The Family You Have

My sister emailed me over the weekend; she asked if it would be possible for me to visit Michigan next month for her daughter’s birthday and an event at her son’s school.

Her email initially bugged.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ve lived in the Northeast for seven years, and I can count on two fingers the amount of times she’s been to see me and my family here.  Yes, you read that right.  Two.   If I want to see my family, which I try to do once a year or so, it’s generally up to me to make the trip.

It’s not like I haven’t asked, or invited, or even begged her and her family to make the trip out here.  We’re so close to New York City, I tell them.  We can go in and eat great food and see a Broadway show.  Or visit Ground Zero.  Or Times Square.  Or we could go to Boston.  Boston is so great with all of the historical things you can do.  Or, we can visit my grandparents, who live just three and a half hours to my south.  There’s a lot here.

But no.  It never happens.  My daughter’s First Communion, my son’s college graduation, my son’s First Communion….all went by without her (or her family’s) presence.  And don’t even mention my brother….he’s never even been to the place I’ve called home for seven years.  Not once.  One year I organized a trip for us to all meet in Pittsburgh to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday, all three of us.  This way they could meet in the middle, it wouldn’t be expensive for them, and everyone could be together.  You would have thought I’d asked them for the moon.  Their drive clocked in at five hours, ours was nearly eight.  But whatever.

It’s made me bitter, frankly, and at least on my end, put a wedge in the relationship.  Because it all feels very much like a one way street.  I’m sure they would beg off, saying that we’re better off financially and in more of a position to do the visiting.  And in some ways, they’re right, which is why I have put myself in the car for the last several summers.  Summer trips that have been punctuated by knock down drag out fights between my brother and I.  Trips that make me angrier and angrier with each mile I travel on each side of the trip.

I am trying very hard to accept that this is my family.  They’ve always been this way, and they’re not going to change any time soon.  My being able to visit shouldn’t be about anything but whether or not I can swing all of the arrangements that need to be made to allow me away from my life for three days.  It shouldn’t be about the mental scorecard I’m guilty of keeping, or any bitterness I feel.  It should just be about the fact that these people are my blood, the only people in the world who have known me since I was born.  It certainly isn’t my niece or nephew’s fault that their parents haven’t made visiting us a priority in their world.  If I want to see them, it’s clear that this mountain has to go to Muhammed.

There are days, though, that I wonder truly how it is I ended up related to these people.  Truly.

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