Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) in the Palace of Versailles, Versailles, France. Français : Galerie des Glaces du Château de Versailles, à Versailles en France. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It has been almost exactly four months since I stopped blogging. The dates may not show that to the day, but I had written some blogs ahead. I stopped because my younger brother Rex’s death by drowning came on top of a year of people – people that I cared about - dying around me; and my heart just wasn’t in it. The total of those who died came to something like sixteen. The dying started with Jo Curran, whom I had been helping to look after, killing herself – quite legally – under Washington State’s Death With Dignity Act. She was suffering from a particularly aggressive form of cancer, and would have been dead within weeks anyhow, but she wanted to go on her own terms. I think she made the right decision, but it was singularly upsetting being there at the end, with some other friends, watching her die.
To my surprise, I was particularly devastated by Rex’s death; and terribly affected for several months after that; and perhaps I still am, though time has begun the healing process. I was surprised because we weren’t close – he had long resented me for being the eldest in the family – and I was affected not just because of his tragic death in itself, but because it brought back all too many memories of our largely dysfunctional family; or such was my recollection. Other siblings may have different memories. My reaction was largely – though not completely – to steer clear of the family once I left home, because just about every family encounter, and gathering, seem to end in rows and recriminations.
This situation wasn’t helped by my mother, a great admirer of Lois XIV, who built the Palace of Versailles, both to increase his glory and to diminish the power of the aristocracy. He did this by making it clear that the nobility had to attend court if they wanted to be in his favor; and then by dividing his courtiers into factions which were then pitted against each other. He became known as The Sun King. Life was good if you basked in his favor; and decidedly difficult if you were in his shadow. Recall that Louis was an absolute monarch. He had ways of making one conform; and there was always the Bastille.
Home didn’t quite match Versailles for opulence – though all our houses were large and contained some truly elegantly decorated rooms – and one step-father, twelve children, two maids and a gardener didn’t quite offer the same potential for faction building as the French court: Nonetheless, she implemented the spirit of the whole thing with vigor and considerable style. She was a dangerous woman in many ways; but she had her good points: Her worst enemy could not deny her charisma; and she was always compelling, even when she was being frightening, which was quite often. Mood swings were her specialty; and then she would lash out either physically or verbally with all the force she could muster.
But, once I could – I was married young - I steered clear of her in the interests of my own sanity, and a byproduct of that was that I lost touch with more than a few of my siblings, particularly the younger ones. And then came Rex’s death and I was reminded of the days when Camelot was Camelot – as, indeed, it had been on occasions. Few people gave better parties than mother, or were as enthralling when in good form; and I have met few men, if any, who could compete with my step-father, Alfred Lyons – when in his prime – for wit, humor, grace, and sheer intelligence. And to complement such qualities, he was an exceptionally good-looking man; and kind.
But, tragedy can bring the survivors closer, and I’m delighted to say that I seem to have rediscovered a regular sorority of siblings; and wish that fate had placed us somewhat closer so that we could meet in person. But, Maxine and Lucy are in the U.K, Hermione is in Australia, Leslie is in France; and I’m not helping any by being in Seattle – on the Pacific coast of the U.S.
Tragedy struck again when my sister Hermione’s son, Alain, my nephew, was killed in a motor-cycle accident in Australia in January 2012, but Hermione has shown exemplary fortitude, much helped by the rest of the family.
Will Camelot ever return? If my sisters and their families have anything to do with it, it just might. It will be very different – perhaps a virtual Camelot - but it may well be better: And every castle needs a storyteller; a bard.
I guess that is my role.