Friday, June 26, 2015


Not my family. Turns out maybe it could have been my family.

My aunt/godmother was back in Chicagoland for the first time since my mother's funeral back in 2012. She was here to visit her son, my very talented cousin Ryan, and his family -- especially her granddaughter, who is home from New York for the summer.

She also wanted to see me and my kid sister, and so I set up a Tuesday night dinner in LaGrange. My aunt went to high school in LaGrange, and I wanted her to see the beautifully restored movie theater, where I knew she spent many hours during her teen years.

So Ryan, his wife and daughter, my sister and her husband, my nephew and I joined my aunt and
her husband at a burger place in LaGrange. There was much laughter and so much affection. After dinner, four of us peeled off and walked up the street to the theater. The high school students who work there very kindly welcomed us, even though we weren't seeing a film, and encouraged us to look around.

It made my aunt so happy to be in the old neighborhood. She bubbled as she told her husband about the parade floats she rode down the main drag, so many years ago.

She loves me very much, was very big on hugging me and seemed to like just looking at me. I think part of it is that I remind her of her late parents. I inherited my rabid Cub fandom from them, and my dad. I said that, if this is the year when the Cubs return to post-season play, I'll wear my grandmother's Ryne Sandberg #23 jersey to a game. It cracked my aunt up that my team is in third place and I'm already getting the jersey pressed in celebration.

Much of my antipathy toward family comes from hostile relations with my mother's mother -- a very bitter, very angry alcoholic -- and the tension in my parent's marriage, and my older sister's violent rages. Then there was the family patriarch, always in attendance, who never tired of reminding me that he molested me ... and enjoyed it. Family gettogethers were either ugly, or fraught with the potential for ugliness. I never felt like I was welcome, like I belonged or was even safe.

Those were the people I "celebrated" Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, Easter and Fourth of July with until my early 20s, I unfortunately allowed their toxicity to ruin how I feel about family. The bad memories crowd out the extended family, the relatives I saw at other times. I forget how much my oft-mentioned Cousin Rose loves me, how much my late uncle (my mom's kid brother) loved me, how much this aunt loves me, how much I have in common with my artistic cousin, how happy my nephew always is to see me.

I do have a lot of love. I just have to let myself feel it.