Friday, December 09, 2011

Had a friendly chat with my brother Jim this afternoon. I asked, "What's so important you leave two messages on my phone?" I knew what it was about. He was offering to pick me up tomorrow & deliver me to our sister's for a birthday party for our oldest brother.  He assumed I wasn't going because I have a poor relationship with my sister. I said no that's not it. I don't feel physically up to going & if I did I'd just rent a car & drive up for a few hours.   Jim has his own issues with his siblings (including me), some are  similar to  mine, some are different. But he speaks his mind when he's of a mind to,  & I  like that.

As the pair of siblings with the "conventional" middle class lifestyles, the absence of a close relationship between  Jim & my sister has been for me  proof of our generation's familial  dysfunctionality. They had the  normal "occasions," the kids, the holidays, the graduations. But they stayed in their individual family bubbles.  I know the "problem," the reasons they give, which I dismiss as mere surface rationales. These conficts don't begin when you become adults; you carry them into adulthood. But I wasn't observant enough of their  relationship with each other when they were kids. As the youngest, I focused on my siblings as a trio, sort of a three-headed, six-armed entity, or as individuals with whom I was either at war or trying to entice into an alliance against the others.

So I'm glad they're getting together.  Yes, it would be better if  I was there. I have my reasons for admiring all three of them with the insight only a youngest sibling has.

I have a theory. Historically, in big Irish families, the relationships among the siblings were very dominant in the family dynamic. These relationships were rarely monitored closely by the parents. My experience is, that as a result of this, as adults, the siblings tend to parent their own children like petulant siblings, instead of like loving guiding parents. Thus the dysfunction amplifies through the generations. Have you noticed, many Irish people have just thrown in the towel now and choose to never have children of their own? A way of ending the madness, I suppose. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
There's truth in what you write.

My immediate family was conflicted on whether or not we were Irish-American. My dad tried to reject it, & his mom didn't care for overt Irish-American culture outside of the Church (there she wanted Irish priests). We were raised Methodists. The snappy comeback wisecrack was highly appreciated in my family, that seems to be a common Irish-American family trait. But I know large Irish-American families that have held together well by spreading out & giving some space. One of my Irish-American FB friends regularly insults her siblings, sometimes in Gaelic (which she had to study as child), but it's clearly affectionate & they stay closely in touch.

In more than half of the large Irish-American families I've known, when I think about it, one parent was an alcoholic.
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