Family Visit in June
Personal entry follows.
Earlier this afternoon, I returned from a trip to visit my relatives. I wanted to reflect on this just a little bit. I had another entry in the draft stage and I assume I'll come back to it. The topic was on the younger generations and what I see as the major obstacles they will face in the decades ahead - and how it's really not their fault that they're hosed. After seeing my nephews and my two-year-old niece this weekend, I still firmly believe they'll be facing a difficult life ahead.
But it was interesting to note that while we're all vaccinated and mask-less at home, everyone still seemed drained and exhausted. At least the adults.
My brother and his wife seemed totally beat most of the time. If it wasn't the sheer amount of fixer-upper work and the barriers related to repairing their home, it was taking care of three young children. I'm not passing judgment on them and easily quipping, "Well, if they didn't want it so tough, they shouldn't have had so many kids." Besides, talking like that simply ignores the reality that the children are here, and the married couple is essentially compelled to care for them.
My brother and I spent the majority of Saturday either cutting down trees, or hauling the limbs into a pile. He had plans to rent a massive wood chipper, haul it to the house, and then we would grind everything into mulch for their property. Unfortunately, when we showed up to pick up the equipment, only then did he learn an electric brake controller would be required to haul the machine even with a truck as massive as his. We returned to the house, brought out his smaller chipper from the garage-shed (yeah, you know, he just has one of those sitting around), and we managed as much as we could before lunchtime, bathed in sweat from the mid-day sun.
The chipper was clearly not up to the task, so we resolved to simply cut down any other offending trees, then haul all the branches to an area close to where a larger chipper (likely one similar in size to the one my brother attempted to rent) will be hauled in to do the job some weekend in the near future. We continued this prep work until it began to steadily rain, and our sweat was mixed with the storm water. We hauled the rest of the equipment, including the pip-squeak of a wood-chipper, back into the shed. We trudged back to the house physically exhausted, soaked to the bone, and completely subdued by the major setback.
The only time my brother seemed to not be completely enervated by the proceedings were in the late, late evenings when he and I convened to play a few rounds of a racing video game I introduced him to a few months ago, and when he and his wife introduced me to their beehives and budding apiary. The kids were nowhere around. It was just the two of them working together, showcasing one of their novel business plans with me, in a field that was completely alien to me except for listening to a few bee-keeping podcasts. Then it was back to the house, where the weight of fatherhood returned.
On the other side of the house, my mother seems to be drained, although for a completely different reason - though still child-related. She is taking the estrangement of my sister - the eldest of her three children - very hard. I refused to discuss the situation with my mother until she and I could have a quiet moment alone Sunday morning. She then described to me her disappointment and dismay with my sister's behaviour. To sum things up quickly: my mother learned in a rare phone call from my sister - the first time they had spoken together since January - that my sister is reconciling with her second ex-husband. This, after my sister spared no foul language in describing her second ex-husband to my mother, and the various ways he did her - and her kids from her first marriage - wrong. There's a little drama related to my mother contacting my sister's first ex-husband regarding the safety of her grandchildren: the first ex-husband's kids. In general, it's a domestic mess that's pretty much riven the relationship my sister has with the rest of our branch of the family.
Were I to describe my sister and the role she's played in my mother's life, it would be what Scott Adams describes as "A Burden." Adams (author of the "Dilbert" comic strip) describes in his book, "How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big," That there are Selfish People, Stupid People, and Burdens. My brother is Selfish, my mother and I are Stupid (bordering on Selfish), and my sister is most certainly a Burden. My brother and I reflected on this during the ill-fated ride to rent the industrial wood chipper, and we're both confused as to how she could turn into such White Trash, and not the good kind. She's a grown-ass woman who, in her view, has entered predicaments and relationships for the past two and a half decades or so and has somehow escaped responsibility for all of their negative effects and consequences. Inevitably, it's always someone else's fault.
I departed my brother and mother's house somewhat unfulfilled and unaccomplished. The big job my brother and I had planned to do was nowhere near finished as I left. My mother is entering her sunset years with a daughter who has declared, "You're dead to me now." There were moments of family togetherness that were pleasant and entertaining. Still, all proceedings seemed to be overshadowed by a pall of exhaustion and bleakness. Maybe it's just me, but with the exception of their oblivious young children and maybe my stepdad, it seems like a rough season for them all.