This past week, being in Oxford in my own right as an academic and intellectual, I experienced what can only be described as a feeling of closure. Indeed, it was the first time in my life that I did not yearn for acknowledgment from my mother or older brother for my accomplishments. I felt completely comfortable in my own skin: included in a community of my peers, and up to the intellectual task set before me. I wandered the streets of the ancient collegiate city, probably down the very streets that my brother had walked decades ago when he had the good fortune and privilege to study there. And, for the first time in my life, I felt akin to him, and equal in academic stature. At times I even allowed myself to feel pride in the hard work I had done these past twenty years to place me where I am today. It was a very good and solid feeling. Not arrogant or prideful – but peaceful and happy. On Friday, last week as I sat with Life Partner at a quaint but classy little pub in Hampstead, London, it suddenly occurred to me that in order to experience closure, I had to first be opened up.
It has taken years for me to face my deepest feelings about so much that went on for me as a young child. While I might have known about my situation cognitively, I would have to allow myself to feel what I felt as a child before I could truly understand what I had been through. I would have to digest the hurt, experience the pain, and confront my fears head and heart on, in order to let go and move on. It took me until my late fifties to allow myself to do this. As I write this I realize that I waited that long because I must have feared the pain. And yet, when I confronted it together with my therapist these past few years, it was not at all as excruciating as I had anticipated. Oh, there were times that I wept and raged, but when I held still and allowed myself to feel the sensations from decades prior, it became more and more manageable, always followed by a feeling of relief that was worth everything I had gone through.
My older brother died about a year and a half ago, and what with one thing and another, I was unable to attend his funeral. And so, with my trip to Oxford, I initially planned a type of pilgrimage to his grave in another town to pay my respects. I had hoped that I might experience a feeling of closure with such a visit, because of the many complex feelings that I had within the context of my past relationship with him.
However, as I walked the streets of his alma mater, it was enough for me to feel a deep sense of peace in taking my leave of him.