Thursday, January 10, 2013

Family Dynamics

Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball

Family Dynamics

I am estranged from most of my mother’s side of the family by choice. This was a decision I arrived at gradually after years of unpleasant, tension-filled holiday gatherings. I have warm feelings for one set of my cousins, but they have always lived miles and miles away. Though we get along, I realized long ago that we will likely never be close. Such is the case with many families these days who are separated by distance.

My mother is the youngest of four. Her mother was 40 and her father was 45 when she was born. She’s always believed that her conception was an accident, though my father, citing my Grandfather, denies this. My Grandparents wanted a big family and got it. Mom wanted to have four children of her own, but labor with her third child, my youngest sister, was so difficult that she decided to stop there.

Analyzing my mother’s family a bit more, two brothers came first. They are of a very different generational mindset. My mother grew up idolizing The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, and her much older brothers idolized Elvis and Roy Orbison. They came of age at a time of tough-guy 1950’s masculinity, wherein sensitivity and emotional honesty in men was simply not allowed. Neither of them easily fit well into such inflexible gender roles, but this was a topic never brought up in casual conversation.

I do grant them the benefit of the doubt on a few points. My uncles grew up in total and complete poverty, even having no choice but to live in public housing for a time, early in their lives. The ironies are incredible. One might think they might have a greater regard for the poor. Instead, the two became staunch Republicans in their adult lives. I imagine the indignity of being that poor, in addition to that economically needy made enough of an impression that they sought to make sure it never happened again.

Accordingly, money is their God. They both resolved that profit was the most important life goal of all, and went after it. They devised elaborate strategies to accumulate wealth, though with one of my uncles, dumb luck created a windfall profit more than effort alone. Like George W. Bush, he has had a history of bad investments and putting his money into companies that ultimately failed. Each of my mother's brothers has become a millionaire and, in some ways, also a miser.

They’ve never seemed like real people to me. That’s the best way I can possibly put it. One of my uncles has a very flat affect and a bland personality. His only discernible hobby an interest aside from fishing is college football. A heavy drinker, I’ve often wondered whether his alcohol consumption is meant to disguise feelings of insecurity he is unable to express. When drunk, his no-nonsense, gruff demeanor changes. He becomes a silly child, often embarrassingly goofy.

The other tries his hand at a charm offensive, but is an insufferable name-dropper. He talks behind everyone else’s back. I can’t trust his opinion, because I know it’s self-serving. He’s been especially cruel to my mother, but she has always allowed him into her life. I am not so forgiving and never will be.

I introduce family for a reason. I’ve always felt a sense of lacking when it comes to my relatives. At times, I’ve been envious of others who have large extended families and lots of love to spread around. My models and guides in this area have been sorely lacking. None of us chooses the time and place of our birth, nor the other defining characteristics that shouldn’t matter, but these details are imperative to how our lives will progress.

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