Nobody’s lives are really like that.
And by that I mean “as depicted by anything you’ve ever seen on television”. I grew up on a steady diet of The Cosby Show, Family Ties and Diff’rent Strokes served as familial meals, and let me tell you I’ve learned one thing: I am not the son of an African American OB/GYN and his extremely talented lawyer spouse, nor the product of a privileged raising in New York City. Okay, maybe I learned something more than that, but that’s the primary point.
I bring this up because I’m taking a quick trip to visit my brother this upcoming weekend, and I always have a good nostalgic jag every time the prospect of a journey home comes onto the radar. Buns, as my brother, is a product of our father’s raising, which is to say, he’s every bit as fucked up in the head as I ever was. I find this comforting. Every shortcoming in my life he’s familiar with, because if he hasn’t at least suffered from the same crippling faults, he’s heard me drone on about them for hours.
We are one screwed up family.
I would point out for you all the ways in which all of my brothers are screwed up, painting myself as the only normal one, and that would be funny, and it would be true, from my perspective. But it would be wrong. It would be wrong to sell them like that, all five of them. People who know them well know their attributes, both hilarious and tragic. To betray their characters by assassinating them here online would be deliciously evil, and I like to save those types of exchanges for when we all meet up, so we can see the results of our insults and slings and arrows in person.
Most people seem to have this kind of dynamic with their siblings: listen to how funny it is when I talk shit about my brothers, but should you open your jaws in the same vein, I will unload multiple barrels of ugly retribution upon you. There is comfort in the sanctity of your own clan of crazy. And when you’ve moved far from your clan, be it to the middle of the country or across the continents, the need to re-connect to our roots, our families, is an instinctual drive that DOES comfort us.
I’ve broken friendships, I’ve hurt those close to me for no apparent or obvious reason, and I’ve behaved like a dirtbag in general on several occasions. All of us have. Forgiveness doesn’t come easy when you’re a cynical bastard, and for that reason alone, I am grateful for family.We will continue to hurt one another, intentionally or not, through our actions or our neglect, and then in a moment of need, of hurt or of genuine sadness, we’ll turn to one another, since every other bridge around us is up in flames. And because we’re family, we’ll open our arms up just enough to embrace one another with one arm and use the other to deliver a punch or a noogie.
I’m really looking forward to two days with one of my brothers; as we get older and our lives move from “full of potential” to “such wasted potential“, we can and do take solace in the company of someone who knew us from birth. We’ll never be Willis and Arnold, much less the children of Cliff Huxtable, that much is a fact. In lieu of that, we can savor the ironic results of being raised by our own father, The Lyin’ Dutchman; it’s turned out a lot funnier than any 80’s sitcom I ever endured.