Please keep in mind that this post is more than 3 years old. Opinions change. Tastes change. Everything changes. I may still agree with or like this, or I may not. But everything is kept up here for archival purposes.
family matters / June 30, 2006
I went to another world a few weeks ago. I think the natives call it Texas, but it’s hard to tell, since their language is so difficult to understand. Thankfully I have family there. Their language is kind of funny too, but the hand gestures make up for it. Keeps me coming back every year.
Family. Those wonderful people with severe brain damage, that you wouldn’t turn in to the cops, (unless there was a REALLY big reward). Absolutely, every single year, I look forward to going to Texas. I look forward to talking to these people. I look forward to eating too many dead and cooked animals. (Mmmmm… steak-fried…. everything). I look forward to the dry winds kicking up red dirt as they blow through mesquite trees. I look forward to sunsets… well… where I can see the sun set. I look forward to seeing my little cousins, and their children, growing up and making me feel older every year.
I look forward to it every year. I must be a tiny bit masochistic. Because every year, you can be sure of a few things. You can be sure Shorty will be at the center of somebody’s stink, wether it’s his own, or someone’s wife. You can be sure that somehow a dish-to-pass lunch will become an epic battle only to be won after long hours of fighting… something. You can be sure that somehow, one of the three black people who live in Texas will stop by, resulting in a group of otherwise intelligent and forgiving family members suddenly reverting to grade school racist humor. (It’s not the opinion of black or hispanic people that bothers me — to each their own — so much as how pitiful and forced it usually sounds coming out). You can be sure someone will break down over an event that only half the people there were even alive to remember. You can be sure any family meeting will break down. No. Matter. What. You can be sure that much of this year’s reunion will be spent evaluating last year, and arguing over how to plan for next year.
There’s a real stink I’ve noticed since my first year there. And every year, my cousins seem to notice it more. These aren’t really family reunions. Not on a broad scale. For myself… I can make it whatever I want, because I’m just that pigheaded. But the way things are run, it is a group therapy session for one set group of my aunts and uncles. I can’t even put it on all of them. It’s very definitely a specific group. But as a result of that group’s actions, they make it all about “the children of Cliff”. I see that when children are something to be entertained, instead of involved. I see that when they can’t let go of the reins of what amounts to a pot luck dinner, because they feel like they’re being put out to pasture. I see that when the entirety of the extended family, and every family friend, have stopped coming, because they’re clearly not a part of it.
I think things are a bit skewed for me. I still tend to think in terms of the other side of my family, from NY, where I am actually on the younger end. My youngest cousin there is already a college graduate. But in Texas, I come from the far older end of the family. I don’t think I’ve met any cousin who is older than me, besides Candace. (Though, granted, since I can’t even remember most of their names, I’m not gonna claim to know all their ages). So while I’m thinking in New York terms of a vast group of people in my generation who’ve all gone through life already, I’m actually dealing with a Texas family where I’m one of the groundbreakers for the generation. (Not in epic events, just so much as life experiences). So while I still think it’s perfectly legitimate for me to be offended at being treated as some incompetent child, for those of my aunts and uncles who can’t seem to think in anything but generational terms, then overall, my cousins are still young and unproven. And if you want to speak the truth, a few of the older cousins haven’t exactly done particularly well for themselves. There’s people in prison, or headed there. People doing very stupid and hurtful things to their families. People not exactly inspiring confidence in my aunts and uncles.
But it’s not about generations, for me or those cousins that want to help. We’re talking individuals, not groups. I don’t think it really is for even that core group of people around whom all the arguments and ghosts seem to gather. An aunt made a very good point, after this year. That there were certain issues that this group wants to deal with. But that is it. Just issues. just things to talk about. But somehow their issues have gotten tangled up with trying to organize a gathering of a vastly larger group of people. If anything, I would consider that a prime reason to give over the weekend to somebody else… anybody else. Just so they can all sit back, without being able to hide behind dubious amounts of organizational work, and say what they have to say. And not bring down the rest of the house of cards, when they falter.
But they don’t. And they won’t. And they’re my family. So I love them anyway, and I’ll be back next year. But I won’t go to any more family meetings. I won’t offer to help. (I will help, but I won’t offer.) I’m not there to try to come to terms with a dead man. ’Cause… you know… no matter how much you want it to, that just can not EVER happen. The dead do not change.
Unless you’re Mormon.
I’m there for the wind and the food and the talk and the children and the sun.