Korean and Basque are orphan languages although linguists prefer the term language isolates, which sounds almost chemical, as though some reaction resulted in a linguistic sediment, or distillate perhaps.
If that is the proper term I suppose I was a human isolate, which actually makes some sense, even after adoption, for I would learn years later from my step brother that I was isolated from the family, “just like a brother, just like one of us,” just not one of them ever, just an isolate and I now comfortable with that.
As a child, I only wanted to stay up until midnight, actually a bit after that time, to see in the new year.
I didn’t need to be at my parents’ party, it was too loud and the adults behaved more like my kid brother and sister as the magic moment approached.
And it was supposed to be a magical moment, although no one could tell me why that was, or what made it special other than turning a page on the calendar.
I no longer try to stay awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve having long ago learned I don’t’ want to be around adults acting childish, and knowing January 1 is no different than December 31, save that I will miswrite the date on checks for at least a month.
There is a language spoken within a family that no one outside speaks. It may sound familiar but listen carefully and learn otherwise. It is so with my brother even though there are thick walls between us and yet, in a few words intentions are obvious. He keeps me far from a place I’d just as soon not go and in her panic my mother hears only our words and not their hidden meaning. It is when we fall silent the conversation begins.
Are you serious? You have the temerity to ask me if I am sleeping? Seriously? If, for a moment, you thought that I was sleeping, why in hell would you jostle me and then ask me if I was sleeping? And how many times do I have to tell you that I never liked the name John. I am Jack and you know damned well that is what I want to be called, by everyone. It is not that hard. Here’s a hint, I was sleeping until you woke me. You realize if we weren’t family what I would be doing to you right now. But mom and dad would have a fit, so just consider yourself lucky, but know that someday I will get even with you. Remember I was there when you were a baby, so I have seen it all. And if the bells didn’t wake me, why should I care if they are ringing? Answer me that. Now go away, preferably forever.
I have never visited the grave of my mother, either of them, which seems most odd primarily to me. The mother I never knew until it was too late to know her is buried in Charleston, West Virginia a place i intend to visit, grave site included in the coming months, to see where my mitochondrial DNA was planted and grew into the odd shape that greets me in the morning mirror. The mother i knew so well, who could always find ways to frustrate me when I was certain she exhausted every possibility is buried next to my sister, placed there by my brother who couldn’t quite get the funeral together, at least not the one she would have appreciated, with the near famous all pump, never the right circumstances so into the ground she went. I will visit there too, someday perhaps, but helical gravity will always pull me to the Mountain State.
Mom died, the text message read, similar words we’ve been hearing too frequently but always leaving us with the same hopelessness. The words my brother, estranged now, estranged then, come to think of it, said two years ago in a quickly left phone message. I thought of confronting him, but when he never answered, I knew I couldn’t say what I needed in a text message. When my mother-in-law died my wife and I were there, watched as she took her final breath, easy, calm, as if to say, this passage is easier than I thought given all the time I asked God to let me take it. We didn’t feel helpless that day, more like silent observers, standing on the pier as the ship slipped into a vast ocean on the maiden voyage a very new sort.