Thursday, July 10, 2014


'I love you because you're my uncle, niece, nephew, brother, etc..'  Simple enough words, and said (I suspect) with some amount of true feeling. But, let's get behind those words and ponder their actual meaning.  They are just words after all, and they need to be explored like that cave up on Fredrick's Bluff that everyone says is haunted, or the home of the guy who only says 'shit and fuck' in some sort of loop that only he can hear.  Unlike that cave, these words should not scare intrepid people with a sense of adventure that overwhelms their good sense.

Truth be told, do you really love the other person because they are your relative, and that is what we are supposed to do i.e. love our relatives (in some parts of this state people take that a little too seriously, but that's a tale for a different time). Mom might be a drunk, but she is our drunk right? She may or may not have at one time gotten plastered and left us behind the glue factory in some sort of mistake or sick joke, we were never really sure which, and by the time she sobered up to ask it didn't really matter anymore. Are we loving our relatives just because they are there? I mean if I am stuck with Wallenstein for a brother, do I still love him? Sure we have a mutual dislike of cats, and share some DNA, but he was a real prick, do I have to love him because he and I got shafted/blessed in the same gene pool lottery that each of us play without our consent?

We aren't born, and then handed a 'Welcome to the Family' playbook in which each of our currently living relatives are profiled for us like a college football player before the NFL draft. We don't get the chance to read about Aunt Julia the drama queen who thinks that TNT has nothing on her day to day life. Or how about Cousin Etienne the wonder boy of the family that can do no wrong, mainly because he does fuck all. Or, the sister Lois that was the town slut, before she 'found Jesus' and now spends her days at the Junior League looking down on all the people she used to 'pleasure'.  Nor do they get the playbook on you, whatever your relation, they don't get to know that something inside you, some internal wiring as it were, doesn't quite connect, and 'normal' feeling are beyond your ability to have. They don't get to read about that, and decide to withhold their family love from you because after reading about your fucked up nature they conclude that you are a waste of their time.

We don't get to pick the profession of either our sires, or our progeny, we may be the frustrated piano player that happens to be the child of a plumber, and a cannery worker who are unable to appreciate our talent, and if they do, certainly can't afford to nurture it the way it should be. Not that it is their fault that they got stuck with a child with the kind of talent that just isn't going to put bread on the table, and bread on the table is the daily struggle that each family among us has to win in order to remain a family. Sure, a lot of us aren't starving, and probably eat to well, but for a large percentage (too large by far) the fight to keep body and soul together is the main fight they face. We will worry about nurturing talent after we have made enough money to eat. Flights of fancy or pretty words strung together are all well and good, but the fucking light bill needs to be paid, and Corky's Auto Shop needs a shop boy.

Do we get to love our family because of the enforced time that we spend together? All those awkward holiday dinners, and weird birthday parties where Uncles Sean got drunk and almost blew out the candles even though it wasn't his birthday, are they what form the ties that bind a family together? Are we held together by our mutual awkwardness, forever stuck in the 'family' with no escape? Or, can we after careful consideration, and lots of soul searching walk away from the family? Call it quits, and tell them that 'I'm sorry, but I've evaluated you as a group, and would rather not be a member of this organization any more? You can't replenish your DNA from some blood bank, and acquire yourself a brand new family, and at a certain age adoption is no longer feasible, so what do you do? Grin and bear it, and pretend that this group of people that chance, with its perverse sense of humour decided to throw to together, is the group that you are going to cross the finish line with?

If you break away, and it ends in tears, which it is quite likely to do, what are the protocols for such a radical move? Do you write some sort of 'resignation' letter, turn it in to the family's central committee, and hope they don't liquidate you like Stalin did to his Bolshie family? Perhaps the break need not be so dramatic, in spite of Aunt Julia's hysterics, maybe you can just drift away like a forgotten plank on a high tide, and be swallowed by the sea. A sea of forgetfulness you hope, a sea that allows the rest of the 'family' to survive, and progress without you. They will you know, survive maybe not as a group, but at least individually, and they will, in time, forget you. Time heals, as well as deals all wounds, and who in the family (the alive bit) remembers great-great-great-great Uncle Konrad who managed to get his entire ass blown off in the Great Northern War, but not before fathering 11 children on long suffering, long dead Aunt Florence. No one remembers him, and unless we've done our genealogical research no of us knew he ever existed, yet without him, and some fair amount of luck, we wouldn't exist.

Or maybe we learned our lesson from Don Corleone, and don't 'ever go against the family' out of either fear of being all alone in the world like Blondie in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Or out of some sort of (misplace perhaps) loyalty to the idea that blood is thicker than water. Though we wonder if it really is, after all the 'water' in this case would be the friends that we picked once we became of an age to pick and reject the people that will form our own personal inner circle. I didn't choose Aunt Julia, or sister mine, they didn't choose me, and if we were strangers on a train, I doubt we would even strike up a conversation. I guess it is a choice without options, if you choose to walk away from the family, they have to let you go. Blocking their phone numbers and not responding to their emails, texts, or letters is a sure fire way to get more (rather than the desired less) attention. If you stay (as you will probably do) you get to try to grin a bear it as much as possible in all those family photos where you look like you've been sentenced to hang. After all, we're family right?

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