My family tree looks like a failed DIY project.
Some of its branches have been split, struck by a thunderbolt, others are patched up with the means at hand, held together by fear. As he grew, I tinkered with new ends for him, uneasy at the thought of finding him so bald. Prostheses in the form of friendship, extrafamilial relations to alleviate my need for unity.
Her scoliotic trunk has often been chiselled by the insolence of adolescent love. Immodest, he wears his scars with pride, as a reminder of his ability to be loved, offering himself entirely to be engraved with promises of eternity. It does that to us in common, him and me. We flourish when we feel chosen and we flourish under all the hands that seem to know how to take care.
Dr. Clement says that doesn’t necessarily make me drunk. She patiently tells me that it’s normal, that’s what happens when one of your parents has had the feeling of unconditional a little more conditional than expected.
The other day, as I was trying to avoid the eyes of other patients in the waiting room of his office, I was struck by a flashback. I had been here before. (Any other time than every Wednesday afternoon for the past year, I mean. Because yeah, I got that; the idea of following up isn’t bad, the concept of psychotherapy!)
For the first time in years, I thought back to that gray Saturday when I first set foot on that carpeted floor. It was a little before reaching majority. I had come to meet another doctor. An austere fellow that I will finally have seen only this time. (A therapist is like a lover; sometimes you have to shop around to find the right shoe!)
I remembered what had brought me here, originally. Obviously, the period of vagueness specific to adolescence had a lot to do with it, but mainly, I thought back to this outstretched hand in the fog. The same hand that had led me to the clinic. The one I was already holding when mine was just big enough to wrap around one of his fingers.
As far as I can remember, Fanny has always had an iron fist in a glove covering an impeccable French manicure. Authoritative and efficient, she wrapped her rigor carefully in an almost ethereal appearance. With her endless blonde hair, her blue eyes that see what others miss, and her legs that I still suspect are fused to her high heels, it always seemed to me that Fanny was all about a guardian angel on stilts. . Even the 12 times she moved Mommy and me. Even under the neon lights of the hospital where she sometimes goes between shifts, just to cheer up patients whose eyes are starting to run out of battery. Even when she was barely in her twenties and spent her days wiping babies’ bottoms.
You should know, to grasp the full extent of her self-sacrifice, that Fanny has already opened a daycare center in a single night. One evening when she could no longer work for this horrible Madame Gaëtane who had the annoying habit of letting the children chill in their pants full of pee, Fanny orchestrated a kind of mutiny. As they came to pick up their child, she met the parents one by one in the parking lot to report on the situation and share her plan. The next day, she took over the daycare by welcoming us in the micro-living room of her apartment.
From that moment on, Fanny never left my life. Rain or shine, I can count on his presence to face any deluge. (Even though my potty training cost her a couch!) She picked me up from school when I was sick, covered my back when I got in trouble, and never missed an opportunity to celebrate me. To see her so involved, one would have believed her capable of plugging the gaping belly of a deficient child with each of her applause.
But who exactly is she compared to you? asked my friends. Aunt, godmother, babysitter?
She is the one who splits herself into a thousand to prevent others from crumbling. Fanny, in my eyes, embodies the physical manifestation of all the value that a chosen family can have.
There are these humans who distribute on their way parcels of unconditional. People to whom we theoretically owe nothing and who have no guarantee by investing themselves with us, except perhaps the hope of reaping here and there a little of what they have sown. Not-parents, caring neighbours, workshop facilitators. So many significant adults in the definition of who we are and who we sometimes neglect to notice.
I haven’t seen Fanny for a year now. Two years maybe, I don’t know. Because… simply life. And yet, because she knew how to hear me and see me when it mattered most, because she knew how to act where others withdrew, Fanny will always belong to the category of those who stayed.
I end my note as I started it; telling myself that I should write to Fanny to thank her…