Saturday, August 08, 2009

All in the family

I always feel like I should be beginning a blog post with "Dear Diary." Ha.

What is it like to be a part of a dysfunctional family? (See Gluckel raising hand wildly and shrieking "Call on ME! Call on ME!").

I think I am a part of one, and also married into one. No, I'm certain of it.

This month, my father lost his job. It was expected for quite some time, and he and my also unemployed (but purposefully) mother don't seem to be too upset about it. They have a cushion, she is over retirement age and he is nearing it, and they have good health insurance. Woot.

But wait, you say, where's the dysfunction? My parents told me not to discuss it with my grandmothers. Fine, I can do that. a 90 year old and a 94 year old don't need to hear about it from their granddaughter. But when my grandmother and I speak and she goes ON and ON about how glad she is that my dad is doing well at work, that things are going smoothly, that she spoke to him just yesterday and he sounded so good....well, that seems pretty unacceptable. What would you have said?

Parenthetically, this is from the parental set who have always kept secrets... like when my sister was hit by a UPS truck on her bike, when my father had triple bypass, when my mother had a stent put in and it burst and she was hospitalized for a week (yes, heart disease, I get it). I didn't find out about any of this stuff till after it was a done deal.

Then, just in case you thought my family was disfunctional all alone, same thing happens on the inlaws' side. Grandma is hospitalized less than a mile from my house? Don't tell us till it's been more than 24 hours, because who would want to visit? More o' the same.

I wonder what purpose this all serves. For me, it's caused me to worry. Which is kind of funny because my parents have always said to me, "well, it'll all be fine, we didn't want you to worry, which is why we didn't tell you in the first place." I know that's why they're not sharing their bad news with my need to worry them about something that might upset them.

But isn't it the responsibility of the people we love the most to be there for us when we need them? Isn't that why we surround ourselves with family and friends who can be there, comfort us emotionally and physically, give us a lasagne or invite us over for dinner, or just call us to offer words of support?

I know that many of you secret keepers out there might disagree with me. But I see it as my job in life to be a supportive person; it is my responsibility to every other human being with whom I have a relationship, even a tiny one. I fail regularly but that doesn't mean I don't try. And I resent not being given the chance to be the supportive, loving and concerned child, sister or friend that I can be.

So an open plea to all my relatives/inlaws, and all of you for that matter...
please, don't keep any secrets from me. I can handle the truth. Moreover, so can you. We're all tougher than we realize.


Maya said...

Good luck, Gluckel. What does your mom say when you ask her not to LIE in front of the grandchildren about your father working? Does she distinguish between not relaying information (like omitting to tell the grandchildren that your father isn't working anymore) and lying that he went to work that day?
Glad you're back.

Queen of Laundry said...

I’d say, first, that every family is dysfunctional in its own way. Secondly, to your point, I think it's a "generational" thing. My grandparents z"l rarely talked about money issues with their children (not to mention g’children) and never complained about pains until it was so serious they had to be hospitalized. My parents, may they have long life, also tend to belittle every sickness or pain, but in time cooperate better when we, their children, show interest or investigate them (sometimes you just have to). As for giving information about other family members - they were always very confidential. To me it seems that in the pre-blogs / email / twitter / cell-phones era, before everyone started "reporting themselves" non-stop and everywhere, people were more reserved about their personal information; even within the family. There was value in keeping it secret, in "not making a fuss about it", etc. Personally I find self-restraint an amazing human ability; the "preeminence of man over beast", if you wish. But I totally agree with you that close family should know what's going on (and please excuse my "hebrewized" English; it's not my mother tongue and... it's Thursday night. Here in Israel, anyway).