Family

Fair warning: this post isn’t going to have any particular direction, just riffing on something’s that’s been on my mind of late. I’ve always been envious of my friends and acquaintances who have had particularly rich family lives, either from a surfeit of cousins (my first girlfriend) or from just general closeness (the girlfriend to which I was closest and many other friends). My family hasn’t ever been that close; our nuclear family is pretty tight-knit, but my grandparents and my aunts and uncles spent and spend relatively little time together. I’m down to one grandparent, my father’s mother and she’s not in the best of health, and at 86, not likely (I hate to say) to see better. As far as uncles go, one passed away this last year, and the other two are each difficult to access in their own way. And for cousins, I have but two: one on each side, with whom I’ve had but sporadic contact, and certainly never developed a relationship with, despite the fact that with my uncle’s son I share a love for the fantasy genre, in fiction, film, and gaming, and with my other uncle’s daughter, share a similar age and general perspective. And to the uncles: the one, my father’s brother is a quite complicated human being with whom — in terms of reticence to discuss one’s own life — I perhaps share more even than with my father. The other — my mother’s brother — I just have little in common aside from a love of the Packers.

Yet as a child, visits with my extended family were rare, and a family reunion occurred exactly once in my life. I have great-aunts and great-uncles whose names I know but have never met. Now I don’t lay any blame on any member of the family from this fact, as both of my parents had… fraught relationships with their siblings, and my father — though I do admire him more than anyone on the face of this doomed planet — is often an emotionally remote man, making it tough to gauge why exactly his relationship with both his brother and sister is so remote. I imagine there are years of complication to which I have no access and about which I couldn’t really ask and he wouldn’t tell behind that, all of which is okay. My mother I’m equally unsure about; she speaks in such laudatory tones about her family (which are merited, I must say) yet keeps correspondence to the off-week phone call, the obligatory Christmas letter. I’m not sure what motivates her seeming reticence to develop a more fulfilling relationship with our extended family, and again — wouldn’t feel comfortable asking.

So maybe it’s just a generational or a Midwest Protestant sort of thing (guess I’ll have to ask Garrison Keillor), but whatever point there was to this was to say that I want to change that. I don’t know that I can get my father and his brother to see eye-to-eye, but a trip out to eat, a barbecue or something? Maybe. I guess what I’m really saying is that I’ve come to the realization that family is really everything, and at the end of the day your kin are the ones who will believe in you and stand behind you when perhaps no one else will. Now many of you will say “No shit, Ben,” but it’s a revelation for those of us who came neither from a large nor close-knit extended family. Anyway, it’s well past the official resolution-making season, but a sincere resolution of mine for 2012 and thereafter is to do whatever I can to celebrate my family and bring them together.

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~ by Benji on 8 March 2012.

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