Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Family Circus


Wednesday in Waikiki!

click on the photos-on parade
"Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses."

"Be not ashamed of mistakes, and thus make them crimes."

"It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop."
This, and quotes above it: Confucious

"You don't choose your family.
They are God's gift to you, as you are to them."
Desmond Tutu

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When I first moved to Hawaii, it was disconcerting when folks asked about my family.
Family, OHANA, is a most important part of our local culture, growing out of the Hawaiian
host culture, and the other cultures (Asian, Pacific Islander, Madeira Portuguese) that make up the fabric of our island society.

Western culture is much more individualistic, the mountain man, explorer, or cowboy, heads out to test himself against the frontier. Plus, I was always the odd man out in my family. My brother, a few years ago, told me that he realized that it was kinda the 3 of them vs me; it was the only family solidarity they knew!

So when local people asked me about my family, I felt confused and disregarded.
"I'm not a part of a family, I'm ME! Not the screw-up my parents abhorred, but a good person!"

My brother, one the other hand, lived very close my parents (after they followed their grandchildren to Hawaii) and they practically raised his 2 children, while backing him in the acquisition of credit and mortgages, and all the help represented by being part of a family.

Any planned attempts at family healing was "about me" and always devolved into hurtful re-plays of my childhood: me VS the "normal" people. If only I could confess whatever evil or shortcoming they hate!

But as in childhood, healthy self-preservation kicked in
and I withdrew or rebelled as always.
Yes, my parents gave me the tools, and role models, to work well with others! Looking back from today, I see how the chip on my shoulder (Don't you dare treat me as "less than!") was the defining feature of my interactions with others and society at large. No wonder I took up ministering to the untouchables and outcasts!
Only service turned down the self-loathing.
There. I said it.

I was Odysseus, out on my own for years.
Then my husband and I were in the boat together.
He taught me to trust another person; and
that I am lovable and good.

When my parents decided to move to Oahu (from the neighbor island) it was to find an easy maintenance apartment, and be close to health care and family (me and hubby!).

They also needed our good credit to buy that apartment.
We have lived modestly so as to always have freedom and options.
Now the folks who handicapped me emotionally (stop snivelling!) needed something rather major from us. I thought of the scorpion asking passage across the pond from the frog. But I also thought of the longed-for opportunity to get close to my parents, and for them to see me as a successful, loving, adult.

Old habits die hard.
My happiness and solicitousness seemed to annoy them as "phony" or maybe they felt. . . guilty about how they had always treated me?

I took every opportunity to show affection to them, especially my Dad who I now realize shaped my whole (messed up) outlook on life. Thing is, he didn't live by the rules he taught by example. My nemesis, who ALWAYS found much to criticize about anything I did, rather enjoyed life and was easy on himself. He was even charming to people outside the family! Any problems were someone else's fault (often mine) and were met with anger.
(I never sang for - or pleased my father. Boo Hoo)

My husband and friends noticed what I was up against.

When the newness wore off their son-in-law due to proximity, they started finding fault with him too (the guy who was helping them - "What an idiot, treating HER well!"). Mom told me I "spoil" him with affection. That made me feel like my marriage is on a good track; even if we don't carp and fight like my parents always did).

Dad called business that pertained to his apartment (which was in our names) and passed himself off as my husband, often starting fights or acting rude in the process!! On an Island, your name is your bond. The scorpion was stinging my husband (some thanks) and now treating him as rudely as they always had me.

Dad died last May, and I've realized a lot.
I'm happy that he felt my love, that I was able to help him instead of "getting even;" and in his defense, he wanted me to have a place to live someday, even if it will be after they are done with it - and he was protecting himself from medical impoverishment (PRESCIENT!).

"Your brother has a house;
I want you to have somewhere to live when you get older.
I helped him plenty."

My brothers expectations and hurt feelings about "his inheritance" bubbled over when Dad was dying. Bro and Mom trapped hubby and I into a wrenching argument over Dad's sick bed about putting my brother's name on the deed. Not the mortgage - just the deed. Did I mention that he has emigrated to Canada, now that my parents don't own a huge home he can live in?

"If you need ANY help with Mom & Dad:
Forget it!" He shouted at me over the phone.
As if his duty to be a human was contingent on Dad's (or my) acting in Bro's interests.
What a guy. No wonder Mom adores him and listens to his problems.
A shame she can't bail him out with checks like she always has.

Brother travelled here from Canada a couple of times as Dad lay dying. I'm glad he did, but I'm so shell-shocked by his anger, that I'm basically nervous whenever I think of him.

"Why is my Dad so angry?" my (adult) niece and nephew (his kids) asked me after witnessing a a scene or two of the drama.

So I got to show Dad my love.
Now I'm responsible for Mom's well-being too.
The daughter often is, and I've also noticed that sometimes the Black Sheep returns surprisingly, like the prodigal, and ushers the parents out of this life with devotion and love.
(My brother never read that part of the Bible I guess.)

I miss Dad,
and I'm glad to finally see through the illusions we shared.
I'm also grateful that he wanted to provide for his wayward daughter too. (Someday - but NICE!).

So when folks ask about my family, I understand that they are trying to get to know me, not bring up a painful reaction.

Funny how life turns around.
When I observe good parenting (and many of YOU blog friends who come here are exemplary parents!) it still makes me a little sad for the things that I was hungry for as a kid. But the grand anger has dissipated in the morning light of insight.

As Chinese New Year season ripens upon us, I realize how natural it is for us to worship our ancestors and feel their affection and help. I love my Dad for the tough upbringing that made me strong and independent.
The time for us to butt heads is long passed.
I like to feel that he is freed from his earthly illusions, and that I have been liberated by insight from the world he showed me.

Our Earth story is over now.

I send him my love.
And I miss him.
Strangely more than either Mom or Brother seem to.
It was he and I that had soul-ish business together, I think.

Someday hubby and I will live in the apartment that he provided
with our help.

Thanks Dad.

You can read a post about my Dad that became a guest column in the Honolulu Star Bulletin HERE.

ALOHA! cloudia