I am the firstborn child of Mary Brigid O’Connor and Stanley Daniel Galliani. I was born in September of 1957.
On New Year’s Day 1982 we parted company in anger with my father yelling at me, “Get out! Get out, and don’t come back!”
I told him then, “Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. You know the history of our family!”
To which he replied, “Get the hell out of my house!” And I did.
That was 37 1/2 years ago and to be brutally honest I’ve never missed them or felt a desire to reconnect. And the feeling was clearly mutual. No attempts to patch things up were ever made.
When I was turning forty I reached out to my mother in writing to ask her if I could borrow the family photo album so that I might make copies as I had no photos from my childhood.
My mother replied in a voicemail in which she laughed and said, “I’m not interested in helping out with any self-aggrandized tribute to YOU.” And that was that, 23 years ago. I wasn’t really surprised and I moved on and continued with my happy and rewarding life.
Fast forward to present day, just a few months ago, when I discovered that my uncle Joe, or Padraic Fiacc, as he was known for over 50 years in Belfast Northern Ireland, where he was a renowned and reviewed poet, had died in January. I found out doing a Google search. Because my family is my family, no one had told me.
But his obituary was big news in the Irish Times and the Belfast Telegraph newspapers and gave me more than enough material to write a new play about it. It was performed on St. Patrick’s Day.
Less than a month later I heard from Uncle Joe’s only child, my cousin Brigid, who I had last seen in her Belfast home in 1963 when I was six years old and she was two during my family’s Weird European Adventure. I’d show a photo if I had one.
Brigid turned out to be my kind of relative. She too had learned about her father‘s passing through the media as she too had been estranged from her father for years. As a result of that, my mother had stopped talking to and communicating with Brigid.
After confirming that I wasn’t being catfished, I happily connected with my Cuz who is now ensconced in the land of 1000 lakes, Minnesota. I’ve enjoyed our online and phone conversations very much. She is a sweet and sensitive soul, so much so that she reached out to connect with my family after her father‘s passing.
And that’s how I wound out getting a Facebook friend request from another O’Connor cousin who I did not remember . So I checked out her Facebook page to see who she was – Hey it’s been 37 years of no contact with anyone in my family, It was a complete family package deal, mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, you name it. And to be fair, I’ve been more than fine with that.
But right there on Eileen O’Connor‘s Facebook profile page was my sister at the top of her Facebook friends photos. So of course I clicked on it.
Right under the post on how Anne was getting used to her new job after a week as interim Chief Operating Officer of St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, was her post about my mother dying on the Friday before Mother’s Day.
That certainly gave me pause, if not an emotional reaction. I can’t say I was moved to shed a tear – and I well-up at the drop of a hat upon hearing certain songs, or while listening to touching. NPR Driveway Moments – But hey, this was not one of those.
Once again I wasn’t the least bit surprised or disappointed that no one in my family had reached out to let me know. That is so Galliani and apparently so O’Connor, as well. I had told my wife many years ago that this was the way they would roll and they did not exceed my expectations.
My mother raised all three of her kids Catholic. She married my father, a Jew, in a Catholic Church. Sorry, I don’t have any photos.
My sister worked as an executive at Little Company of Mary Hospital before she got the new job at St. John’s. Both Roman Catholic hospitals.
Ironically I dropped out of the Catholic Church as soon as I turned 18.
I mention this only in continually feeling so good about that decision.
Just as my reflection on my estrangement from my family, and the decision I made to stay away from people who didn’t have my best interest in their hearts, has been the best self-care and self-love I have ever practiced.
Now that my mother is dead, I’m not expecting I’ll get those photos of my childhood as part of my inheritance, and that’s fine with me at this point.
Sometimes you get the picture so clear you don’t need any photos.