“No one fights dirtier or more brutally than blood; only family knows it’s own weaknesses, the exact placement of the heart. The tragedy is that one can still live with the force of hatred, feel infuriated that once you are born to another, that kinship lasts through life and death, immutable, unchanging, no matter how great the misdeed or betrayal. Blood cannot be denied, and perhaps that’s why we fight tooth and claw, because we cannot—being only human—put asunder what God has joined together.”
― Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt
What they don’t tell you about family in all those shows that you wake up early to watch on Saturday morning, where the mother is cooking waffles, and the dad is reading the paper, while the kids scarf down breakfast before rushing off to school with their well packed lunches – and everyone is smiling– is that these aren’t the normal times – they are the exception to the rule. That more often than not there is gut wrenching anger. There is heart breaking disappointment. There is loneliness amidst family gatherings filled with turkey and cranberry sauce and lies covering conversation like bread covering butter. That there are days when you can’t even look at your brother or your dad or your sister or cousin without your stomach twisting in distaste. There are days where the people who profess to love you make you feel like the dirt and dredge that street sweepers brush loudly into the gutters.
You love them because you were meant to. You were made to. You love them because no matter how bad those dinks treat you – in twenty years they’re going to be the only ones in your life who still count. Their kids will call you Aunt – and whether you are the bad aunt that the family whispers about at holidays is of no consequence – you are still an Aunt. You are still a sister. You are still a daughter. You are still a cousin.
Hateful words don’t mean a hateful heart – more often than not they just mean someone is afraid. Whether they come around eventually doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are there for whenever, if ever, they do. What matters is that you don’t hold this awful bitterness in your heart that turns it so hard that when things finally have the chance to fix themselves, the gears of your heart are so rusted with hate that they’ll never know how to properly turn again.
These are the things I have to remember.
Because my family is so dysfunctional that I don’t know if we’ll ever know how to love each other properly – but I want to be ready if we ever do.