I do not believe that biological bonds automatically make family. Family must be earned through respect, accountability, and nurturing, which occurs far less frequently in bloodlines that we care to admit. In a way, I consider the people with whom I am closest to be “family.” But they are chosen family–god family, really, for nothing is holier than love freely given and love freely received.
You may have noticed I rarely discuss my biological family in the present though I am the queen of memory lane. That is because I stay away from them for reasons that are too complex and too raw to air here. Suffice it to say I learned the hard way that my emotional and physical health required distance that was more than geographic. I adore my little sister but we have had a hard time in the wake of our different responses to the same battlefield. My parents and I experience an even wider abyss.
But this summer I’ve been writing about my biological family for the book to which I have been referring, and so I visit them all the time, at least in my imagination and memory. This is wonderful and this is harrowing. Mostly, it is harrowing. I’m spending a lot of time as a four-year-old at the mercy of charismatically flawed humans who probably should not have had kids. It is so harrowing that I postponed writing this book for years though it has tugged at me daily. Its lack of completion makes me feel incomplete in turn.
In the midst of this, my first cousin’s youngest son came to stay with me this week. His name is Jean-Paul and he is a beautiful person–tender-hearted and hard-working and pure of intent. He also is at a very precarious age, though what age is not when your clan is something to survive? The next few years will determine whether he’ll succumb to our family malaise (violence, poverty, abuse, malignant narcissism, teen pregnancy, and addiction is the general name of the game), and I pray for him daily. Since he was a small child he has shone a bright light that I’ve wished I could protect while rescuing myself.
His spirit is indomitable, and he shares one of our few family gifts. He has second sight and six senses and any other term you can apply to what I call Ruby Intuition. He knows when to reach out to me, and his sweet persistence worms past my defenses. So when he recently saved up enough to visit NYC, I agreed to host him though it scared me to open the door to anyone on my mother’s side. (I would worry about them reading this but doubt they read my blog, and no longer can afford to accommodate my mother’s feelings about my work.) Continue Reading →