Thursday, October 4, 2012
My sister and I have often remarked that we were well into our twenties before we ever heard the word “dysfunctional” paired with "family” and even then, someone had to explain what it meant.
We were supported by a family run business that kept our dad busy 24/7 and where our mom worked many years without receiving pay because you couldn’t pay your wife back in the day. Butter and ice cream were eaten at Christmas as very special treats and I know there were many, many times Mom stretched the few dollars they had left because staff got paid first. And yet our house was always full of close relatives - some who lived with us for extended periods of time, close friends who needed a place to stay for awhile and weekends were full of kids from the local orphanage sleeping over. Several of my Dad’s nephews lived with us for a year while they played hockey in our local league. Tony, a young adult at the time, lived with us for many years when his own family was unavailable to provide a home for him. The adventures of Tony deserve an entire post to themselves!! What a character!!
Our maternal grandmother lived with us for many years and when I was young I would rush home from school to watch “Another World” with Gram while we painted a Christmas tablecloth with Artex paints for my Mom as a surprise Christmas gift. When Gram was well enough to be in the kitchen, I used to pester her to make her fish cakes and lemon meringue pie....oh my....it didn’t get better than that!
Sundays saw Mom’s sisters and their families at our house for the afternoon which culminated in rowdy dinners. Over the years numerous card games were played at the same round table that always managed to squeeze one more person in for a meal. My best girlfriend spent weeks of her summer with us at our summer cottage where we amused ourselves performing episodes of Bonanza and recording ridiculous renditions of “Strangers in the Night” on my dad’s reel to reel recorder. Our friends were always made to feel welcome.
When we visited my father’s parents home, the round dining table there was generally always filled with my grandmother’s sisters and an assortment of brothers-in-law, cousins, and uncles who...all...talked...at...once....It was incredible to listen as multiple conversations were carried on, words criss crossing the table like rapid fire gunshots. And everyone followed along, interjecting comments while maintaining the flow of the conversation they were having with another one, or two, or more people. What an art! First time visitors never knew what to think and few could keep up....lol
We always assumed all families were the same. This is what we knew. It was our reality. It never occurred to us that not all families lived this way, or communicated this way. But perhaps if more people were brought up like this, with an open door, open communication, open hearts and strong family ties, more people would have less opportunity to fall into that chasm called dysfunctional.