Family, otherwise defined as conglomerated kindred, not necessarily congenial, cogent, or convivial. Pile a bunch of blood-related people together for a matriarchal milestone, and you get good moments, bad moments, and moments that no one notices. And then you get a moment that renders all others moot.
This shindig didn’t begin well, ironed itself out in the middle, but ended with hurt feelings, tears, and too many things said on which a few people wish they could renege.
Denouncing. degrading, debasing… all the things families are good at when they get together for a momentous occasion—a mass of moments rendered into a single moment that folks wish they could forget.
The celebration at my house lasted three days, with nine people, of whom all but three—with their traveled distances combined—navigated 5669 miles to celebrate the matriarch’s eightieth birthday.
One sibling remained semi-oblivious to the old lady’s tirade, which the elder aimed and fired at the two younger siblings for three hours (10:30 p.m. Sunday to 1:30 a.m. Monday). After going to their neutral corners to bawl, whimper, and sob until sun-up, four smarting women emerged in the kitchen for bagels and creamed cheese. No one dared alter their thought processes with the stiff coffee I devoured alone. Any malfunction of an already tired brain might render one them as carrion for the other birds.
By eight thirty in the morning, every bag was packed, and all the cars were loaded. T~ and I were the only ones who remained. This afternoon, my male Chihuahua, who had grown accustomed to constant petting and attention this past month, stood in the doorway of an empty bedroom, which was supposed to remain occupied until the first of the year.
Sometimes the heat of a moment roils everything to a boil, and the pan can longer contain the contention. (I can’t be sure, because I’m just an in-law, but I think this stew had been simmering for a while.)
When the festering wounds burst, I was outside in Trolley, reworking the plot structure of the 113,784-word file sitting in my writing application. My only participation of the final moment was to clean up the aftermath, and lug forty-pound bags to cars headed for PDX.
I gave up on my immediate family ten years ago, and sealed the door closed last year, on the day of my daughter’s wedding, to which, on my side of the family, only my uncle received an invitation. I made the calls to inform my other blood relations that their presence was unwanted.
After some empiricism and a lot of hearsay this weekend, I do not regret those phone calls, though I hope I never have to make them again for this particular compilation of contentious, ancillary kindred.