We moved away from Fort Thomas when I was a toddler. All of my memories stem from visits home; what fun times they were. We’d gather for potlucks or cookouts, the entire family squeezed into someone’s apartment or spread out under the shelter at a local park. The aunts and uncles would talk as the cousins played. I loved these visits, being able to reconnect and laugh and enjoy the company of people that I love without doubt.
As a child, I did not understand the intricacies of the various relationships. I figured life was as sunny and carefree as I experienced those get-togethers. I thought that they went on when we weren’t there and that when we returned life would pick up all the same- just set a few more places at the table, the whole family is here tonight. I imagined my son’s birthdays (as all other birthdays) would be gatherings of the whole family where he could experience the love I’d grown up with. The uncles and aunts would assume the role in various forms that my Grandfather Cole had occupied as the patriarch of the family. We cousins would act in the roles our parents had presumed in younger days just as our children would take our places. Maybe at some point in the future I would incorporate a new husband and maybe another child into these rituals.
As an adult, I understand now why certain parts of the family couldn’t make it to one function or another. When I was younger, I had been told it was scheduling conflicts. No, it’s just conflicts. My aunts never have gotten along and now see no reason to hide it- maybe they themselves never hid it but it was hidden from me. This family that I used to love and admire as a Rockwellian cohesive home has fractured along lines I can’t even begin to sort out. As I love both of my aunts, I have had the privilege of spending time with the both of them and have learned two sides to many stories. I see a lot of hurt, a lot of misunderstandings and a lot of pride, and I see it on both sides of this riff. It breaks my heart but it angers me more than anything because my son will not know a family that can put aside their differences long enough to celebrate a wedding, birthday, or anniversary. My original plan of having the whole family to celebrate my son’s birthday has fizzled into just the smallest of affairs with my immediate family; I will not choose sides. My Mom told me how upset she is because she had really wanted to make her and Dad’s fortieth anniversary special with the whole family but, like my son’s birthday, if Person X comes, person Y won’t come and if Person Y isn’t coming than Person Z won’t be there and before you know it, something as beautiful as a fortieth wedding anniversary (an increasingly rare feat these days that should be celebrated) is perverted into just the latest battleground for this war.
There will be no winners here and everyone is losing. Instead of medals, we will all have scars crosshatching our hearts from this sharp word or that misunderstanding. Instead of being able to turn to a strong and wide safety net when our lives get rough, we are left scowling in corners and trading petty barbs. And the worst part is that it’s become generational. This pathetic, petty nonsense gets passed along the bloodlines along with our stout builds and blue eyes.
Well, I’m bowing out. I will have none of it. My door will always be open for my family and my son, Gods willing, will grow to love each of my family as I do. There are fine people in this family, people I may not always agree with but people that I still love and respect. I hope everyone else knows it, too.