A few years ago one of my uncles died at the blunt end of a murder-suicide. In life, he was what you'd call, 'a decent bloke'; 'a battler'. In death, he was the worst kind of asshole.
The shadow cast by this served to make the borders between this life and that simultaneously stark and muted. I saw that hideous things can happen to any of us if we step without care (and if we step with all the care in the world, it seems) and at the same time, I saw how far I had carried my daughter from that harsh world where pain and ignoble death begin to form a pattern with the years.
In the midst of my recent and ongoing illness, news came to me through the usual convoluted channels that my grandfather, my Pop, had died. And in my mind there was a relaxing of the breath; the merest hint of a sigh to mark an end and a further separation. We were never a family with a patriarch, but still, it was a loosening, I think, of the ties that bind.
Once upon a time, our family did have a matriarch of sorts; my grandmother, Nana. It was she that owned the touch of tragedy that trickled through and cursed us all, even those, apparently not tainted by her genes. For news followed that a cousin, adopted and made one of us by love and the best of intentions, had carefully constructed a tragedy of his own. Though I can't believe it was as a consequence of our Pop's expected loss, perhaps he felt the loosening of ties as well.
Although I have known for years that estrangement from my father and his family is absolutely necessary for the protection of my girl, I have nevertheless felt the incessant tug of apology and forgiveness. My cousin's death seems to be the precise tipping point that makes me wonder, having cleansed my blood of madness in the fires of despair, how far can I take my children from my own bitter origins, so that they may look upon them with detachment from a distance safer yet than this.