It was after the third time my brother’s phone disconnected on me that I started to get the hint that maybe my brother and his family were not all that excited about seeing me.
As regular readers of my blog may know, my relationship with my brother has recently been upgraded from “nearly non-existent” to “strained”. Baby steps, I guess. This upgrade came when my brother was diagnosed with cancer and I went to visit him in the hospital. While the circumstances were less than stellar, I left with the strange sensation of once again actually having people in my life that I can call family. There were promises to stay in touch, and that we would see each other in July when my teenage nieces were to compete in a regatta at a Bay Area yacht club.
Arranging our time together was not easy. There were awkward phone calls, dropped phone calls, unintelligible phone calls, and even a lack of phone calls. Finally, they were able to fit me for a few hours on Monday, and oh, by the way, the girls are really exhausted and want to get home early. Great. All the plans I had been nervously planning went out the window. I had hoped to take them to someplace cool like the Exploratorium, or the Chihuly exhibit or the East Bay Vivarium. In other words, I was looking for a lot of external stimulation in order to have something to focus our conversations on since it feels like we would have nothing in common to speak about otherwise.
They arrived an hour and a half later than I expected. So now it was really too late to really go anywhere, so ended up just sitting around my house talking, which was in my mind the worse case scenario. Both my brother and I brought along our posses; he had his wife and the two girls, and I had the boyfriend and the animals. I had rather cruelly locked Sasquatch out of his favorite hiding places so that I could use him for show and tell. A 30 lb shaved Maine Coon cat is always good for at least 15 minutes of conversation, and besides having him clinging to me with his paws on my shoulders felt very comforting and safe. I was also incredibly grateful for the boyfriend being there. Unlike me who doesn’t know anything about sailing, he used to work on boats, so he could talk boats with them. And boy, did they like talking about boats. Mostly I tried to focus my conversation on the girls who were thrilled to see the rabbit and my cats, as they are currently without pets.
I did get some time to talk to my brother when we all went out for a walk out at Point Isabel – this awesome several acre dog park on the bay. Again, when all else fails, use animals as a buffer, even when they are not your own. It was weird. We really have nothing in common, not even our shared past. He claims to have forgotten everything about our childhood. Even when I brought up a chicken we had as a pet, he claimed he didn’t remember. Sure, I can understand it with some of the other things he claims to have forgotten, but Cluck Cluck? I mean, she was a mean chicken, but hardly mean enough to bring on a case of PTSD. So, we walked and we talked, mostly about his kids. I also found it very odd how his 16 year old wanted to walk arm in arm with her dad. Their affection towards one another was . . . I found it disquieting. But, my sense is that the girls are pretty sheltered, and they are pretty scared about losing their dad, so I guess I understand it. But, there is no template in my mind for such parental/child affection, so to me it was simply weird.
Overall, I would have to say it was a pleasant visit. They are not the evil holy rollers that I had pictured in my mind for the last decade or so. They are nice people. But, they still don’t feel like family. Or at least what I think family should feel like. I don’t know. I wish I had more time with the girls on their own to see if I can make a connection there. But, every time I tried to engage one of them in conversation, their mom would answer instead. I think one of my nieces, the younger one, was at least curious about me. She and I have the animal thing in common. Unlike when the others touched Sasquatch, when she petted him I didn’t feel him tense up. She also kept leaving the group conversation to go find and pet Mr. Binkles. Now, that’s someone I may be related to.
Who knows what the future will bring. Maybe as the girls grow up and out of the house, they’ll have some curiosity about their eccentric Aunt LB with the big cat and bunny. I hope so.