I just read a post at a fellow blogger's digs that set me to thinking about my own relationship with my parents and family.
All of my parental figures have long since shuffled off their respective mortal coils - the last to shuffle, my mother, died in 1999 aged 92. I've written of my relationships with my parents before at my other blog site. But the post I mentioned above started other thoughts and memories bouncing around in my vacuous little mind.
We all have unique relationships with our parents. Some are great, some awful. Most, I'm guessing share at least a little of both good and bad. Really communicating with parents seems to be perhaps the single biggest bugaboo that many experience. Most of us don't care to be judged, and that seems to be the natural proclivity of many parents. So, we tend to clam up. We feel, and often rightly, that our parents don't understand us or the lives we lead.
That's due partly at least, to the fact that today's world changes so quickly and dramatically. In times past people's lives, the social order in which they lived, changed little from generation to generation. The rules were the rules. But, in looking back over the past century or so change has become the norm, not the exception. The "rules" are far more difficult to define. What was good for the goose is not necessarily good for the goslings.
When challenged by parents, it is often difficult to explain just how things have changed, and how those changes have affected the rules. In order to live in the contemporary world, it is often necessary - and likely desirable - to reject the old ways that just no longer work for us. Therein lay the rift, the chasm that becomes too wide to leap across.
The same may be true with other family members - with grandparents, of course, aunts and uncles, perhaps, but also at times with siblings as well. My eldest brother was 18 years my senior, my other brother 4 years older. Each of us came of age in rather different times.
My eldest brother graduated high school in 1947, in a country freshly over the scourge of war, and on the winning side (Yay!) My middle brother graduated in 1960, the age of button down "Ivy League" collars, narrow ties, Dobie Gillis and Maynard Krebs. Both of my brothers rode their lives down a more or less straight and narrow path. I graduated in 1964 and could have followed suit, but owing to some nefarious alliances, I sauntered down the road to rack and ruin with the youth culture of the day. I inhaled.
More than that though, I have always been the reflective one in my family. I wasn't much of an academic in my youth, but I've always had a kind of personal dialogue going on in my head (the very thing that Carlos Castaneda's Don Juan warned against engaging in) that tended to remove me from the action as it were. I may have done that at least in part in self-defense. My father and both of my brothers did not get along well. They were often and openly confrontational with each other. As far as I know, it never became physical, but, nevertheless, it seemed a harsh and dangerous place to be in the middle of. I ducked. I generally avoided such confrontations.
What I would do, is talk my way through mythical battles with my dad, my mom, or perhaps with one of my brothers in my head. Actual confrontations rarely materialized. On those occasions when they did, they never seemed to go as I had rehearsed. My watertight arguments generally dissipated in the wind.
But, I suppose the above is not central to what I started out to say. That my parents and my oldest brother are gone saddens me. But, I imagine that if any or all of them were still around, I would still not "get into" anything substantive with them. The limiting parameters of our long established relationships would still apply. Reticence would rule the day. My surviving brother and I don't mix it up much. We stay in safe, innocuous territory. Our conversations rarely become contentious. We talk about movies or TV shows, or dinners we had at restaurants, or something else having few, if any, sharp edges.
For me, the shoe is also on the other foot. My two sons are adults. How we communicate has evolved over the years. There is territory which we generally avoid. Both of them communicate more fully and easily with their mother. Both Jo and I try our best not to be judgmental. Doubtless, though, at least some seeps through in our conversations.
There is a qualitative difference though, or at least I think so. Both of my sons are very smart and creative people. I suppose the younger of the two tends to be more contempletive than his older brother, but they both are thoughtful and reflective. They see and understand things about people and relationships, that neither my parents, my brothers, nor even I ever considered. What is so clearly black and white to many is viewed through a far broader spectrum by my kids. I think that is as it should be.