Wednesday, October 31, 2001

What is your family like?

My family, well, I've always secretly been vaguely ashamed that my family is so wholesome, so happy with each other, so lacking in neuroses. Of course, when I started therapy after I split with my ex, I found myself talking not about him or my relationship, but about my family. They definitely have their faults. But on the whole, they could be described as Waltonian. Although my ex's own therapist, who had never met me nor my family, described us as ''having an agenda of narcissistic entitlement,'' which my ex dutifully reported back to me. I responded with annoyance by writing a rather bad poem. I'm at a loss as to what that says about my relationship with my ex. And his own family was a frightening combination of New York City Aggressive-Aggression (as opposed to passive aggression) married to honest-to-goodness Southern Gothic Nuttiness straight out of Flannery O'Connor. They were not a healthy set of people.

But, getting back to the subject of families, the family in which I grew up - as opposed to my post-nuclear family, the one that includes my husband and myself - consists of six persons, including me.

There is my father the engineer, a stoical man of 67, who I remember as being infinitely patient when I was a boy. In later life, he has unfortunately developed a severe case of Attention Deficit Disorder and, like a shark, dies if he stops moving. Or rather, falls asleep. He is now Mr. Hyper Project Guy, and it's very hard to get him to focus on anything outside of his current projects. These are rather substantial, to give him credit, such as being in charge of building a house for Habitat for Humanity. He is most lovable.

Then there is my mother, who married my father when both of them were 21. They started dating when they were 15. They still seem to be happily married, for the most part. This is probably a key part of the whole Waltonian element to the family. My mother is a nurse. She has calmed down considerably from the Mom I remember as a boy, who was a touch on the, er, angry side sometimes. Like my father, she believes that action is very important. My parents were not too keen on the whole gay thing when they found out about me when I was 18 (I'm not going to tell you that story). But, over the years, they've changed a bit, and they happened to be living in Colorado when that whole nasty Proposition 2 thing was going down, which politicized the both of them. So my mother is big into gay rights. She is currently organizing a P-FLAG organization in Oak Park, Illinois (I was rather surprised to hear that there was none in existance).

Then there is my older sister, who is a saint in all the best senses of that word. Just one examle of this would be that when I was five, I wanted a Barbie Doll for Christmas (yeah, yeah, no comment, I had to work hard to shed my girly-boy image as time went on) and my mother, who found this a threat to her masculinity, was not pleased. My sister, who was only eight at the time, defied my mother and got me one. And that is why I am the person I am today. Right. Well, actually, there is a great deal of truth to that statement.

Next is me, the oldest of The Boys.

Then comes my younger brother (as opposed to my little brother). My younger brother is only a year and a half younger than me, and was always a year behind me in school. We never fought much, not really. He's an engineer like my father, only he's much smarter. Not wiser, but smarter. And he was wild when we were teenagers. He always did his homework, but he most definitely was wild. For instance, the school newspaper did a survey on drugtaking in our school - this would have been 1979 or so - and one of the classes they surveyed was the Calculus class. The results of that test went something like this:

  • Percentage of people who have tried marijuana: 15% (which included my brother)
  • Percentage of people who have tried hallucinigenic drugs: 3.2% (which included only my brother)
  • Percentage of people who have tried cocaine: 3.2% (my brother)
  • Percentage of people who have tried amphetimines: 3.2% (my brother)
  • Percentage of people who have tried barbiturates: 3.2% (uh, guess who?)

Of course now he's married and has three kids and lives across the street, but directly across the street from my parents, is a VP at some big consulting firm, and plays golf with his 10-year-old daughter and my dad every Saturday, weather permitting.

Finally, there is my little brother. He is not littler than me. He is five years younger, but he has been bigger than me since he was about 13. Then again, I was a scrawny guy for years. Those were the good old days. He was always the most handsome, the most popular, the nicest guy who had one steady girlfriend after another from the time he was 10. We weren't particularly close. Strangely enough, we are quite close now. And he's changed a lot from when he was 13. He's a lot more shy these days, even if he does dress up as Hedwig for halloween, he's had his ups and downs. He's getting married to a friend of mine that he met when he was here in Sweden for my wedding. He's moved to Washington to be with her - it's funny to think that he's now living where I lived for so long. I wish he lived here, though. It would be awfully nice to just see him whenever I wanted.

So that is my family. And we mostly get along, although we do drive our various spouses crazy when they are unlucky enough to be with us when we are all together. We basically like to sit around and laugh at each others' stupid jokes, tell stupid stories, teach the next generation how to tell stupid jokes and stories, and generally just loaf about.

I suppose part of why we do get along is that we don't, mostly, live near each other. We take each other in infrequent overdoses.

And now I'm wondering if I just haven't given support to Tolstoy's comment about all happy families being alike, i.e. not worth writing about.

The Swedish word for the day is tråkigt. It means boring.

- by Francis S.

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