Thursday, January 1, 2009

The first day of the rest of your life...

So, I guess the holidays are officially over, huh? The tree is still up, but will probably come down this weekend though Sue and I have decided to keep the Christmas lights up all year. We just like colors, what can we say?

Christmas is about family, and in the weeks before when the craziness infiltrates our lives, you have to keep reminding yourself of that. But family in itself seems to have its own built-in craziness. I've long ago stopped wishing for a "normal" family. One in which people don't get on each others' nerves. In which everyone talks to one another and a slight isn't blown way out of proportion. In which family members are also friends, and don't engage in some weird, competitive subterfuge for mommy or daddy's love.

The little family I have left amounts to my two daughters and a handful of very good friends. Okay, and there's Bob. You know you're a hurting puupy when you have to include your dog as a family member. There are literally hundreds out there who share my DNA, but aside from a few, I'd be hard-pressed to identify them in a police lineup.

But I think the hard truth is that I am a coward and a failure when it comes to family. I was married once, for about twenty years, and seemed to have failed miserably at that. Growing up, we never knew my father's family. He was orphaned at around three, and was passed from family member to family member. We spent time mostly with my mother's family, but once she died, that link was severed, and after a few years I just let things drop, I guess. I have two sisters--one who I haven't seen since I was around twelve, and the other I have spoken to in maybe six year or so.

I think what happens is parents raise their kids to be what they knew, and since my father was an orphan, that's how he raised us.

All this gets driven home to me in the most unsuspecting times. Yesterday my Cousin Jerry called. Yes, where I come from we call each other Aunt (pronounced like the bug, and not like the heavy, dour, hoity-toity way they say it here in New England), Uncle, or Cousin. And the twenty-minute conversation we had reminded me just how far I've drifted from anything that remotely resembles a good-old American family. His voice was so familiar; I recognized it immediately. But the names and events he talked about held no connection for me. And what's worse, except for a bit of angst that now is causing me to put fingers to keyboard, it doesn't bother me too much. It's just the way it is. As much as I'd like to recapture the days when Cousin Jerry and I played whiffle ball in his back yard, as much as I'd love to start over, beginning in his bedroom listening to the Allman Brothers and Jackson Browne, as much as I'd like to sit and talk to him again over stolen quarts of beer, it's no use.

We weren't a happy family. There were happy times, I don't want to imply there weren't, but strife seemed to be the overriding action. Arguments. Small battles. Grudges. It wasn't a whole lot of fun, to tell the truth. So I left. Ran away really, first to school, then after graduation to Boston, and even when I was living there I didn't spend a lot of time at the actual home. And after I really left most of the time I didn't look back. If things were fine, if things were wonderful at home, would I have left so easily, with so little remorse and with so much anticipation?

My dad died. My mom got sick and I had to take care of her, finally bringing her to my apartment in Brighton where she spent her last days. After that, Christmas cards were sent out, and couple of visits were paid, then things just faded away.

And sometimes I regret it, but most of the time it doesn't seem as if there was anything I could do at all.

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