Thursday, November 08, 2007

Illegal Family

Still not particularly inspired on any given topic. My grandfather's memorial is this Saturday and I have a strange sense of.....dread, ambivalence and anxiousness.

I have a weird relationship with that side of the family. Legally, of course, they aren't family, as my stepdad adopted us, which severed all legal ties with them. Emotionally, I was very attached to my grandfather and my aunt J in the early years after the divorce of my mom and bio-dad. I looked up to J so earnestly when I was a kid and she remains the source of the single best piece of advice I have ever been given:

Well, if you're not having the relationship you want with your family, cultivate sources of support where you can find them. Life is too short to force a relationship upon someone who can never give you what you want.

J didn't always take her own advice, nor did I, and J kind of went....nutty. She married a Jewish guy, went balls-on Jewish, had kids and put them in Jewish schools, and became fairly active in the local Jewish community. This was pretty shocking, given that her family was decidedly agnostic, if not atheist. Her brother (my illegal uncle), a truly decent guy, didn't share his family's lack of faith and he was sometimes referred to as a Jesus freak. Incidentally, that brother (his only living son) wrote the obit, including the line about "going to be with his Lord." While it is entirely possible and perhaps likely that Doc developed a faith in his later years, I snorted when I saw that particular turn of phrase. I actually wrote a more comprehensive obit, but apparently didn't make the deadline.

Where J was concerned, the Jewish thing definitely wasn't the issue. She just became so different from the wildly independent woman I had long admired, and she suddenly seemed like a Stepford wife. I couldn't reconcile her wholesale adoption of a new persona with the woman I long believed would wander the earth (pun intended) in search of new friendships, new lovers, new experiences and new stories and lessons to impart to me. She went from being my role model, at least in terms of independence and feminism, to this wife-bot who bore little resemblance to her earlier self. She had been such a strong role model for me in my earlier years. I still hate Seventeen magazine because of her.

When I moved back to Seattle and in (briefly) with biodad, I saw her occasionally. I didn't really like her anymore. She was still married to the Jewish guy, who I liked, and had two beautiful daughters, but I thought she took advantage of my grandfather, who doted on his only girl. She also positively exhausted me. One night with J and I needed three alone. But while I didn't necessarily like her, I still loved her. Still, too, I was pretty removed from that clan.

I maintained a relationship with my grandfather because he was one of the most interesting people I had ever known. Dynamic. Presence. Interesting. Politically minded. Loved Husky football. And very down to earth. I told B about his death instinctively, as Doc was someone in my family with whom he had no issue and complete respect. I loved Doc because he was part of my early childhood, then adulthood, and our relationship was devoid of drama.

So this is rambling, but now, with Doc's death and the occasion to remember him, J has completely tried to reconnect. This is a very admirable and loving gesture, except J still exhausts the hell out of me. J - and her life - just exude drama. J got divorced from the Jewish guy probably a decade ago, yet that relationship is still drama, despite her remarriage. Her daughters have drama, albeit completely founded. And everyone over there knows that Doc and I had a tight relationship, at least until a year ago, and that I am pretty skilled at reconciling warring opinions. I also have reams of emails where his understanding of his complicated trust instrument is revealed to be at odds with the words on the documents.

And I just don't want to be in the middle of anything. I don't want any drama in any form and I seem to have a weakened sense when it comes to emotionally taxing people. I recoil and avoid, which is so not my typical style. Together with my tendency to assume some kind of leadership and spokesmanship role, I sort of feel a perfect storm approaching unless I disavow any involvement.

That is my current plan. Just show up like any other mourner, exchange stories and memories, then go home and remember him in my own way.

1 comment:

Talix said...

Post-death familial financial wrangling makes the baby Jeebus weep and vomit simultaneously. I had always been grateful that there wasn't enough money in my family to warrant the incredibly entitled, self-centered behavior I saw in other families...until it happened in mine. I have never been so glad that I don't have heirs who will tear the family apart over money they think they are owed.