Hump Day: Mid-week Musings

April 22, 2010 at 7:51 am (Hump Day: Mid-week Musings)

Well, yes; it is Thursday and not Wednesday.  I am a day late posting this. I had some running around to do which will be clear if you read on. So, I’m sorry I am late.  But, at least, I got this finished.  I hope you all have a great rest of the week.

Family of Choice

There is an old saying that reminds us we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our families.  And, as we know, this is true; families are the results of genetic and environmental randomness.  [At least, on the surface. There are many of us who believe that, metaphysically, there may be more to it than that—but, that’s another topic.]  Sometimes, families work out well for all concerned; sometimes, they don’t.  Those of us who are not heterosexual, in particular, often learn the hard way that we need to create a family of choice to supplement—if not replace—our family or origin. This is true, also, for other folks who are different in some way or other from the cultural and familial norm into which they were born.

In many ways, I, personally, have been very lucky. My parents, overall, are and have been good parents and my brother and I are close.  In addition, I have good relationships with most of my cousins, aunts and uncles, and extended family members.  But, this was not the case with one of my mother’s sisters and her offspring. My aunt and her husband are fundamentalist Christians, fairly opinionated, and just plain quirky. The products of their joining aren’t much better. They had three children [a female and two males] who have grown into self-righteous, judgmental, entitled and—often—down right hateful people.  Just so you know, however, they love God and are just following God’s law in their judgment and treatment of others. Especially me. From the time I was five or six, it was clear that I was different in many ways. I liked to draw. I was active and energetic, but could also get lost in some drawing, book or music. I liked to be alone as much as I liked to play hard. They did not get me. That was fine; I did not get them either. Over the years, we all sort of accepted that we would never have chosen each other.

After I came out, our amicable acceptance of each other become much less civil. About ten years ago, when our grandmother died of ALS, my cousins crossed a line; they moved from a more obvious expression of our mutual dislike and their conviction I am evil and going to hell to a very public shunning of me and punishment of my brother—after all, he had the sad lot of having been born into the same family as I. It is one thing to disrespect and shun me; it is quite another to mistreat my brother. I get my butch daddy back up about my baby brother.  On the day of the funeral, the two male cousins noticed my brother and I walking toward the seats set aside for the grandchildren. The oldest, Kevin, rounded up all of his and his younger brother’s children, sat them in the remaining seats and made sure that my brother and I had nowhere to sit with the family. He and his brother stared at us as they protected their families from the queer cooties that might infect them. It was a gesture not lost on anyone there.  It was humiliating and everything in me wanted to champion my brother.  I wanted to kick some serious ugly-cousin ass.

But, I didn’t. I loved my grandmother and we were very close. I was also one of the few grandchildren who loved our grandfather and wasn’t afraid of him. [He could be a bit hard around the edges.] So, out of respect for my mother’s mother, I walked over to the side of the room and found some seats in the hallway designated to handle overflow. Three of our other cousins saw what happened, left their seats, and came to sit in the hall with us.  These are wonderful women.  They, of course, were born to my mother’s other sister—we are family, if you get my meaning. It was a beautiful moment.  Our homophobic other cousins watched in horrified puzzlement. It was like walking in your first pride march and having your family fall into line with you. The girls might as well have grabbed up some swords from the isle of Lesbos and cut the dicks off of Kevin and Brian.  They looked completely emasculated.

In the midst of all of that mess, there was another thing was both affronting and vindicating for me. A few weeks before she died, I had sent my grandmother a notebook I compiled of small drawings and poems I had created for her.  When my brother and I saw her in the hospital, she had it with her on her nightstand. During the funeral, I became aware—through the tears and sense of loss—that the preacher was saying something about poems written by one of the grandchildren.  As I mentioned, the evil male cousins have an evil sister. She fancies herself special and has a highly developed sense of entitlement. Apparently, she nosed around in grandma’s things and came across my poems. She then made copies for the aunts and uncles and the cousins. In addition, she provided the preacher with a copy so he could choose sections to read. 

So, I am sitting there grieving the loss of my grandmother and realize that the preacher is talking about me and reading from my poems to her. My private words to her were being read at the funeral as tribute to my grandmother. I was a mess.  I felt violated by my cousin. But I was also deeply moved that the preacher saw what I had written to her, recognized the descriptions of her as loving and appropriate, and felt we would all be lifted up by hearing some of those words. It was not his fault that I was not consulted. His reading of my words to her was a kind and beautiful thing. So, now, my hateful cousins were looking over at me sitting in my outcast seat, surrounded by love and acceptance. There we were in solidarity—arms across shoulders, hands linked, joined in grief and affection, each remembering our grandmother in our own ways as the preacher read small celebrations of her written by the black sheep, dyke granddaughter.  As they glared at us, you could see their confused recognition that it was not me or my brother who had been exiled. They were in exile, in more ways than one, and were there of their own choosing. 

I think of this now because my cousin, Kevin, went into the hospital Wednesday morning after suffering a massive heart attack. He is in a hospital about 30 miles away from me. As I write this, we are not sure he will live. Besides us, he is the only member of the family who lives in the south. The rest of the family, including his parents, all live in Indiana and Ohio. At the very same time, the father of one of my closest and dearest friends is in the hospital under similar and very severe circumstances.

So, you may wonder, where am I in all of this. Well, I am with my friend who is like a sister to me and whose father is like an uncle in my family of choice. I took her kids to daycare and will pick them up today while she waits as her father has surgery. I will help with the kids and I will be around for her. My friend. My sister of choice. I will not be at the hospital with my cousin. I’m sure he doesn’t want me there any more than I want to go. It would not serve anything good for me to be there.  Still, I find myself kind of sad that things are as they are. He is an ass; but, he is my cousin. He is family. And, it would be nice if we had been able to have the kind of relationship I have with my other cousins.

But, that is not the case. We would never have chosen each other. And, knowing that makes it easy to choose to be close to home where I can be supportive and helpful to my friend. I’ll be here with my family of choice. As I said, I am lucky. My family of choice includes my parents, my brother, and some really wonderful people who are not the blood of my blood, but might as well be. I choose all of them. And, I am all the better for it.

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4 Comments

  1. Blazer said,

    As I have already told you, I am sorry that both your friend and cousin are going through such difficult times. I know that because you are a caring compassionate person that you take no pleasure in the suffering of your evil cousin, but it is no wonder that there is really no choice in who you will comfort during this time. Blood relations go only so far. Shared DNA does not excuse us from treating each other with respect and kindness regardless of differences in beliefs. I hope both of these men recover from their illnesses and I wish you well my friend.

    • androgynonamous said,

      Thank you so much my friend. I enjoyed our discussion and appreciate your perspective as well as understanding of both my sadness and my conviction in the choices I have made. I believe that my silent well-wishes for my cousin are the most I can do. Your comments here demonstrate your wisdom, understanding and compassion–all things that make you a good friend. [Those things and an ass-kicking sense of humor!!] What a world it would be if shared DNA actualy resulted in kindness and respect…or if these were qualities possessed by a higher number of the population. By the way, my friend’s father came through well and things look good though he is not out of the woods yet. We are praying and hopeful. Evil cousin: no change as yet. As always, your presence here is a gift. Thank you for it. Peace to you..

  2. Scintillectual said,

    You know this strikes such a chord within me as my own sister, and only sibling, has not spoken to me for more than 3 years. It wrenches my gut when anyone, especially blood relatives, can justify hate in the name of God. There was a time when my sister and I were close. You knew her then. Now? We know nothing of each other and honestly, I can’t imagine that we share the same gene pool. It is true that you build your family of choice and those are the people you care about because you deeply, honestly love them, not because they share some strand of your DNA and you feel some sense of duty that they, themselves, don’t share.

    I am glad that your cousin found your poems. No matter how they wound up in that preacher’s hands, your grandmother would have wanted nothing less than to be honored by your words. Darling, you are the kindest, most gentle and caring soul…no one can put you down. Always stand tall ~ for your actions make the others seem puny in comparison.

    I am so very, very proud to be your Sweet Scin.

    • androgynonamous said,

      Sweetheart, my Scin…as we have discussed, the situation with you and your sister both pains and confounds me. My familial strains pale in comparison. I know how deeply you understand my frustrations and sadness with factions of my family. And, I know that you know I am aware of how little comfort there is for your situation. It still astounds me–such a different sister now than the one I knew. I believe that your summary of our families of choice gets at the core of the issue eloquently. Well said. I, too, am glad the preacher read passages of my poems…It would have been nice to have given my permission to pass them round the family; but, I know in my heart grandma was pleased with them and that is what matters.
      Each time I read your comments here, I am full–that you see me as you do, that you love me as you do, faults and all, is the soul gift that no circumstance, no indignity suffered, no being misunderstood or unseen in the world, can take from me; it is the most marvelous [literal meaning] gift and I take it with me each day, everywhere. If I could give you one single thing, it would be that you see yourself–for one day–as I see you. That you see the depth of your compassion, capacity for love, the kind and caring nature that is you and that feeds all the other qualities you possess. I am honored by your love of me. And, I am proud beyond measure to be your sweet baby boi. I could not ask for more…And, I choose you, each day anew, over and over and delight in your acceptance of my choice.

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