I come from a decently-sized extended family on both sides. My mom has 3 brothers, my dad has 3 brothers and a sister.
When my family moved to North Dakota in 1981, there were just the 4 of us. It was a shock. We went from a large extended family, with multiple gatherings throughout the year – to just us 4. No more the huge family dinners for Thanksgiving. No more summer family gathers at Great-Grandma’s at the lake in Minnesota. No more camping in each other’s yards so we could do “the family thing”. No more cousins running all over the place, picking on one another, playing together, fighting like siblings.
This weekend, I was reminded of the ties that bind you to your family, and how those ties can help, but can also harm.
Xxxxx, OnlySon and I went to a family gathering yesterday for his side of the family. They were all getting together for a “Greek Day”, some of the members had been to the homeland for a vacation this summer, and wanted to show and tell.
Before we ever got there, there was a phone call to my Mother-In-Law to let her know that a couple of her siblings had an altercation. There was some old, bad blood there about things that neither of them could control when they were younger, but one was blaming the other for past abuses. As the eldest, Mother-in-Law was almost expected to step in and calm the situation. But, these “children” were all over the age of retirement.
For me, I felt empathy for the attacked party, as what had happened was not her fault, but rather sins of the father, carried unto the next generation.
It immediately threw me back to the reason I started the blog. The e-mail that my brother sent me at the close of last year that caused me to all but abandon my Facebook page, and came quite close to me cutting ties with him forever. An attack that, for me, came from left field and left me confused and devastated. Old arguments, ancient wounds, were reopened and lay bleeding as though fresh.
And, as much as I would like things to be better, they stalled at “tolerable”. He told me that he was sorry for hurting me, and could I forgive him. I told him I’d let it go, for our mother’s sake, but forgiveness had to be earned. We stopped there, and it’s never been the same.
The family web upon which we sit is a fragile thing, like the web of a spider in a high wind. The ties are all glued together, and the spider sits frantically in the middle, trying desperately to cling to all the holds. But the strands can be torn apart, and once torn, the spider usually shreds the old web and builds a new one.
Family webs are not so easily mended. You can’t simply “start over” all the time. Most of the time you try to mend the torn strands to make it look whole again, to be functional. But once the damage is done, it will never be as beautiful and perfect as it was at the start.
Sometimes, you just have to shred the old web.