Last weekend I spent time with family to celebrate my dad’s birthday. Because I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster over relationships lately, I haven’t really thought too much about being out of town with family for two days. Even driving there I wasn’t worried about it. It was good to spend time with nieces, nephews, and great-grand nephews/nieces, cousins, brothers and my dad. My sisters are a bit different.
I love them very much, but one of them (L) I have very little trust in and the other (M – the older one I lived with) is harder to be around since she is so critical most of the time. It was interesting to see our family dysfunction played out. Interesting and painful.
L is in an unhealthy relationship (with someone who tried to date me) and even though she knows better, will stay in it since she’s afraid of being alone. It is her pattern to be with possessive, demanding, and critical partners. Knowing this was a mixed bag of emotions. I was glad that I am the kind of person who gets out of unhealthy relationship (at some point) even though I’m afraid of being alone. At the same time, I was sad in knowing that we attract unhealthy partners and that she is in such a crappy one AND that she chose this man over her literal sisterhood with me (hello, did I mention he tried to date me before he hooked up with her???)
M was critical with my brothers and grand-nephews. She belittles them and it disgusts me to no end. My brothers don’t back down and it ends up becoming a verbal shoving match. My grand-nephews are another story. They are kids and so it hurts me to no end when she talks to them like they are pests. They are kids, who like all kids, want and need attention and to be validated. If they are lying, yelling, or exaggerating that should be an indicator of how they have been treated and not an indicator of who they are.
One of L’s sons is a nephew who I have always felt very close to. I see myself in him. He has a big, open, feeling heart and has absorbed years of pain. As a young man he experiences depression as anger and addiction. He talked with me about this over the weekend and it hurts so much to hear him say words that are so similar to mine.
On the day of the celebration I interviewed family members and it was amazing to hear how my dad influenced them. The common theme was that my dad’s work ethic and ability and desire to be a good provider was something that both men and women aspired to. Just about everyone said it and in hearing it, I was reminded that I was grateful to have a father who would do anything to make sure his family and extended family did not go without. He stopped whatever he’s doing if anyone needs help.
I know he lived a life where he went without and he made a promise to himself that his family never would experience that. Not only was he unaware of the emotional needs of children, social and cultural norms of the time didn’t foster that in men. So I understand why he was unable to give that. A lot of me still feels angry about that, but at the same time I am grateful that he sacrificed his own desires so that his family would never be without.
It’s an odd thing to be in a place where both experiences exist.