Ukiah-The family ordeal, updated – The Ukiah Daily Journal
All happy families look alike, and they live somewhere I’ve never been.
All weird families are messed up in different ways, and please allow me to count them. I have just returned from a seven day family reunion which could be called a “reunion” depending on the definition of the word.
My family looks like it was assembled with random parts from a parts bin and bolted together without much thought as to how, or if, the components fit together. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume we were orphans who lived under one roof during childhood and adolescence, then dispersed to distant zip codes.
Cleveland, Ohio was the family nest, but none of the four children, once off the leash, stayed within 800 miles of what was known as “the best place in the country.” My sister and younger brother went (separately) to New York, the older brother planted his flag in South Carolina over 50 years ago, and I went to California. Geographically and culturally I finished in fourth place, but being stubborn I still wasted most of my life there.
So, for 2022, we gathered in a sprawling brick house in rural Pennsylvania among the Amish and ourselves for what I usually describe as family ordeal. Rents died decades ago, and our youngest brother, the best at orchestrating family gatherings, is also gone. This shows.
My wife Trophy is of Italian descent and it shows too. To her, family is everything, blah blah blah, right down to the cooking, the greetings and the willingness to be in each other’s presence for hours at a time, sometimes even in the same room.
She is often stunned but mostly saddened by the fragmented disunity of my family, our lack of familiarity and emotional connection with each other. None of us, including the missing parents and brother, have ever hugged another Brood member in over 70+ years. The kind words and warm exchanges between us were so rare that I would probably remember it if I ever heard it.
You may vaguely know that I write a weekly column for the Ukiah Daily Journal, Monarch of Mendocino County dailies, and play a supporting role with the Anderson Valley Advertiser, the nation’s top weekly.
No one in my current family has ever asked to read anything I’ve ever written, although they may not know I write. How would they know? I don’t brag about it and don’t talk about it. I have (self-)published two books, sent them copies of each, and as of Wednesday, August 9, 2022, have received no response, written or verbal, from my brother (sister mentioned she likes the second).
My brother got married in the early 1970s and he and his wife have been together ever since, although they lived in different states and taught at different universities. My sister-in-law never missed one of our family gatherings and, as expected, attended the most recent one.
A couple of months ago I Googled her for the first time because, frankly, she’s pretty famous. In the third or fourth paragraph it says she married my brother in 1971 and they divorced in 1974.
Eh. Hmm. Well, what do you know.
Wife Trophy suspects that my sister and her longtime husband also divorced a decade or two ago. Maybe. He also comes to all the meetings. Nobody ever asked them if they were still married. Ho hum, shrug and what do you know.
So yes, it’s my family. We don’t exactly keep secrets as long as we are indifferent to what other family members are doing and have no reason to inquire. Why we bother to meet six or seven times a decade is unclear.
(It should be noted that the “young people” in our families, all in their 30s and even 40s, famously and happily get along. They chat, laugh, and stay up late together to chat and laugh more.)
What my wife finds most disconcerting is the lack of curiosity among us tribal elders about each other’s lives. Our orbits do not cross, our interests do not cross, our concerns are ours alone and our futures have nothing in common.
Perhaps that sounds sad and hopeless to those who believe we should exchange warm hugs, ask personal questions, reveal private joys and hidden fears, hold nothing back, and let go of everything in the name of family.
Could be. Maybe.
Tom Hine was thrilled to learn that in the midst of the worst recession in 45 years, Deaf Democrats in California raised the state’s gas tax (!) raised the Golden Gate Bridge toll to $9.40 (!!) and will hold back issuing promised summer grant checks through October. TWK says “Let’s go Gavin!”