3.19.2005

Super Family Tension

Sometimes those closest to you are the most annoying.

I don't know why that is. If you love someone, you should want to spend as much time in their presence as possible, yet long periods of time around the same people can sometimes result in tension. Outside frustrations can often enter the home as well, resulting in misplaced outbursts to those who don't understand. In The Incredibles, the father is bored and unfulfilled in his job. At the dinner table he can barely pay attention to his family, and runs out with his friend at the first opportunity to go out and use his superpowers. His children, like most siblings, are at each other's throats. The shy daughter cannot get the attention of a boy she likes at school. The son, frustrated that he cannot use his super-speed powers and go out for sports, acts out in class playing practical jokes on his teacher. The children are upset with their lives and take it out on each other, and it isn't until later in the movie when they're facing real villains that they demonstrate their love and willingness to defend each other. It's a strange paradox that family and fighting go hand-in-hand. It's only natural to see this reflected in super families. How often have we seen the Fantastic Four bicker among themselves? If memory serves, even the Bionic Six had their problems.

This morning as I was eating my breakfast, my dad asked me to call a trumpet player tomorrow whose band we usually play for. This coming Friday we’re all playing a gig for someone else, and since he doesn't drive my dad wanted me to ask him if he needed a ride. I have a new supervisor at work and I'm still settling in to new procedures, but when my dad told me on Thursday that he'd accepted a job that started at 5:30, I sent my new boss an e-mail asking to take the day off. I spent the majority of my day yesterday in meetings as did my supervisor, and we all had other things to talk about. Not understanding my profession or the current situation in my office, my dad has repeatedly assured me, “Oh, they'll let you out early. It's Good Friday; I doubt the office will be open all day.” Having recently worked a full day in a blizzard, I had my doubts and knew it would be less stressful to take a day off if I could, rather than rush to get everything done, run home and change, run out to pick up the trumpet player on the South part of Long Island, and then jet back to Queens in the North. I'm considerably less of a workhorse than my father, and it would be just too much to handle for me.

He kept pressing the issue this morning. “Are you going to call Tony? You should call Tony. Tony might need a ride. Are you listening?” I was in fact barely awake as I ate my breakfast, and was registering what he was saying about as much as I was registering this morning's TMNT. I told him I didn't know if I had the day off yet and couldn't make definite plans until I called my boss on Monday to confirm. “Oh, you might not go then? I'm sure you can get out an hour early.” he said in a slightly irritated tone. In a perfect case of mistakenly bringing outside problems into the home and taking them out on those you love, I exploded and unleashed all my concerns about work, stressing that my job was my first priority over music even though he never understood that, and he shouldn’t have accepted a job FOR me without checking first. He shrugged and sobered me up quickly by pointing out that all he was asking was a simple question, and why was I getting so upset? At this point my mom came in and rebuked us both for yelling, since she had been on the phone with her cousin's daughter who finally had the results of her mother's autopsy: Juvenile Diabetes. It's rare that this would manifest in adults and so doctors dismissed her dizzy spells and it was far too late by the time she was brought to the hospital unconscious. Perhaps the broken leg she had at the time did something to trigger it, or perhaps it was just a fatal distraction for the doctors.

I'm very lucky that MY parents are still alive. My mom has lived with asthma most of her life and I have many scary childhood memories of the emergency room. Once the police had to pick me up from school because she was rushed to the hospital and my dad was still at work. My dad has been living in the shadow of a heart condition for over a decade now, and I've lived in fear of his mortality since high school, concerned any time he's seemed winded at a parade or while shoveling snow. A man of pride frustrated with not being able to work as hard as he once did, he himself has often lashed out with an “I'm fine!” or an “I'm not dead yet!” when I expressed concern or tried to pry a snow shovel from his hands. Recently after yet another of his longtime friends passed away, he's been more mellow about it and thinking of the future, showing me where to hit our oil burner when it stops working and telling me I have to learn how to take care of the house “when he's gone.”

Ironically, the best way to respect those closest to me was to get away from them for a few hours. I was wound tight today and knew from experience I would continue to say things I would regret, with insignificant provocation. I grabbed a book I'd neglected for months and got in my car, letting it take me where it would. It's easy to forget what a magical place I live in, how anywhere from a five to a fifteen minute drive can lead me to some secluded beach and away from suburbs and strip malls. I found myself several towns away and drove through a park to a quiet beach. The only sounds to be heard were the lapping of waves, the mournful cries of seagulls, and children playing lacrosse in a field at the end of the parking lot. I rolled down my window, leaned back, and enjoyed my book and my spontaneous “vacation.” It was the first time in weeks that I wasn't thinking about the calendar, or my job, or my musical dates, or even fun things like DVDs and the internet. I was able to relax and get a good amount of reading done for a few hours.

The author of that FF site raised a good point that they fight because they spend so much time together. Ultimately, I was reminded of family tension when I heard a father call out to his son, “Come ON! MOVE! You run like a FIFTY-year-old! There's NO reason to have missed that open goal!” When I was around the same age as the kids in that field, maybe 10 or 11, my own parents made me go out for soccer for one season. When they saw I was unhappy with it and would rather spend my Saturday mornings watching cartoons, they were concerned and disappointed but let me quit. I think I was drawn to that beach today to overhear that father, and to appreciate my own parents once more. On the way to church earlier this evening I told my mom what I'd heard, and as if knowing what I was thinking she said, “See? Your father and I weren't so bad.” Of course when she went on to remind me that they never said I ran like a fifty-year-old on the field, just that I looked like I was doing ballet, I began to feel tense and claustrophobic all over again.

Family: You gotta love ‘em.

3 Comments:

Blogger Kelly said...

Wow, this is a very apt post for my weekend. I'm also having a disagreement with my dad that's been simmering for about a week. We had a dad-and-daughter dinner last night and got it mostly settled, but I can really empathize with your experience there.

I hope you post your thoughts about Wolves of the Calla when you finish it. I started the final book, #7, a few months ago but just can't get into it. The other 6, though, were very good.

3/20/2005 8:44 PM  
Blogger FawnDoo said...

As Peter Kay says, "old people, you can't beat them...pity." :-) Reading through your post hit a lot of chords with me - when I lived at home thinkgs between my parents and I got tense from time to time - sometimes seemed like they were going out of their way to drive me crazy. I have to say though that since I moved out into my own place, our relationship has evened out a lot...maybe it was the enforced proximity of living together that drove us mad.

Your points about your dad's mortality hit me too - I have lost two grandparents in the past 4 years, and almost lost another after a major heart scare. I'm still slightly afraid whenever I look at him, reminded of the fact that he's old, and there are more days behind him than there are in front. Strange thing to get my head around because stupid as this makes me sound, a little bit of my brain thinks that just because he has always been there, he always will be.

3/21/2005 1:10 PM  
Blogger FawnDoo said...

As Peter Kay says, "old people, you can't beat them...pity." :-) Reading through your post hit a lot of chords with me - when I lived at home thinkgs between my parents and I got tense from time to time - sometimes seemed like they were going out of their way to drive me crazy. I have to say though that since I moved out into my own place, our relationship has evened out a lot...maybe it was the enforced proximity of living together that drove us mad.

Your points about your dad's mortality hit me too - I have lost two grandparents in the past 4 years, and almost lost another after a major heart scare. I'm still slightly afraid whenever I look at him, reminded of the fact that he's old, and there are more days behind him than there are in front. Strange thing to get my head around because stupid as this makes me sound, a little bit of my brain thinks that just because he has always been there, he always will be.

3/21/2005 1:10 PM  

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