Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Only Glue

I have two brothers & a sister, all older. Four siblings. Seven years from oldest to youngest. We all live in New Jersey, always have. The most distant are separated by three hours drive.

We have not been the same place at the same time since we had lunch 12 years ago following our mother's funeral. Prior to that, we were in the same place at the same time 12 years earlier at the lunch following our father's funeral. If we subtract the oldest brother, who resigned around 1968 but kept showing up for some holiday gatherings in the following decade, the remaining three siblings have been in the same place at the same time an additional five times in that 24 year span; twice in the 1980's, once in the 1990's, & twice in this decade.

That is the reality. Pretty sad, huh? Five years of therapy didn't get me to the root of it. Our parents withheld so much crucial information, so many stories untold, our relationships with each other & with other relatives so distant & sporadic, that too many puzzle pieces were missing.

I think our father tried to fold us into his second wife's family because he sensed a weakness in our glue, & her family was stronger. He died before accomplishing it. Except for my oldest brother- he's his own kind of exception - we attached ourselves to the families of whomever we were with, in-laws.

I've written well but not at length or in depth about my childhood, never approaching full disclosure. I haven't delved much into my tragi-comic experiences growing up as a stutterer, or how I managed to do radio & speak from a podium as an adult while occasionally afflicted with the impediment. I can still become tongue-tied, babbly & blinky-eyed in conversations, like a switch flipped, & initiating phone calls is always troublesome.

My memories of childhood often have the quality of being alone in a crowd; there were six people in the house. I was well cared for, fed, dressed, safe; for those I am grateful to my parents. But my own father frequently mocked my stuttering, which set an example, & he should not have been surprised when I rebelled long & loudly against him in nearly all matters. (To his credit, he was figuring this out later on, while I was also letting him off the hook.)

Four singular adult perspectives that in many families would have been gradually reshaped simply by sharing them through years of Christmases, 4th of July picnics, christenings, wakes, house warmings, phone chats, & routine dutifulness when nothing much of import was occurring. My sister wanted it to be different, & for a time so did I.

I faithfully read Tata's blog. The thread of her narrative through births, weddings, deaths, & mundane occasions galore, & although it is an extended - & in some ways artificial - family of people who annoy & even dislike each other (how could it be otherwise?), is love. Dear Tata rarely needs to examine the heart of love itself, only the forms of its expression. They are always talking, arguing, shopping, eating, being with each other or refusing to be with each other. Love is the glue. Love is the only good glue.


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