A tenuous link

How did the family barbecue go in the end? I guess it went OK. On the way there I wanted to get off the train and turn around several times. Towards the end of the journey I heard myself asking: ‘why am I putting myself through this?’ As I reached the front gate of my aunt’s house the same voice in my head said ‘oh, fuck’. I really shouldn’t have been so petrified, but I was. Anyone could have answered the door; a cousin I hadn’t seen in months, a half brother I hardly knew, an uncle or aunt I’d never met before. Luckily the aunt who had invited me, the relative I knew the best, answered the door apparently happy to see me. I walked out to the back garden where the food was nearly ready and I found my uncle Patrick, the final part of the family that I had never met, and he looked the spitting image of my father and it was a little spooky. I saw not for the first time what I will probably look like in thirty years from now, which can be weird.

My father was there with his wife and kids and he was the one I spoke to most yesterday. Though we hadn’t seen each other in a year we managed to slip back into friendly small talk quite easily. Even my step mother was being friendly, not that she isn’t always pleasant but she might have been a bit less pleasant yesterday, given that I was supposed to go over to their house a few months ago and just didn’t turn up.

I didn’t really get past the feeling of not wanting to be there. It was nice seeing dad and my aunt Mary again, but as far as all the others were concerned I might as well have not been there. Oh, I had a very brief chat with my aunt Anne’s carer Harriet, a lovely woman who seems to understand what I’m going through more than anyone else, and when no one else was present she asked if I was really nervous. I told her that I was, and I think she was about to respond with something useful when Anne showed up needing her. It was nice to know that someone had spotted the fear in my eyes. I hope the others realised at some point that I was so quiet because I was nervous, and not just because I was being unfriendly.

In desperate need of a meeting I left the barbecue at 5.30 so that I could make it to Notting Hill for 6.30. Saying goodbye to everyone was an ordeal in itself, ridiculously. What if someone thought: how rude of him to leave before dessert? I was full up and knew I couldn’t manage dessert anyway. Logically I knew that I had every right to leave, that I wasn’t committing any crimes and how could anyone possibly be offended? I know I’m not that important, but in my head I guess I still am. The people-pleasing instinct has kept me at many uncomfortable social events long past the point where I wanted to be there before.

Mary drove me back to the train station and we talked a bit about how the day had gone, not about anything important. I would love to think that we will see more of each other in the future. I still feel close to her and it would be great if we could get back t o the way things were when we were meeting up for coffee in Hammersmith and talking honestly about everything important. It would also be nice to think that I might see more of my father now that we are officially back in touch. Until this week I thought maybe things had died between us again. After I didn’t show up for that family meal earlier in the year I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself, convinced he would be angry enough to not want me as a son again. Why wouldn’t he be angry? Yesterday he didn’t seem angry at all (not that he’s the type to show feelings anyway – sometimes I don’t think he has any feelings) but in fact he was being rather nice to me. I hope we can continue seeing each other. Sometimes I ask myself why it is so important to maintain a relationship with people who you only share a biological link with. Why is that biological link so important in our society? With most of my family it’s not like I have loads of things in common; I don’t know enough about my father to say that I like him as a person. But whenever I see him I can’t help feeling a deep fondness for him. When I see him I see where I came from. Maybe I do know him, maybe I see myself in him. The pull of the genes must be stronger than I ever thought it could be.

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One thought on “A tenuous link

  1. Genes do matter. there is a much stronger connection to family members than others. who knows what the exact nature of that bond is. but we are tied up with them more than other humans. like all the others, our job is to be of service to them. this can be harder if we built up a history of resentment. we just have to try and see past that to their basic humanity, and try to do the right thing. not easy!
    glad you had a nice barbie. i dont think you do, but it would be a mistake to dismiss the connection with these people as ‘merely biological’. there is more to the family connection than that. nothing is that simple really.
    i like this u2 song about troubled relationships with dads..

    U2 – Dirty Day – ZooTv Sydney

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