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Gene With Envy

The old saying goes that you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. You’re more or less stuck with them. As far as I’m concerned that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I have been known to pick on my sister from time to time, particularly when we were young. I’d make a few choice remarks about her height, finding ways to emphasize words like “short” as in “she sure got the SHORT end of the stick. Hawhawhaw!” I was sure a comedian back in the day. I used to like to pull her hat down over her eyes. She’d look at me with her jaw jutting out. My sister was feisty back in the day. It’s a wonder that she didn’t kill me before I was 18.

She was also my biggest defender and when someone made a rude remark about me in the hallway at school, I heard her tear a bigger and older person a new one over it. For my part I once chased someone across the school parking lot because he made a remark about my sister. Say what you want about me, but if you make a remark about my family you’re more than likely to have something painful rammed up your hiney.

Families are tricky things as well. There’s an awfully thin line between well-meaning concern and sticking your pierogie where it don’t belong. Being family doesn’t give you the right to determine how others should live, who they should love and how they should spend their money. That can be a very hard thing to live by, especially when you see someone heading for disaster and heartbreak. You can give someone the benefit of your experience but once that’s done, back off. Say your piece and shut up, which is a pretty fine policy to observe on nearly every occasion in any case.

It is human nature, however, to wish our families were perfect – that they could give us something we want (financial support) rather than what we need (moral support). We all want the kind of familial closeness we see on television and in the movies; loving, caring families who kid each other sure but when the chips are down then the ranks are closed and the wagons circled. We want the tenderness and warmth of a holiday gathering with our familial elements coming from every corner of the globe to the picturesque house we grew up in somewhere in New England. We want the Norman Rockwell painting.

In real life, families aren’t like that. Families can be snarky, sometimes downright irritating. Families require patience and love and caring and sometimes we get far less out of them than we put into them. Families can be hopeless.

Because we love someone doesn’t mean we have to like what they do, or how they treat us. Because we are blood related doesn’t mean we have to approve of what they say or do. I know that there are things I’ve written that members of my family have pulled me aside and said “I really don’t agree with you there,” and there have been occasional hurt feelings among the more conservative elements in my family when I’ve written things critical of the Tea Party, organized religion and conservatism in general. I’m sure that there are those in my family who think I’m an A-hole for writing those things.

That’s okay. We’re not always going to agree. My son the conservative has completely different political beliefs than either Da Queen and I do; that has led to some spirited dinner table discussions. He has every right to his beliefs and although I don’t share them, I support him in finding his own system of beliefs. I hope I can change his mind of course, but I won’t love him any less if he doesn’t.

And that’s family. It’s not all showing up at Mom and Dad’s house at Christmas, playing touch football at family reunions or vacationing at Disney World. It’s supporting each other even if we drive each other crazy (and I assure you, we all do). Do I wish some of my relatives were different? Do I wish they were kinder, less secretive, less obnoxious? Sure I do. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them for exactly who they are, nor do I expect them to change who they are. I just expect them to be able to be in the same room with one another.

That’s not always possible, even in the best of families. The sad thing is that we waste so much time in petty disputes, quarreling over he said-she said situations that in the long run are trivial and meaningless. Family may be forever but family members are not and I’m of an age where they are beginning to disappear one by one. My father’s entire family unit is gone; most of his relatives I never got to know, which is partially the fault of my parents for not including them in the lives of their children, but also my own fault for not seeking them out on my own.

I do cherish the family I have, from the Ritchots and Sopkos in Winnipeg , the Michelinskis in Toronto, the Iveys in New Mexico and the Lenigs in Philadelphia and Colorado Springs and of course to the deVillalvillas here in Florida and in Connecticut. I love my friends, don’t get me wrong – but family is family regardless and that occupies a special place in one’s heart.

Yeah, you can’t choose your family but maybe that’s one of the miracles of life that we love them even though we’re kind of stuck with them. Do I look at those wonderful TV and movie families and suffer a little gene envy? Sure, I would love to have those sorts of holiday gatherings in those bucolic settings but that’s all fantasy land. I love the family I have and treasure every minute I get to spend with them. We are far from perfect, but I bet there are people who would love to have the family I got stuck with, and I’m sure the same is true of yours as well. Even though it’s not thanksgiving, that’s a reason to be thankful for every day of the year.


One Response

  1. Families are the basis of our civilization. Divisiveness is amongst us, not only in in Congress but in our families. There is nothing you can do to change people’s perception justified or not, but wait for truth to reveal itself and it always does.We can find blame to justify our acts but our own behaviour must be examined, for if anything is true, that nothing is one sided is true. In the end love remains and love is not self centered and never stops and that is the strength of families.

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