17 April 2015

Generation Reconfiguration

We celebrated my mom's 80th birthday on Sunday.  It took all of Monday to recover.
My sister-in-law and nieces were responsible for 90% of the work.  I can take very little credit.  Still, I was one with the couch and the puppy for a large part of Monday.

It was held at the fire department where my dad was chief for many years.  It's a new building but my dad is everywhere you look.  Sometimes literally, as his picture and other things of his are hung everywhere.

I found myself waiting for my family to arrive.  My family. The ones that live next door and make me crazy.  The one that travels in groups.  My brothers and I were standing near the entrance and I actually said "Oh, good, there's my family" when they arrived.
It's not that I don't love my biological family.  I do. It's just that there is never some sort of melodrama or undercurrent.  Separately, it's much easier.  I can hang with my sister-in-law or niece and it's great.  I can text my little brother and it's fun.  But put us all under one roof and we're one evil-twin away from a soap opera.  There is a lot of subtext and tension.

We're not an affectionate family AT ALL.  My nieces are, I have to say.  I don't know where they learned it but I love that they are.  Once, my mom said "I don't hug you" at a family function then kind of awkwardly hugged me. 

So, when she made a show of hugging me and the family in front of all the guests, I just wanted to kick bunnies.  This is how it's been though, my whole life.  Pretend in public that we're a happy, functional family.  It's frustrating.  Frustrating that my mom probably believes that we are a happy family.  She might not know what a happy family is, sadly.  And she did/is doing her best but c'mon.  Stop touching me.

There were quite a few people there; people I haven't seen for decades.  Women that were my surrogate moms growing up. Neighbors that were my surrogate family during the summers.  It was good to see  them but I did feel myself start to get overwhelmed.  Kind of like the Box of What Used to Be, I just didn't expect to get socked in the nose with so many memories. In addition to the realization just how many people were responsible for parts of my upbringing.

I guess it was just a first moment of clarity for me.  I've built a family and that's who I think of when I hear that word. Kevin, his parents, the kids.  Our family.

The other realization I had about family was on Easter.  Kevin's parents didn't participate much in Easter this year.  As I've mentioned, Kevin's mom is increasingly frail.  She spends a lot of her time napping in her chair now and is not really able to be left alone much anymore.  An example: she snuck over to our house during the remodeling; a walk she should never take alone. She snuck because my father-in-law was next door at the brothers.

Anyway, we have become the caretakers of the parents now, instead of the other way around.  Instead of the parents being the hosts and coordinators of things, they are spectators now.

As I was taking photographs of the kids, I took a group shot of Kevin, his brother and wife, the Nephew and Fiancee, and the Niece and Husband surrounded by children.  It was a physical representation of how the family has reconfigured.  We are the grandparents now. I choke a bit on the "grand" part of that sentence, but it's true.  We are the older generation now.

One would think that this would be a depressing thought but I felt a little pleased, a little honored.  This is the family that we built together. It's fun to see it evolve and change.

1 comment:

Swistle said...

This is so sweet.

And I love "one evil-twin away from a soap opera."