A family visit


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.


10 responses »

  1. I feel sure they will. And you approached it right, by the sounds of things – let them meet you and your menagerie 😉 but didn’t force anything on them that they weren’t ready for. As they get older and they see that there are more ways of living life than the way their parents chose, they’ll be in touch, I’m sure.

  2. Indeed, well said by truce. You can’t be overbearing, you can’t be to forceful. Provide an open invtation and eventually they will recognize it for what it is, and hopefully from there relationships can grow.

    I hope for the best for you.

  3. This post resonates with me.

    My half-brother and I have almost a nonexistent relationship. I talk more with my sister-in-law (his wife) than him. I’m not exactly sure why, but every attempt at an ongoing relationship has hit the wall and gone SPLAT. Neither one of us has reproduced – or plans to – so the line kind of ends there.

    We were pretty close while we were growing up. When our Dad was terminally ill, we relied on each other to make sure his wishes were followed. Those were trying times.

    I’m not sure what happened. I give you major kudos for trying to heal the relationship with your brother and reach out to his kids. One thing I’ve noticed over the years, and Truce pointed this out as well, when they leave the nest, they’ll look around and realize there are many ways to live your life and be happy.

    As for eccentricity, I embrace mine. I am the weird relative, and proud of it. Woot!

  4. Truce, tpgoddess & Adam – thanks for the support and the validation that I did the right thing. It wasn’t really a strategy, but just the way things rolled. I hope y’all right that eventually they’ll come around.

    NM – I, too, embrace my eccentric aunthood. My sister-in-law was trying to pin me as their “rich aunt” when they were talking about what colleges they were thinking about – i.e., “go ask your rich aunt LB to help pay for your schooling”. Sitting in the living of my very humble rented home, who in the hell knows how she got “rich”. But, I quickly corrected her – I’m the eccentric aunt, or even cat lady aunt, thank you very much.

    Kangaroos – and as butterflys exit their cocoons when they damn well please and no earlier, I guess I’ll have to wait until the kidlets are ready and willing.

    Mr. mellow – I don’t know if I want to introduce them to the biker scene. Sure, I’ll take them out for their first piercing, but I think we’ll stay away from the leather boys and girls until they are 21.

  5. I feel so much empathy – I still don’t know ‘wassup’ with my bro AND his fam.

    I have virtually given up the 6-weekly letter I would try to write and share all our “news” and what was going on with our mother back last fall after his squabbling visit with fam terrorized our mother and she mini-stroked and ended up in the hospital.

    We phone-speak about every 6 months or so now, and the last time he dismissed what I was trying to tell him about the progressive changes with the Alzheimer’s and he blew me off and just said, “well, she’s getting old, and that happens to old people.”

    I just don’t understand how we are related to each other or what happened to him. Maybe he wonders the same about me (when he can spare the time from being the center of the universe).

    I’m not being bitter. It’s easier this way. But dread when he turns up looking for some nonexistent inheritance! Oy.

    I was his son’s Favorite Relative — “Ant” Shu, and we had a lot of fun together when in the same town, but … maybe someday we will again. Pearl (kitty) was often the lure there as she is a magic healing cat when she’s up to snuff herself.

    But, I babble.


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