Family in July

Let me be clear. Family is complicated. Especially when you have a spouse with no siblings, and no children of your own.

I have one full blood Brother, two Half Brothers from the same Father, one Step-Sister, and three Step-Brothers. Out of that bunch, two Step-Brothers have passed away, and parentally, I only have my Step-Mother. I’m an orphan. As both my Mother and Father have passed on. An interesting version of the Brady Bunch indeed.

Here’s where it becomes even more complicated. I’m very much a family oriented person. I always craved the Ozzie and Harriet home. I had that for the first three years of my life and then my parents divorced. Apparently in my world, it was going to be an image that would never be real.

My Father always sent those checks on time. But for the first of many decades, I never really felt like I was part of his new life. He’d spend time with my Brother and I when he could, but that wasn’t very often. As the years went by and I got old enough to speak up, I did. I let him know that I didn’t get what I needed from him as a parent. That unconditional love that every child wants and craves.

When I finally came out to him as a gay woman, he accepted me without question. Without judgement. And boom. The unconditional love was there. From that moment on, he was the Father I’d always hoped for. Loving, saying he was proud. All the things you want to hear.

Since I lived with my Mother, I had different obstacles to overcome. But the love was always there and I never questioned it. Her love and humor buoyed me in the good and the bad times. She let me live my dreams and encouraged every crazy scheme I ever had. We didn’t have a lot of money. And I was a latchkey kid.

And now we come to my siblings. Lots of complications. More than I care to discuss really. But since this is the crux of the story, I guess I have to. Suffice it to say, there’s been death, drugs, bad health, bad fights and yet with some, a deep sense of love.

I was young when we combined families, so some siblings were not living at home, so we never were close. In latter years, my Step-Sister and I have become much closer. She’s the Sister I always dreamed of.

My Step-Brothers? Well two are gone and the one who’s left is a great man. He does so much for people. He’s very much to himself though and so unfortunately, we’re not close. But I love him dearly.

My Half-Brothers? Hmmm…I love them beyond measure, but they got the familial I can’t pick up the phone syndrome. One of them had trouble years ago that led to a life that hasn’t exactly turned out to be all roses. How can it when you have a meth lab in your house? He paid the price with the state though, and I know he feels the stigma of his choices everyday. The pain of it will never go away because his Son chose drugs and died last Fall from a heroin overdose. That’s the kind of hell that’s pretty hard to live through. I don’t know how to help him. Nor do I have the tools to do so. He’s got my love. But he’s also got my anger for the choices that got him there.

My youngest Half-Brother is a good man. Raised his children to be fine upstanding citizens. He keeps them busy and out of trouble. He chose a good woman to be his Wife.

Together they’ve built a rural, small town, idyllic life that seems to bring them joy. We can’t discuss politics though, because then I’d like to punch his face in. You see, he’s part of that rural base that still uses bad language when speaking about groups of people and believes we’ll be better under Trump. That, I can’t handle.

Now, we’re moving on to my oldest and closest sibling. In blood terms anyway. We’ve had our ups and downs. Horrible fights and beautiful moments.

It seems though, that it was our Mother that was the family glue. You know how there’s always that one person that holds the group together. Planning holidays. The person you don’t want to disappoint so you show up. Even when your Brother’s Father-in-Law is making sexual remarks that make all the women at the table uncomfortable.

My Brother works hard and plays hard too. He’s the kind of person who says he’s broke, but has 17 guitars hanging up in his man cave.

When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, he was at the hospital for my seven hour operation. Did he do much more than that? A few things here and there.

Then I discovered much to my surprise, that his Sons had some huge beef with me and didn’t want a relationship. I’m not talking Al’s Italian Beef. I’m talking the go to hell, I’m never talking to you kind of beef. This hit me like getting my cancer diagnosis all over again. It’s out of your control, yet it grips your body like the grim reaper will never let it go. I had no idea what I could’ve possibly done since it was out of nowhere. There was a small part of me that didn’t even care. I had cancer to survive and a knee replacement to rehab. I had bigger fish to fry.

So now I’ve fried my fish to a point of living in a world of pain that seems like it’s just going to be there. Sometimes I can deal with it and sometimes I can’t.

My Brother, to be honest, as we know, has never been a great communicator. He’s admitted it and we’ve dealt with it. But this whole idea that I committed some atrocity that calls for the family death penalty is just too comical for words. He tells me he’s working on it earnestly. His kids then get mad that he’s trying to have a relationship with his Sister.

The fact that his children, now adults, have any say over who he speaks to or doesn’t, is a riddle I can’t answer. I can’t even fathom allowing my children to have that much say in my 56 year old life.

I’ve missed milestones in their lives we can never get back. Weddings, graduations, and birthdays. You can NEVER get those days back.

And now he’s afraid to speak to his oldest Son because he’s under pressure at work. That’s a Shakespearean play at it’s best. In my eyes as I lay in bed, a cancer survivor with no livelihood, and no family support I think; doesn’t he think I’m under pressure? He wants me to wait until July to try and repair this relationship? Here’s what I say to that. If you truly want a relationship, you better start now. Things happen in life. People die. People get sick. And then it’s too late. I watched him wheeled into an operating room once with only a 50% chance of surviving. That was the first time. There have been more incidents of life saving on both sides of the aisle. So we’re both well aware of the fact that time is a traveler. And certainly not promised. Ya better get to living or it’ll leave you behind.

July. That nearly four months from now. Should you have to beg for love from your family? In a way, it’s embarrassing to me. I’m the best me I can be. I should be enough for them. After all, I’ve been there when they needed me. No matter what it cost me. I was there. And I’m me. If you want me to accept you as you are. Then you must do the same.

Then I realize, they don’t even know the real me anymore. It’s been so long they just don’t know.

July. A lot can happen in four months. In July, I might be over the need to have them in my life. By then more milestones will have been missed. More things to cry about. Is it worth the tears? I’m not sure anymore.

Sometimes I wonder what my Mother would’ve done. If she were here, this wouldn’t be happening. This I know. July wouldn’t matter. But here we are. It’s March. Only a few days from the anniversary of her passing. Eight years went by in the flash of a camera shot. That last picture when we were all out as a family. She was the glue.

July. It’s hot. It’s muggy. The month we celebrate our freedom. It might just mean that for me too in a different way. July. A lot can happen. Use your time wisely my Brother. Every month is a gift. And July is a long way off.

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