Being a family… sounds like a simple concept, right? Even sitcoms go by the same essential recipe….
1. Have issue/issue/concern/dilemma
2. Try to hide it/resolve it/fix it on your own.
3. Find out that makes it worse.
4. Share with Family
5. Problem solved. (all steps occur in under 30 minutes)
But the real world, you find out just how different we all family. Yes, I’m using it as a verb. The way I family is probably a lot different from the way you family. You may think it’s nuts that my kid knew about LGBT issues, drug/alcohol abuse at age four. The way I family now as the head of my household was vastly different than the way I familied as a child when someone else was.
Growing up, we didn’t talk about anything worth a damn. Grand would go on diatribes lasting decades about the epic amount of trauma each of us had inflicted on them and “the hell they put me through.” I heard that sentence alone quite a lot. The older I got, the only one I saw inflicting any major trauma was Grand.
It took me age and wisdom to realize how enlightening a psychology project I had done in middle school was. I had to ask people I knew their favorite fairy tale, then their favorite character in that tale and reflect on what this told me about the person being questioned. Their favorite character had elements they saw in themselves. Sure enough, Grand’s favorite was the martyr of the story, beaten down by circumstances out of their control. I wonder what would happen if they ever realized they were really the villain.
Grand didn’t talk about anything to any of us… not periods, spontaneous hard-ons, long visits to the bathroom with the Victoria’s Secret catalog, headlights in the nipple-hardening sense, leg shaving, wet dreams or any of the vast slew of information kids need to know about their respective pubescent futures. I did get a thin book with a couple of cartoonish fat people on it that explained the basics of sex with tasteful and somewhat humorous demonstrations.
Grand tossed it at me with the mumbled monotone words of “let me know if you have any questions….” while simultaneously flying out of the room. I flipped through it, and a few minutes later handed it back to Grand saying “They went over this in school two years ago and If there was anything I needed to know, I wouldn’t ask you anyway, so don’t worry about it.” I realize now I was dismissing them as a parental figure, but at the time I thought what I was saying would be a relief.
Any other questions were directed either to my mom (occasionally) or my best friend (mostly). I’m glad I had a knowledgable best friend since that really could have gone badly. But by then, I was already building a pseudo-family outside of my blood family that was a lot more supportive to one another than my blood family ever was. In a lot of ways, it was exactly what each of us needed and to this day, even though some of them I haven’t talked to in years, but I’d be there in an instant if they needed.
In my family, you were family as long as you were married to family. As soon as there was a divorce, the non-blood member was a pariah. Why this was, I never knew. Personally, I still see those prior spouses as aunts, uncles, cousins, or whatever the case may be but when the example around you does nothing but trash talk the newly ousted member, it was pretty obvious I was in the minority. I’m pretty sure Grand set the bar on that one.
When I got a divorce, my ex and I had a pretty good idea of how we wanted to settle things on our own. It’s a good thing both of us were young, broke and cheap. It wasn’t hostile, we just didn’t fit. I think years later, they would eventually agree this was the case. As people, we didn’t dislike one another, we could still talk tech until the wee hours or the latest maneuvers on whatever game we were playing or existentialism, friendships or whatever… but they wanted someone they could isolate who would happily devote all to just them and them alone and I am fully the opposite in that I need time and friends outside of the relationship to feel balance. To top it off, both of us royally sucked at communicating and resolving those issues.
So when I told my family about getting a divorce, the ex that Grand had previously been enamored of, suddenly became enemy #1. I didn’t go into any details and most of my family has no clue why we really split up, I didn’t feel it was necessary. Grand once wanted to get into a bash session about my ex, fueled solely on their own speculation. I snapped.
“Take it thoroughly to heart that I married a person who was an awful lot like yourself in the worst possible ways. Apparently, I had some deep-seeded need to have the same bullshit fights with a different outcome with a person who was an awful good mimic of you and surprise! It didn’t work there either. So remember that very clearly the next time you feel the need to say anything about someone you really didn’t know, weren’t married to and had no real amount of interaction with which to judge.”
It took some years, but I get it now. This was how Grand was trying to be “supportive.” By trying to be my champion, or whoever else was divorcing, this was their way of saying “it’s not you, its them, you’re fine.”
This is just how families are… or so I thought.
When I first met my in-laws, I knew they were all mormon. Some of them knew I was atheist. Only one had a big issue with that, though he was too polite to say so. Over the years, his mind opened to the idea that “not religious” most certainly didn’t mean “not moral.” They were all very nice, which in my family means you should be instantly suspicious. When my family is super-charming and they really can be, you don’t tell them anything you do not want them to use against you… which basically means you lie constantly. I hate lying, so I artfully dodged it with bullshit and sarcasm. It’s probably why we’re all fluent in it.
My in-laws however only partially got sarcasm, so it took them a while to get my humor. It was the first time I met such a large group of people who were sincere in their overall happiness, sincere in wanting to know about me and I was embraced into the fold as though I had always been there. Sure it pissed me off when my father-in-law sent a Mormon recruiter over to have a “chat” with us about God and religion. But it was nothing that a little terror and a lot of NSFW conversation couldn’t resolve from ever having happen again. I’m pretty sure I’m on a Mormon blacklist even now. I also understood that he sincerely thought he was helping us, in his own way. My sister-in-law (former Mormon) recommended talking about anal if they ever came back.
Over the years, I watched as a couple of my in-laws hooked up and/or married some pretty sketchy people. People to which my own family would have immediately and vocally objected. My in-laws, however, never questioned anything. They took this approach of “we love you now, we’ll figure out why later and if we don’t find a reason… oh well, we’ll love you anyway.”
When I asked for a divorce, I was fully prepared to be the bad guy. I withdrew from everyone, especially mutual friends so my ex could badmouth me if they so wished. They needed people to talk to and if that meant I needed to be seen as evil, so be it. I moved, started completely over with a rusty car and $100 bucks, and with a little help from mom, rebuilt my life.
A couple years later, I get a conference call… from all of my in-laws across 3-4 states.
They are all asking me questions, asking how I’ve been, what I’ve been doing, how I like it, and where I’m working. I try to answer the questions being peppered at me between tears. I didn’t think I’d ever talk to these people again and it dawns on me how much I’ve missed them. When I finally get a gap to speak, I finally ask “It’s been two years, what the heck spurred you to call me now?”
My ex had moved away with their current partner. I had heard through the rebellious grapevine of two of my brothers-in-law that the new partner was really, really touchy about my name being mentioned. I can guess why. My ex had a bad habit of comparing the immediate prior one to the current. Meaning whatever the ex before me did right, I would never live up to; and anything they did wrong, I was destined to replicate. Considering our breakup wasn’t even all that bad after 5 years and our hobbies had a lot in common, I can only imagine what their new partner was going through.
Sure, that used to annoy me as well when it was happening to me but after a couple years of hearing about the praise was given for whatever by their prior partner, I finally sat them down and told them “yeah, about that…. been dealing with you a lot longer now and I can tell you with all sincerity… they lied to stroke your ego.” Never heard another word.
But my in-laws did not see the divorce as anything that should affect their relationship with me. They stayed away, at the behest of my ex and their partner, but when my ex was not in the immediate area, the rules changed. We’ve all stayed in touch ever since. Social media was a godsend as we are all eventually scattered across the entire continent (sometimes not even on the continent). My sister-in-law’s kid and mine have a lot of common interests and they are linked on facebook. We cannot wait for the day when we can get them in the same room with one another for a change. No, this is not the ex that is the other half of my kid’s DNA, Spawn occurred a few years later, they are just that awe and happy about me being a parent. I would imagine they are a little sad that Spawn isn’t their legit family, but that hasn’t stopped them from treating Spawn like they already are.
Spawn has one semi-decent-doing-the-best-I-can parent, one ridiculously-waste-of-flesh-but-genetically-linked-addict parent and one epicly, bitching Godparent. But along the side of all of that is a ton of pseudo-family that can out-family my family any day of the week.
It isn’t composed of just in-laws either…. all that family built up from my teens on, and relationships I’ve made later, friendship and otherwise, all compose of my “family.” G-uno is a big part of that and has been a pivotal part in keeping the creative flames alight in Spawn. Spawn is always so excited when they hear from G-uno (of course, G-uno has that kind of touch with kids that is just magic). Godparent is very much like Spawn, and my relationship with one gives me insight into the other. I joke often about raising a geek version of my best friend.
It may seem weird, but when Spawn wants to ask questions about what kind of weapon or armor they should use in one particular game, they check in with someone I used to date. Kind of weird, but we’ve even put our kids together on a game so they could virtually play together and usually when we are doing dungeon runs, it is usually Spawn, myself and this particular ex. We dated over ten years and 3000 miles ago, but never stopped being friends.
Even though Grand had a pile of children, a spouse, a home, bills paid, food in the fridge and a ton of siblings, parents and grandparents who loved and supported them… Grand was always lonely, cold and spiteful. Grand made it their life mission to tear apart any kinships that might have existed between their children, had a hand in destroying quite a few personal relationships of their children, seemingly hated their spouse (died before I came along) all the time complaining that everyone else had done them some great evil.
Even though both Spawn and I both are technically only children, we still have TONS of family. There are at least 50 people that Spawn may have never met in person, who would never hesitate to aid them if they needed it. I would do the same for any of them. I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for the in-laws and friends who taught me how to family. Anything they needed that was in my power to give, I would. Because, pseudo- or not… they are all family. The best family.