Life Volume 1: The Family Tree

There is this tree that we call our family. Each limb holds a position. Each branch divides and splits in their own subdivision.

There are mothers, brothers, cousins, uncles, fathers and aunts and there are the extended families, which are not related by blood, but more than blood is the mutual connection that is stronger than blood itself. This tree represents the names and the faces and the position which they hold as a family member. Their designation is by title alone. However, as we all know, our titles have meanings. 

First and foremost, I think it is only fair to say that not all titles are fit. Not everyone deserves their rank. Not everyone gets what they deserve. Not everyone gets what’s coming but yet, we get what we get, regardless of rank, titles, need or wants. Sometimes we fall short. Sometimes the roles are empty and the position is vacant.

Whether it is a son, daughter, husband or wife, before we are anything, we are human. We are more than a rank or a position in the family tree. Before anything, we are the blood and bone, the heart and soul, the chemistry and with faults and all, this is who we are. However, through the terms of endearment as defined by our emotions, Moms are supposed to be Moms and Dads are supposed to be Dads. Grandparents hold their role that is almost like royalty. We have the matriarchs and the patriarchs of the family. However, if life were like a Hallmark card or if life was anything like it is in the movies or a television show, perhaps our family problems would be settled by the end of holiday weekend.

Unfortunately, we are only human. And life is not scripted. This means we come with emotions and ideas. We have unexpected events. There are breakups and divorces, arguments and incidents that cannot be overcome. We have memories and recollections of letdowns or worse, there are boundaries that are defined by the rules and the roles we play in this thing we call the family tree.

However, if there is a break in the branches or if there is an unsettlement or dispute and moreover, if there is a violation of the boundaries in place, the line which has been crossed cannot always be uncrossed. 

Think about the times we have seen our family in arguments. Or wait, no. let’s make it simple. Think about the times we watched our parents do things we hate. We saw this and swore we would never do this. We swore we would never be that way. And yet, somehow, we find ourselves in similar paths and operating in similar patterns. 

Even if we behave differently and the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction, we are still operating in a behavior which is based on the lessons we learned. Therefore, since the mind is a record of the past, our mind is calculating figures and ideas which are based on past experiences and past recollections that are only relative to us and not always in an accurate way. 

As for the tree, we all have our own. We have our own limbs and branches and our own splits, divisions and subdivisions. This is why weddings can be hard to plan.

Think about it:
Uncle Sid hasn’t spoken to Aunt Nancy in almost ten years because of the Christmas incident and cousin Thomas can’t sit near Aunt Betty because Thomas stole money from her purse after he came home from rehab and Aunt Betty swore she would never forgive him. Plus, cousin Shawn didn’t come to Grandma’s funeral because he was too busy at the office, so no one speaks to him, but we love him and we want him to come to the wedding . . .
(Just kidding on this, but in all seriousness, I have been part of different weddings and the conversations were not too far away from the above.)

Getting back to the boundaries and getting back to the positions we hold in the family tree, let’s get back to the names and the terms of endearment, like Dad or Mom or we can deal with the umbrella of them all and focus on the word Family.

What does this word mean?
We have an idea of what this should mean but oftentimes our definition does not match what we have. We see outside of our family as people; however, Moms and Dads are still human, even if we forget that they are. Life does not stop for them. Their chemistry, depression or mental challenges are still the same. So role or not, present or not, still, we are always going to be human first.

The truth is we slip. We make mistakes. We bicker and we argue and we create rifts. This happens. We break up and split the tree. We hurt and we harbor; we resent and we hold grudges. More aptly, and in all fairness, we mourn because the role we wanted in our life was not the role we had.

Sometimes we take this personally. Sometimes this becomes a violation without any foreseeable solution. Sometimes we result with ideas like abandonment. We allow this to reflect upon our worth. And sadly, sometimes and for some people, there seems to be a piece missing; as if to say, I never had a father or mother or grandparent, which is almost like not having an arm or a leg. Or, some might say they had them but yet, they didn’t really have a Dad or a Mom, or Grandma or someone to call, Gramps.

I can say that I’ve wished for more. I can say that I’ve turned around wishing to see the faces of people I’ve always wanted to be closer with. I wish I was closer to them but life had different plans. There are times when I trained so hard and learned as best as I could with hopes of turning around to see people in the audience, beaming with pride, because of “Look who I became”.

There is nothing more unalterable than our past. There is nothing more unalterable than the way others live or behave. There is us. There is me and there is you. There is they and them. There are the people in our life that live with their own hang-ups and their own personal challenges. I am one of them and so are you.

There are the people in our family that have their own dilemmas and their personal sicknesses, which are not our fault, per se, but yet, there are times when we hold a blemish in our heart. There are the aches and pains over relationships that were never what we needed them to be. There are the lies we were told. There are the unknown factors that contribute to why people act the way they do or say what they say.

There were times when my resentments went so deeply that the significance of my resentments were detrimental to my health as well as detrimental to my relationships. Whether intimate or superficial, still, I knew why there was a problem. I knew where this came from. I knew there was something inside of me. There was a force in me, like the aftershock of a pain that comes from personal violations and/or abusive memories.

I used to hold this so close the same as a child holds a teddy bear to keep them safe . . .
And do you know what?
It didn’t work.

Had I never come to learn what I’ve learned or had I never come to the understanding of the tree and the positions we play in each others life; had I never accepted this or had I never came to the understanding that someone else’s issues are not my problem and more importantly, had I never learned to forgive my past, I don’t know that I would have ever been able to successfully move forward.

Back when I was a boy and trying to learn how to ride a bicycle, The Old Man was behind me, holding onto the seat so that I wouldn’t fall. I think about this and I think about the first time I ever hit a golf ball with a perfect swing. I remember the walks on New Year’s morning at the beach in Point Lookout.

Sometimes I feel like a kid on a bicycle, turning around to see if my Father is watching. And sometimes it is sad because I turn to look and no one is there. I openly admit this as a symbol of strength because this is what growth is; by openly admitting the ideas we have and the thoughts we think – this is growth, whereas, this was never dared to be shared, now I speak about this in groups and in presentations.

I wish there were more memories. I wish I had more memories with others in my family. But nevertheless, that which is not within my control is not within my control. I have accepted this. I’ve forgiven me and them so that if the opportunity ever comes, we can reconcile and have the chance to recreate the relationship we’ve always wanted.

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