, most of which revolve around the fact that I’m a bit of a lone wolf. I love being alone; I always have. It nourishes me, replenishes me. I grew up, however, as one of eight kids. Nine, if you count John Francis, who died as an infant, but only my mother counted him in all the time and she, too, is dead now, so there you have it. There are eight of us kids here now, and my dad, who, thankfully, has defied his genetic odds and is still with us in his late ‘80’s.

Family: this thing I, too, created with my husband, well aware that my instincts to spend large chunks of time alone were going to have to go un-fed if we decided to have a child of our own. We did. And they did. But in return, I have this, my own family.

I hosted my family—the big mob and not my own little trio—for a week this summer. To celebrate my fiftieth year, to celebrate our togetherness. My lone wolf tendencies aside, we are a close-knit family, and these things are important in so many ways.

It was a crazy week, half the time here at my home in the Santa Cruz Mountains, new visitors arriving each night, until the group grew too big and we all migrated to a big vacation rental home along the coast, north of San Francisco. The days, chaotic and social, relaxed but not, flew. I’m back in my own home again, now, slowly getting myself and the house back into working shape, and even though my brain is spinning, and I haven’t been able to process it all—it will be weeks before all of it settles and finds a place in my memory banks—I feel like I need to honor the event somehow, here on my blog. But it’s like tiptoeing into a lion’s den, terrified of what I might unearth, emotionally. Family: is there anything that draws you closer to the child you once were, the vulnerabilities you’ve worked hard as an adult to shield? Anything that rips at your heart more efficiently, exposing both your beauty and your ugliness? No one can press my buttons like family can. No one is closer to me in my world, except my husband and son, and while they are “family,” they are not that other family, my core family, the group of people that word has conjures up, since my earliest memory.

CA Mertes (1 of 3)

I’m not here to write a travelogue. Those are boring as hell to read. I’m not here to write a sweet piece on “what my family means to me.” And yet, I feel tears hovering dangerously close as I write, and that makes me wonder, hmm, just what wants to come out there? Whatever it is, it will likely require Kleenex and quiet, nurturing space, and now is hardly that time. My son is here, still sleeping, still on summer vacation this week, which means he will wake  at any moment and burst into my day with his needs and demands and cajoling and “I love you”s and a tiny form of the chaos of family reunion week will resume. And thank goodness for that, really. Because as much as I crave peace, silence, solitude, there was no feeling lonelier than that final morning, having waved the last car of people goodbye. You know the feeling; I’m sure you’ve been there. You mouth “goodbye!” and wave, and wave, long after they’ve stopped looking behind them and are now moving forward with purpose. Your ears ring with so much conversation and your body trembles with spent energy. You’re bone tired and you just want some peace. You walk back into the house, footsteps slower now, and look around. Emptiness greets you, the silence of a big, six-room vacation rental that had been overflowing with sound and people for days and now, suddenly, it’s too empty, too quiet.


It caught me by surprise, a fierce tug of emotion, a sense of loss, of loneliness. I wasn’t in that house all alone; my son was in a downstairs room and my husband was a block away, in our second unit. (I’m telling you, it was a big group.) But there is an undeniable sadness, even for a lone wolf such as myself, in observing a room that was crowded, full of people you love, and now is empty. I will see them all again, even though it might be a year before that happens. I can only pray that my father’s relatively good physical health continues and that he stays around on this earth a lot longer, even as his aching bones and joints protest. My family and I will be together again. And the irony is, when the time comes, I’ll wince at the noise, back away, go seek out a quiet corner, and gripe about family.

Ah, families. They are such a big part of your life. Whether you run from that or embrace it, they are there, in your heart, in your mind, as eternal as the ocean.



PS: if you are saying to yourself, wow, that’s a nice house, and what a view (and BTW, credit for the scenery photos here goes to the property owners, Tracy Freedman and/or Nick Robins), you are RIGHT. And much as I hate to trumpet too loudly about sharing a good thing, for fear that good thing will become too popular and I won’t be able to snag it again the next time I want to, this is a rental worth trumpeting about. You can check out details here:

PPS: Missing from the family photo above are two of my sisters. You were there with us in spirit, sisters! And missing is my husband, because he was the one to take the photo. Thank you, Classical Spouse – you’re a sport!

4 thoughts on “Family”

  1. You so skillfully captured the inherent joy and difficulty of living in relationship—especially family relationships. It seems to me that the paradoxical nature of love and family complicates our feelings. For me the paradox is to simultaneously feel both the need to connect and the need to separate. Finding a way to be good with that is so damn hard! It’s worth the effort though, and I am so glad that you are willing to be honest about it and put it out there.

  2. This nails it, the complicated feelings involved with ‘family.’ Recently my grandmother had a stroke, and I saw many family members at the hospital that I hadn’t seen in some time. So many of us were crowded in that little neurology suite–and my grandmother had been wheeled into the restroom–that the nurse who entered crooned, “so which one is the PATIENT?” Part of me wanted to re-connect, part of me recoiled. Didn’t help that there were some issues keeping some of us apart, but in crisis, it’s amazing how everyone comes together and does whatever they can to help. So…family. You can’t live with ’em, and you can’t live without ’em.

  3. Loved your story, Tara. I could just see it all. You phrased it so well (dang, I’m thinking you’ve got a post-in-the-making for your OWN blog here.)


Leave a Comment