I have a neice on my wife's side. In her early thirties, she lives in Florida with her mother and her stepfather. She also works for them, mostly for her mother, who has a business.
We're Facebook friends, where we can keep tabs on each other's life. While my posts tend to be about politics, economics, science and animals, her posts tend to be about drinking, partying and eating.
We've not heard from her since we last saw her. We haven't received any birthday or holiday greetings, nothing about anniversaries, nothing on my FB page about likes and dislikes, nothing shared.
We used to send her gifts and cards. We slowly withdrew from doing so as it became more one dimensional - i.e., we were sending her stuff and not getting anything back, including thank you.
So, oh, well. That's the sort of person she is.
But this week she contacted me via FB. She's running in a half-marathon for charity. She wants sponsors to help her raise money. Will we sponsor her?
I put it to my wife. She laughs. "No. Let's see, we hear nothing from her until she wants support for her cause or money, and then we're supposed to ask, 'How much?' No."
Okay. That's the sort of people we are.
I'm thinking of family more recently in light of Nick Crews' email to his children, telling them how disappointed he is in them. I blame him for some of it. I don't know. It's like a traffic accident: there are often a number of contributing conditions to what went wrong.
A friend of our's, who is about fifteen years older than us, with a daughter about fifteen years younger than us, was talking about this. Her daughter, we'll call her Lisa for easy reference, is very interesting, a professional college student pursuing her doctorate and living off grants. She's into her second marriage. They each have children from their first marriage.
They live frugally, even austerely. They accept that's necessary for her to pursue her education.
So our friend went to visit Lisa's family. It was part of a birthday celebration. Lisa's husband daughter was throwing a birthday party for her boyfriend. Come on, everyone, let's party. Sounded like fun.
Well, a number of things went wrong, most of it due to poor planning. Like flowers were to be used to celebrate the boyfriend's birthday but they selected a sports bar for the location so he could watch Oregon play Oregon State during his party. There wasn't any place for the dozens of flower arrangements to be put in the sports bar. They ended up piled up on the floor.
A cake was brought in but never served because the boyfriend decided he wanted to take it home to his Mom. Well, okay, he's young, maybe a little immature....
Lisa's second husband is about fifteen years older than her. His daughter is thirty-five. Her boyfriend is thirty-six.
That piece of the whole thing floored me. I'm probably wrong and being judgmental but damn, you think they would have better planning skills by now.
Meanwhile, our friend, Lisa, and Lisa's husband were talking about the holiday gift exchange. They agreed not to buy one another gifts, except for small and inexpensive stocking stuffers. They would instead give to charities or buy gifts to be donated to needy families.
Sounded good. They were pleased by their decision. "Oh," Lisa asked her husband, "What about your daughter?"
"No," he said. "She'll expect several gifts."
So an exception would be made for her so that she could receive gifts.
Hearing that, though, I wondered about the father and his part in all this. I don't know him or her. I'm hearing the story via a retelling. I don't know all the nuances of their relationship. The fates know that my own record with family relationships isn't good but only I know my story about the waters that went under the bridges supporting these relationships.
I know another woman, a wonderful friend, whose husband is an only child. She's now forty-five and he's forty. They've been married ten years. Although he had a job in construction and was employed full time, he lived with his parents, who were retired. They had a small home and he didn't actually have a bedroom, sleeping on their kitchen floor. According to my friend, his wife, he didn't give his parents any money for rent or to run the household. He had nothing saved up when they married, having spent all that he made, mostly on parties. But the kicker for me was that, even after marrying, her husband took his dirty clothes home to his mother each week so she would wash them, as she had all his life.
Yes, I judge. I judge, knowing my judgment is imperfect, willing to suspend it if I learn more. I probably won't ever really learn more.
That's okay. People have secrets, but probably influencing my ability to learn more is that life and relationships are complicated. Minds and emotions are complicated. I could write a book trying to tell it all about my family.
And it wouldn't be fiction.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com