Sunday, November 25, 2007

Return Day

When I was getting ready to leave for Ohio, some people at work said, "Have a nice vacation." I just shrugged and said, "It's not really a vacation." And while it's been a lot of fun and it's been really great to see everyone, it's difficult for me to think of this as a vacation. It was more like a few days away with family - but not my family.

I hesitate to write this lest anyone in my biological family read it, but I'll go ahead and write it in hopes of getting to the truth. Plus, none of them read this blog, which is telling.

Last night we went out for drinks. It was Patty and her husband Bill, Patty's twin Pam and her husband Jack, their sister Julie, Fred and me. We laughed and talked for a couple of hours over drinks. As we were leaving, I said to Patty, "I want to be right here in thirty years." And I want to do it every year for the next thirty. It was so much fun. The whole trip has been exactly what I needed. They're a family and they act like a family. They enjoy each other's company and laugh and talk and know each other's stories. It's like a big group of friends, except that they're related.

My own family is a loose-knit group of people who just happen to have some genetics in common. My sister is wonderful. We talk often and have a relationship that is similar to Patty and her sisters. We're friends who are related and we enjoy spending time together. She's the one who I feel most connected to. She's accepting and loving and I'm glad I have her. She's got four kids and an ex-husband. The kids seem like they're doing well.

My brother is a strange one. He's provocative and unpredictable. He's someone that I wouldn't have any contact with if it weren't that he's my brother. As it is, we only speak if we're in the same room together and we only have contact every few years via email. I think that even our sporadic contact will cease when my mother is gone. He's very preachy, always telling me how wrong I am. It feels like he's been on a mission to make me feel bad for the last 42 years. Who needs that?

I speak to my mother every Sunday on the phone. She's a fine woman with a good heart who is stuck stuck stuck. She's very much the victim. She shares a house with my brother who controls her through fear. She's depressed and closed off. She never talks about anything that's going on in her life. It's like she's mostly concerned with carrying a head full of secrets to the grave. However, she's convinced that Christ will return very soon, so that she won't have to die. We are living in the last days.

My father had a really horrible upbringing, and while he tried his best to do better than his father, he had absolutely no clue as to what it would mean to be a good father. So he provided us with a lot of things, but he was never there. He's still not. He's very much about keeping himself and his wife happy and screw the rest. It's a very disappointing relationship. It's one of those things I have just had to reconcile myself with.

My father's wife means well, but socially, she's a clumsy ox. A few years ago, she showed her true colors and did what she could to sever a fairly good relationship that my father and I had repaired over the course of thirteen years. Up to that point, I had referred to her as my step-mother. Since then I have referred to her only as "my father's wife." That said, I'm glad she's around. She's devoted to my father and he needs someone to take care of him.

So that's my family. It's a strange bunch. No one really gets along with each other. We put up with each other. My sister and brother don't talk even though they live in adjoining houses. My parents don't talk, of course, unless they have to. My father's wife is sort of obnoxious and has alienated the rest of us. My brother, who didn't talk to my father for about ten years, is trying again to have some communication with my father, but at the end of the day, our father is our father and that's difficult. My mother and sister get along when they have to. And my brother would have you believe that he and my mother get along swimmingly, but it's nothing I would want to be involved in.

So why the gloomy post? I'm just grateful that I'm going back to Amsterdam and that I have been able to find a support system for myself. I know a lot of people have bigger problems and worse families. Our family problems are nothing compared to some of the train wrecks out there. Our problems are mostly the kind where one party wants the other to be different and everyone is pissed that the others are doing what they want to do. There's no acceptance that people are different and that we're all going to do our own thing.

I feel extremely fortunate to have the friends I do. That Patty and I found each other 26 years ago is a miracle and I will be forever grateful that she has brought me into her family. I speak more freely here than I could ever speak with my family. They may disagree, but all they do is shrug and move on. Or they ask questions. I'm at ease here.

And I have great friends in New York City and in Amsterdam. Moving away from Texas like I did eighteen years ago was the best decision I could have ever made. It opened up my life and got me to a place where the "healing could begin." I'm not completely okay with it all, obviously, but I'm in a much healthier place than I would have been had I stayed where I was in Texas near them. I consider myself a very happy person. See how I never mention any of this?

I think this whole month of blogging has pulled this out of me. After writing about "this and that" every day, it doesn't seem so scary to write specifically about my screwed up family. It's not like I gave addresses.

And tomorrow I will write about something fairly superficial, or I'll try. I'll be back in Amsterdam, thank God. (I'm not looking forward to the trip and to losing six hours.)


Anonymous said...

And I am grateful, too....

Littlelou said...

A great post. Made me take a look at my own family.