I’m not close to my family. My mother has never been close to me; my father was, when I was small, but that faded away as I grew from boy to adolescent; my relationship to my sister was more like that of adjoining cellmates who didn’t get along – until she went away to college and we became distant-but-friendly on the occasions of family get-togethers. Over the years I got along best with our cats.
I went from being an unhappy child to a rebellious, unhappy teenager, and then a directionless, unmotivated, unhappy young adult. After I moved out of the house and got on my own I tried to both fulfill my family obligations and to keep the family peace, but over the years I’ve grown increasingly distant, by my choice. I’ve found that the more distant I am from them the happier a person I have become. When I think of my nuclear family I don’t feel a sense of love or attachment. When something good happens in my life I don’t think, “I can’t wait to tell Mom & Dad”, and when something bad happens, I don’t think, “How will I tell Mom & Dad?” My sister and I don’t talk unless we’re at some family gathering. They’re more like a some of adults I know, and I don’t particularly like them, so I would prefer to think about them less than I do, and when I do think of them it’s often with contempt or derision.
It’s not that they’re nasty or generally unpleasant people; sometimes it’s because I’ll remember something from my past, like how at some point – in my adolescence, teens? – my parents stopped taking me to the doctor or dentist for checkups. I only realized that when I thought back to when I was switched from private to public school, how I was taken to their doctor for a physical, undoubtedly as a requirement of law, and thinking at the time that, wow, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve been to the doctor. It didn’t occur to me at the time but on reflection as an adult I wonder at that, and how I never did go for medical checkups after that, ever, and how that doesn’t seem right. As in, I was under their care but I didn’t have a doctor or dentist, and they never took me to one for checkups, and that seems like a pretty blatant negligence of their obligation as parents. So when I remember or think about things like that, then yes: contempt, or derision.
Most of my antipathy towards them is directly attributable to our political differences. I’m a patriotic fiscal conservative neocon, and they’re f’ing international socialists. Not merely Liberals – actual international socialists. Bernie Sanders cheering, capitalism-hating, world citizen pinkos, although to be fair, they would probably describe themselves as “Democratic Socialists” now that it’s what Bernie Sanders calls himself. It’s a family disease; every one of my extended family is, at the very least, a Liberal. I recently learned after her passing that my grandmother’s parents on my mother’s side were Russian Bolsheviks (and that was why her first Christmas present came from her husband); my father recently told me that at age fourteen he was deeply influenced by Marx’s Communist Manifesto. I’ve long known that my father was a member of the SDS long before I knew what it was; a copy of his membership card was incorporated by an artist friend of his into an art piece commemorating IIRC my father’s birthday, and which was hung proudly in our bathroom for many years. He told me with an odd mixture of pride and embarrassment that after they started throwing bombs he let his membership lapse (… and just think about that…). My sister told me she was a communist when she was in college. They all live in the United States and wouldn’t dream of moving to one of the socialist utopias.
Although their political beliefs are strong they didn’t talk about their beliefs or opinions at home when I was growing up. I grew up as a Liberal but that only by default and through osmosis. After my own political conversion around 2002 my parents mentioned in a phone conversation with me that my sister’s opinions were so vociferous that they had agreed to a political “no-fly” zone – a banning of political discussion or comments in their conversations. I enthusiastically told them that was a great idea for us, too. It’s the only thing that’s kept the peace in the family when it comes to our political differences, and it still takes my turning of a blind eye to their occasional politically-charged comments and observations. Sometimes they just can’t help themselves, but I can keep from making a retort.
I originally created my Facebook account about ten years ago so that I would be able to keep up with what’s going on in my family since they rarely directly communicated to me about family news. It was through their postings on FB that I began to see just how leftist they really were, and from what I’ve seen, like most Liberals, they are gullible and stupid. They’re told what to think, and they do. They’re told what to believe, and they do. They’re told who to hate, and they do. What they’re told to ignore, they do. For the most part, whatever happens to be the leftist outrage or cause du jour it’s a pretty safe bet that they’re on board. A hundred years of history telling them that they’re wrong has taught them nothing. They do not wait on a news story to allow for facts to emerge before supporting the opinion they’ve been given. They exist in the Liberal Bubble and rely on their Liberal/Leftist news and opinion sources to tell them what their political opposition has to say; they are embarrassingly ignorant and easily misled yet consider themselves to be well-informed critical thinkers.
As people, on social occasions, they’re generally OK to be around – but their politics disgust me. Political passion runs deep in my family, and we are at polar opposites of the political spectrum (and let’s just go with that metaphor and not get caught up in trying to square the circle of describing myriad political phyla as a linear plane). They call Republicans Nazis, racist, homophobic, rapacious, and an assorted variety of vulgar insults; while I’m not technically a Republican I do vote that way, so they’ve made it clear what they must think of me. They parade their hatred on FB; in turn, my contempt for their politics, and by extension, them, is deep, wide, and just below the surface. I could easily see a political discussion blowing up into a family-destroying argument. I’m ready, but not yet willing, to flip them the bird and turn my back.
I don’t want to blow up the family. I don’t want to break their hearts by telling them how I really feel, and what I think of them, but that’s what would happen if they were ever to learn the truth. As for what can be characterized as parental negligence I’m confident they don’t see it that way, they may not even remember it that way, and they weren’t that way out of conscious malice, but rather it was a form of casual neglect. Regardless, I am not their teacher; it is not my responsibility to correct their faulty knowledge or foolish beliefs. They can go on to the end of their days being wrong and that’s not my problem.
My mother and sister remain distant, but I’m well aware that my father would very much like for me to be more in touch – to call, to visit, to be a part of his life – and that’s a real shame. For him. My parents squandered their opportunities and obligation to build a relationship with me when I was in my formative years, when I was child and most needed it. I’m an adult now and self-sufficient, and I neither need nor want anything from them nor do I need or want them in my life.
As my parents get older they will become less capable of taking care of themselves. They are both retired and their house would serve them poorly as a place in which they will be able to grow old. They live in a fairly large house with (effectively) four stories; my father has had a lifetime of back problems which have left his legs with uncertain footing on stairs. They live in a very nice suburban neighborhood that has rolling hills which become treacherous in winter, and their house is not within walking distance of stores. They are reasonably intelligent and reasonably well-off, yet I’ve neither seen nor heard any hint that they are going to address the impending hazards of their living situation.
My sister lives in Alaska with her family and will be unable to assist them. Despite my living in another state over an hour away by car, I am their geographically closest relative by a large margin, and I just know that that at some point I will be called upon to help – and I don’t want any part of that.
I will not be their caretaker. Not. My. Problem. On the other hand, considering that my father could fall down the stairs and break his neck, and my mother’s horrible driving might get herself killed, this problem could solve itself.
I’ve written some blogposts about my childhood and family and will publish them in the coming weeks. Although partly autobiographical in a general way they’re mostly about my relationship with family, so I’ll give them this category in my blog: “Fambily”.