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Thursday, August 09, 2007Families: A complicated part of life
Families are a complicated part of life. They can be both a source of joy and a source of a pain. The funny thing is you’d think that sharing the same DNA would make things easier but it really doesn’t instead it adds to the angst that sometimes life can be.
Mom’s family is mellow. Their love for each other is so unconditional that they can find something to love and brag about even in the family fuck-ups.They adhere to the musketeer way of thinking, “ All for one; one for all!”
Then there’s my father’s family. Both of his grandfathers were married twice and for the most part it’s like a Machiavellian soap opera. You’d swear they were all in line to inherit a kingdom or something. Allegiances have been forged and grudges have been nurtured for generations even though no one can remember their exact origin. The point is that the grudge exists therefore it must be honored and fed. They’ve divided themselves along the lines of who was birthed by who. According to their way of thinking even though we share the same surname, the same great-grandfather and some DNA strands there is no place on the family tree for me because our great-grandmothers were different. WTF? Welcome to the hot mess that is my father’s family. That type of stuff doesn’t come into play in my mom’s family. In her family there’s no such thing as half-siblings it’s straight up siblings and it doesn’t matter if the sibling is a result of a 2nd marriage or an affair...la sangre llama (blood calls out).
Unfortunately some things just don’t translate well into English but trust me when I say that in Spanish that quote sounds awesome.
I thought my great-aunt Marti and my grandfather had transcended all of that family drama, I was wrong. As kids they’d been close and unlike their other siblings they remained close well into adulthood. Years ago my paternal grandparents jumped on a spur of the moment purchased a house in Florida. In a matter of months they were gone despite the fact that no one had gotten used to the idea of them leaving. At the time my great-aunt Marti was going through some divorce drama. More than anything Marti needed her big brother to stick around. My grandfather was totally oblivious to what his sister needed. His decision to leave forever changed their relationship.For a long time they didn’t speak to each other. My grandfather was completely ignorant of the reason for the change in his sister all he knew was that he was hurt. A handsome man he is..an intuitive man he is not. It fell on my mother to explain to her father-in-law why his sister was upset.
Recently my grandparents were here on vacation. My mom was on her way to see my grandparents when she noticed my grandfather standing in the middle of the block looking towards Broadway. She came up behind him and hugged him,”Whatcha doing out here all alone old man?” My grandpa turned around and gave my mom a kiss, “ I was looking for Marti. I know she takes the 2 train home from work so I figure she has to walk this way to get to her house from the train.” “Hmmm what if she takes the cross town bus?” “Na na man she hates the bus. She takes the train I know my sister.”
“Ah I see...so you've called her and let her know you were here?” mom asked. Granpa shook his head “No. I left my phone book at home and I can’t remember the number!” replied my grandfather. “Oh yeah that’s right she changed her number. Willie was looking for her number last night but we couldn’t find the book he wrote her number in.” Mom rubbed my grandfather’s arm and raised his wrist to look at his watch. It was 6:30 pm my dad would be arriving soon. ”Have you been here long?” she asked . “A couple of hours” he answered, “I figure she gets out of work at 4 and by the time she gets here it’s like 5.” “You know Bill she lives right up the hill...we can walk up there now and see if she’s home.” “No no I want to give her time to get home.”, my grandfather sputtered.
“Did she even know you were coming to NY?” mom wondered out loud. “Yeah I told her when I would be here and that we’d be staying at our old apartment.” he replied but still mom wasn’t too sure. She found it hard to believe that he'd been here for several days and his sister hadn’t stopped in to see him. Mom looped her arm in his and guided him towards the apartment building, “It’s like Africa out here old man let’s go upstairs into the nice air conditioned apartment and have something to drink. We can harass who ever is upstairs for awhile and when Willie gets in from work I’ll tell him to take the walk with you to Marti’s house...okay?” “Maggie I’m not too sure about the building number it’s been years since I went to her house. The look on his face was apprehensive.
“Don’t stress it we know the building.” mom said, “Shit I can never forget the building! My aunt lived there.", and pointing to her two front teeth said, "see these teeth? I lost them there playing freeze tag. One of the kids pushed me into the lamp post in front of the building face first! Lucky for me they were my baby teeth.” As they made their way into the lobby he leaned in to whisper a secret that not even my grandma knew, “Maggie I’ve been coming down every day at 6 in the morning hoping to catch her on her way to work.” The thought that he’d been waiting outside during the blistering heat wave hoping to “bump” into his sister broke my mother’s heart. Mom touched his face and added,"There's hope for you yet old man."
When my father they took the walk to my great-aunt’s apartment and were greeted by the new tenant. It seemed my grandfather’s sister had moved and left no forwarding address. The look on my grandfather’s face was heart wrenching. Mom suggested calling his sister when they got back to Florida the next day but he said, “No this is obviously the way she wants it. I haven’t done anything to her." My mom put rested her head on grandpa's and said, "Be the bigger person Bill give your sister a call." Her advice fell on deaf ears my grandpa is stubborn.
That's the problem with my paternal family,they have too much pride. It is their down fall. Their pride is useless, foolish and obstinate. No one is ever willing to take the first step, to bend or yield, or to forgive even for the love of each other.
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