Monday, August 29, 2005

Is blood thicker than water?

Tess and I have been having this discussion about whether or not being related to someone obligates you to well...even like them.

I don't say this for any particular reason or because of any particular person. But I don't think sharing a few common strands of DNA is enough to obligate you to care about a person.

My mother comes from a family of 13 kids. Most of them reproduced. I have more cousins, second cousins and half-cousins then you can shake a proverbial stick at. And I don't really know a single one of them.

For that matter, I don't really know any of my aunts or uncles, either. I know their names: Edgar, Alma, James, Marion, Herbert, Gladys, Ira, Irma, Dorthy, Dewey, Thomas, Lawrence and my mother, Jennie Ruth. Edgar was killed in a small plane crash years before I was born. Uncle Tommy died last October. Uncle Ira, the one who believed the Red Chinese were tunneling under my grandmother's house to kidnap him, died a few years ago. Gladys (or Happy Butt as I used to call her) is also dead. I've pretty sure most of the rest of them are alive. I'm sure my mother knows, but if I ask her about them I risk getting the long answer.

My point is that there are so many relatives on my mother's side of the family that they are no longer relevant in my life. None of my aunt's or uncles (except for maybe Ira's twin sister Irma) ever even really acknowledged that I existed. I can't really blame them. They all had big families of their own to deal with.

So this could influence my feeling about family in general. Which brings me to my own family. I have two older brothers. I will publicly acknowledge here that I love my brothers. But I will also openly admit that I don't know them. I will also lay good cash money on the fact that they don't know me. And I can also safely say that they don't read my blog, so anything I write here about them doesn't have much chance of getting back to them. No that I intend to write anything bad about them. They are both decent men.

But I don't feel close to my brothers. My oldest brother lives in Oregon. He has found Jesus (apparently living in the less developed areas of western Oregon). I never see him (my brother or Jesus). My other brother still lives in Boise. I see him and his family once a year at Thanksgiving. Most of my contact with my brothers is through my mother. I called her last night. For some reason in the conversation, she told me Dan said that he and I have different senses of humor. My response was, yes, I have one and he doesn't.

I've tried to cultivate a relationship with my niece and nephews. My oldest nephew, R, reads my blog. This means more to me than he probably realizes (happy belated birthday, btw). I left Boise when R was four or so. I'd see him once a year maybe when I'd make trips back to Boise. I thought I was his cool uncle. I first realized that I wasn't that cool when I gave him a Beavis and Butthead shirt and he pointed out that he' d get beat up at school if he ever wore it. One of my proudest moments was watching R get married to K in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. They had an Elvis impersonator and everything. For once, I felt that if I'd done nothing else for R, I'd inspired him with a sense of the absurd.

My other nephew and niece live in Boise. I send them presents on a regular basis, thinking that this makes me a good uncle. Or at least it makes me closer to them than any of my aunts or uncles ever were to me. I've even tried writing them e-mails, but they are teenagers and never respond. I'm told being teenagers gives them special permission to be rude. Regardless, I have watched them grow magically from babies to teenagers in one year increments without a real clue about the gaps in between.

And now I have Tess' family. I have four new nephews and less than a month ago, a new niece. I don't imagine the nephews will ever view me as an uncle, but maybe the niece will. And once again I'm faced with this question about what defines family. Is it blood? Or is it more?

I mean, I don't have the answer.
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