Thursday, June 26, 2014

On Being Family

I'm in Chicago, at a hotel, and I'm having trouble winding down for the night. When I get back to Seattle, I foresee quite a bit of downtime for recovery.

I'm here visiting family. It's been good to see them, but it's also been overwhelming. Seeing family is normally tiring after a few days, but my family in Chicago is a special case. Imagine twenty or more of the most extreme extroverts unintentionally ganging up on you, all of them coming and going, or sitting and chatting, speaking words faster than your brain can process them, all at the same time and not necessarily in English, most of them taking turns talking with you, each of them deserving the title of "Comedian" -- if you could only focus hard enough or listen at supersonic speeds (they always laugh at the jokes thirty seconds before you even realize a joke is being told) -- and that's not counting their kids who are running back and forth and screaming funny nonsense, arms flailing, the oddballs half naked; and you're giving hugs hello as some relatives arrive and hugs goodbye as some leave, many whom you've never met before, and if you're not paying attention, you might get knocked over by a little one planting her arms around one of your legs. Then, as you take your leave for the night, your grandmother -- standing up to hug you even though she struggles to stand at all -- tells you that she loves you, that she's glad that you came, and glad that she could see you again before she dies.

I'm not good enough family for any one of them, but I am glad to have them, nonetheless.

Tomorrow night, my aunt is having everyone over. I'm not optimistic about my ability to participate in two-way conversations. I harbored a small amount of optimism before I came to Chicago; I was sure there were meaningful questions to ask, things to learn about my family, etc., but now I can barely secure a steady train of thought. Writing these paragraphs was like trying to get a frightened, panicked crowd organized into a single-file line. My brain is fried.

I'll probably stutter and blabber tomorrow (unless there are drinks, of course -- in which case I'll probably stutter in the most eloquent of ways). Regardless, I'll be myself, and it'll be no surprise to anyone; they are family, after all. Earlier, my mom was telling a story to my aunt about how, on occasion, she accidentally calls one of my nephews by my name because he reminds her of me. My aunt asked, "Why? Because he's so quiet?"

Yes: they know me a little, at least.

I don't need to be the best uncle, or the best cousin, or the best nephew, or the best grandson, or the best brother, or the best son. But I wouldn't mind letting my family know that I care. I hope they can tell, even if I'm showing them in my own limited way.



Anonymous said...

I too enjoy my family gatherings but only in carefully controlled doses. My head is not accustomed to such noise. My mind is not accustomed to such raucous activity. I sympathize with you.

Mei lian

Zeri Kyd said...

Seems that we're like-minded, Mei. :-)