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01 November 2014

A funny kind of love

    His invitation to celebrate Thanksgiving pulls me up short. I read it again, then once more, then squint at it and read it aloud. “We would love to have anyone—everyone!” It’s from my one-year-younger brother. He posts it to the private Facebook group for members of our extended family.

    But he doesn’t mean it, not the way it sounds. Anyone, everyone? He can’t mean it that way. He’s inviting my husband Dave and me to Thanksgiving dinner?

    It's been years since Judas (not his real name) and I spoke to each other. He leaves my occasional letters unanswered. Except for funerals, he boycotts family events to which I am invited. Not that there are many. I’m the black sheep of our family. The rest of the flock is afraid I shed. They don’t want dark ringlets of wool all over the davenport. They take their cues from our Bible-thumping brother. He preaches in the type of church we five siblings were raised in—one that excludes gay people from fellowship.

    His invitation reads like the title of a children’s sermon: “Thumper Invites Black Sheep for Thanksgiving Dinner.” Has he lost his mind? Or has he changed it?

    I’m guilty of pickling in formaldehyde people I haven’t seen for years. I expect high school friends to look just the way they did when last I left them, and to hold the same opinions and beliefs. I expect my favorite college professor to appear in a wrinkled green suit with a narrow black tie, rap his knuckles on the table as he talks to me. I’m surprised almost every time I reconnect. People have moved on in my absence, grown more wrinkled, wiser and dear.

    What if Judas did have a change of heart, does indeed mean to invite me for Thanksgiving? Ooh, that will upset my applecart. I’ve convinced myself I am the bigger (and better) person because I reach out to him from time to time, am willing to overlook his offenses. But it’s easy to be noble in a party of one. Maybe he’s calling my bluff.

    I could ask him if “anyone—everyone” includes me. Sure, I could. But do I want to? He testified against me at my child custody and divorce hearing. Do I want to open myself to outright rejection again? And what if he says “Yes, come on over.” Do I want to sit down to table with him?

    Maybe we could build bridges, set an example for the wider family, recapture some of what we had as kids—those long talks when we were supposed to be asleep, when we were marooned in the wild cherry tree, closeted in the clubhouse in the garage’s rafters.

    I email him privately, keep my tone neutral, my words few: “May Dave and I join you for Thanksgiving Day?" I leave it at that.

    So does he.

    A month passes. His silence rankles. What do I want? Not for him to change. There will be no miracles here. I want common courtesy, the decency of a reply.

    My follow-up email elicits a direct response, a first in over 15 years. For this alone I am grateful. Judas writes to inform me that no, I am not welcome in his home; the invitation was not family-wide. He’s doing what he believes God wants from him. He’s sure I am doing what I feel is best. He signs off by twice saying he loves me.

    A funny kind of love, this, wrapped in religion and dubious convictions.

    But some of my own convictions are suspect: Chickens are the most intelligent life form on the planet; Horseradish is the secret to the good life; When in doubt, sing.

    So my brother says he loves me. Well, well. I happen to think love is our only hope. I’d like to believe it is enough.


4 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear about your family excluding you. I appreciate the entire post, but especially the point about how we expect the people we once knew to still be the people we once knew. It's true that our lives are all rivers of time, and it's never the same rivers that intersect.

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    1. Thanks, Marie. I am guilty as all get out of holding onto the past. This does not always serve me well. Yes, per Heraclitus we never step in the same river twice (though I may manage to "step in it" every day)—never meet the same people, not even our own selves.
      Via a comment on Esther Emery's latest post at shelovesmagazine.com Nicole reminds me that if peace is like a river, a river is not always peaceful: it rages, it changes course, it makes itself felt in the world.
      shelovesmagazine: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/google-guidelines-high-quality-content-var

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  2. I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

    American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

    This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.

    BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN!

    www.boycottamericanwomen.com

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    Replies
    1. Interesting that you should leave this notice on a piece titled, "A funny kind of love." We all have such different ways of being in the world, and no matter who we are, navigating the bonds of love can be challenging.

      I hear you saying you've had negative experiences in opposite-sex romantic relationship(s) and advocate a complete turning away from forming such alliances with women of your own culture. I hear your anger. I hear what sounds like woundedness. And energy towards doing something different.

      Whereas in the situation I describe I find myself willing to devote energy to restoring a broken relationship, you choose to throw overboard more than 50% of the population of your country, and to actively encourage others to do the same.

      I tend to go on internal alert when I am ready to dismiss an entire class of people, to ask myself if perhaps I'm being a little too hasty. My experience has been that people are people the world around, that human nature is something we humans all share equally in, that while some individuals may act in ways that are less than healthful, the actions of one do not define the character of all.

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