Damn, is it really Monday again?
During the holidays, I called my self-exiled uncle. I’d pretty much ignored my phone for the holidays, leaving facebook check-ins and holiday cards to be the only external family/friend communication I would allow. Not that I am annoyed by my family, in fact, I find their craziness rather entertaining. It’s more that I was enjoying the fact that the constant buzz was silenced for a while. After doing more customer service jobs than I care to admit, I hate the phone. I also watched grand glued to one for most of my childhood. I hate the phone.
With that said, I did finally call my poor uncle back who seems to the one who is a bit stranded from the rest of family and the grand spent most of their time ostracizing. My uncle actually moved for work reasons when the economy went to hell, but stayed because he loved the work and other reasons I don’t feel the right to get into.
We chatted about how things were going in our worlds, but as always happens, the conversation eventually turns to our family, its history and where it all went so wrong.
My uncle still feels a lot of hurt from my grand for being so tormenting through the years. Grand had a lot of pull in our hometown, so grand’s mouth going off badly to the right people made it difficult for my uncle to get and keep business. I can tell this stings him especially since since its his own parent, who has never given him such abuse his entire life, who suddenly turns on him like he is a pariah.
My uncle is also still harboring a lot of guilt. This is the uncle grand enlisted to take me away from my mother. I’ve dismissed it because the past is irrelevant and only the present can I change. My mother passed before I knew any of this, so the only ill will I have is guilt over being so pissed at my mom for things that were never her fault and a lot of pride that she never took the petty route of finger pointing, but I moved past all that in spite of not knowing and I wish he could too.
I can see exactly why my uncle was enlisted. He is a great go-getter type that when you hit his emotional triggers, especially anger, he doesn’t ask a lot of questions. He makes the ideal champion for doing something you don’t quite have the guts to do yourself. Grand is vicious, but mostly a coward. If any of us could have nailed down and documented grand’s web of deception, they would have been completely gutless, or pleaded ignorance. It also would have taken someone with no emotion whatsoever to not want to jump in the middle of it before it became worse.
My uncle knows a version of my grand I have never seen. Apparently, when my uncle was coming up, his parent was a little in the background of things, kind of wishy washy but mostly just took care of things and existed, but not substantially and most certainly not intensely. Center stage belonged to their spouse. I’ve come to realize that was the true core of the family. Grand would have been the sledge-o-matic without the humor.
I can tell my uncle is also still stingingly jealous of his younger brother. His brother was grand’s favorite. In spite of going in and out of jail for most of his youth and young adult life, never really settling, leaving women and debts in his wake, he remained grand’s favorite. He finally bucked up when he met my aunt, a feat I’m still amazed at her for accomplishing, whether she knew it or not. However, I can tell my uncle is bothered that he worked his butt off, paid his debts and was treated vastly different.
I try to walk him through it as best I can. That I think their spouse’s death coming a mere month after they’d lost their father was most likely the trigger to the dementia they were predisposed to have and set it all off. Although 30 years later, everyone was shocked at the doctor suspecting dementia was the core of the problem from back then, this was not surprising to me. It’s hard to explain to 3 grown children who know a parent one way in what ways they are so wrong about that person later. My mom had a taste of the altered person grand became, so there was an unspoken understanding we had about it and just never bothered to explain it since it just wouldn’t have done any good.
I try to tell him as kindly as I can that he made a perfect tool because he had not been in the area at the time and didn’t know how badly grand had changed. I’m not really eager to make him feel great about things with my mom and me since I can never understand why people are always so sorry AFTER a person is gone. Wouldn’t it be more effective to tell them while you can? I know she forgave him and that should be all that matters, and I know he needs to understand that. I do my best in that at least but I really don’t get why we always spend such effort on regret after the fact and not taking the chance when we have it.
He starts to vent his ills towards his brother, something unrelated to grand, but a beef they had pretty much all my life. He vents about rebuffs that seem small to me but ones that he has seemingly left festering for years. I try my best to bring his irritation down to a level that is more readily understood, trying to point out that he is getting hurt over what could easily be understood by simply asking. He dismisses the idea.
Again, I don’t understand why you would let something bother you for so long if you don’t wish to take the 10 minutes it would take to pick up the phone and clear it up. This bunch is a lot like grand in this way, but grand revelled in the muck of bad feelings. It allowed them to hold that imaginary standard of self-proclaimed martyr.
In the end, I hope I helped shelve some things for him, alleviate some stresses and maybe, just maybe, put some perspective on this stuff he has been shouldering. When I hang up with him, I make my internal vow to not be like grand, to eject the crap that doesn’t matter, to focus on the present, to ask when I’m starting to assume, to not spend my time worrying about the shit I didn’t do and just do the shit I can.
I looked at my kid and just said “You know, I don’t care if we have one of the most epic battles of insult flinging known in history when I suddenly drop dead, but if I do, understand this… I love you, you love me and that’s really all that we need to know, no matter what. Don’t you dare carry that crap around with you if it does though. You got that?”
My kid just nods sagely, as though I’ve already created the wiser generation and I’m just catching on to this. Maybe I am 🙂