Tuesday, August 25, 2009

family trees, shallow roots

It's kind of odd to stand back and, from a slight distance, watch your family slowly rot and topple. It all begins, as much as I hate to say it, when one whole generation has girls. My maternal aunt had girls, not that the boys would have carried on the family name anyway. What an ambiguous proposition family names are. All my uncles who had children had girls. My brother died.

My half brother carries the load now since he had a boy. And that's it for the family name. There were no boys on my mom's side of the family, or at least none I've met. One little boy to carry on the family name. This is not important to me as I don't have plans for a family myself but I can feel the brittleness when the paternal side, the name carrying side, of my family gets together for holidays. It's aging, decaying, and getting increasingly fragile year after year. I can see, or imagine I see, a sense of betrayal in my paternal grandmother's eyes when she looks at her progeny for she herself gave birth to four healthy boys. Ironically, she appears to blame the wives for the trouble and I thought that was no longer a problem in this age of science. I often am tempted to ask her if she understands how such things work but in the end it isn't important enough to me to pose the question.

All our family gatherings are quiet, awkward affairs so I find happier families to join for the holidays. I like Thanksgiving with friends and Christmas with the side of my halfbrother's family to which I am not related. They seem to like me too and always treat me like a full sister when I visit. Don't get me wrong, I do love my family but we are almost like character actors in a low budget made-for-tv movie when we get together. Long silences, strained small talk, heavy glances loaded with unnamed guilt...oh, it's quite comical when you think about it objectively.

Sometimes I feel so different from the rest of them that I think surely I must have been adopted and no one has told me. How common is that, I wonder? Surely other people in the world must feel that way. I've read novels describing the same thing but don't all novels contain at least a kernel of truth, a little grain of sand in an oyster? Have you ever felt like a stranger in your own family?


Kenny P. said...

Oh, a bit I suppose. I would probably feel it more if my sister weren't a wierdo, too.

Nice post, Holley. Poignant.

Holley T said...

Luckily, my half brother and I are two peas in a pod for all we don't see each other very much. I am very sad to say that I only see them a scant handful of times a year. We are both weirdos so obviously the family genetics are hard at work still :-)