Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mi Familia

I went to my sister’s house last night for drinks, conversation, and the new episode of No Reservations. For whatever reason, we started talking about our family history. About how my mom’s mom was abused as a child and passed on a lot of familial German weirdness. About how my father’s brother’s kids all seemed to suffer some degree of illness, from mental to physical, for varying reasons. About how my father’s mom was bipolar. Or maybe just really, really depressed after the death of one of her sons.

We talked about how I was basically raised by my sister until the age of 11, at which point I was let free to roam about the world. About the problems in our family tree with alcoholism and how the two of us are essentially the only non-violent drunks in the bunch. About family members who were physically abused. About family members who were sexually abused. About family members who suffered worse fates.

And yet we were able to laugh about it. Because we’re us. The funny thing about my family is that, at a certain point, everyone just stopped talking about “it.” Even within my family, my family is the black sheep in the room. And this “claming up” happened when I was really, really young. This is why the information I’ve learned over the years about my family history is so patchwork. I usually have to get people drunk before I can drag any good information out of them. And, usually, I regret having bothered later.

But my sister surprised me with something before I left. She had a picture she wanted me to see. It was a picture of her, my mom, and myself in Morro Bay in 1985. I was six at the time; my sister 15. All I remember of the trip is having to wear a horrid little poncho and not wanting to be there at all. In fact, the experience colored my opinion of the central coast of California for years and years. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I came to appreciate it.

My sister remembers thinking I was being a little asshole the whole time. She told me that she didn’t really like me much until I was older. When I started being the kind of asshole she could get on-board with. My sister and I don’t really have a brother/sister relationship. That just never developed due to distance and circumstance. But we do sort of treat each other like survivors of the same war. We just get it, that’s all.


  1. I think it's great that you have someone who has shared the same experiences you have. Even if your perspective was different because of age, etc, to have someone who just understands can mean a lot.

  2. It's cool that now you and your sister can talk, relate and laugh at it all. At this age in our lives that's the best thing to do with all the craziness from our pasts.
    PS if you want to torture your son with the exact same looking pancho I can send you an authentic one while I'm here, just send me your address. ;-)

  3. My brother & I are 9 years apart, and I always feel like his 2nd mom or cool older aunt. We have the same relationship, although he didn't go through as much dysfunction as I did.

  4. People (of normal families) are always shocked that I'm not more shocked at the goings on of my clan. It's like your sister & you- you just get it because it is what it is. Nothing more, nothing less.