I am frequently reminded that I live on a different planet that most of my relatives. I live on the planet where facts are things that can be verified by independent observations. They live on the planet where Fox News is a viable source of information. I live on the planet where freedom includes the right of consenting adults to choose to share their lives together, name each other legal next of kin, and obtains other legal rights and responsibilities, regardless of the gender or gender identity of the adults involved. Some of them live on the planet where freedom means the right for some people to discriminate on the basis of gender, or sexual orientation, or sexual identity, or religion.
Not all of the differences are so obviously stark, but I think that they must cringe at things I say and do at least as often as I am dismayed by some of the things they say and do. And I continue to be amazed that we get along as well as we do.
Those of us who do get along, that is…
I haven’t talked to some of my relatives in years. Years and years and years. I don’t just mean second cousins-twice-removed that I only met once while visiting a great aunt who has since passed away (in the mid-80s)—though there are those, as well. I’m talking about some of the cousins I grew up with, or my dad, o best friends from way back who happen to have married some of my cousins or demi-cousins.
Then there are some that I’ve never talked to, but I know about them, and understand that they know about me. The kids of some of the cousins I have talked to in years (some of whom have grown up, married, and now have kids of their own, as well).
Then there are the relatives who act as the go-betweens. One of my aunts and I talk a few times a year, and I always hear a little bit of what is happening in the lives for some of the relatives who don’t talk to me/I don’t talk to. And I presume that she mentions some of my news to some of them. And I wonder if she feels she’s in an awkward position. She knows at least some of the reasons some of us aren’t talking.
As soon as I typed that, I remembered that I knew she feels that way. Because she told me about the times, many years ago, shortly after Michael and I first moved in together, when my dad kept taking her aside at family get-togethers and ask if she’s talked to “this new guy” and whether she thought he was a good person, and whether she thought he was good for me. And she kept telling him to ask me himself how I was, and he said he couldn’t. This was back when Dad and I still made about an annual attempt to have a civil conversation. And during the years after I heard about these exchanges between him and this aunt, he still couldn’t bring himself to say Michael’s name. If I brought up any topic that involved Michael, dad would either change the subject or suddenly have to get off the phone. He had been the same way when Ray was alive.
(Please note: that isn’t why I stopped talking to him. I was continually disappointed by his inability to even acknowledge my coming out of the closet or any part of my life that was related to that in any way, but I lived with it. No, the problem is that his toxic opinions of the rest of humanity reached a point I couldn’t deal with it any more. The last phone conversation we had, I was the one who said that I had to go after about the twelfth time he started ranting about “the n—-r in the White House.”)
Anyway, this week I received a call from one of the relatives who lives on at least a slightly different planet than I do, and as soon as I got past, “what a surprise” they said, “I know that you’ve had to endure so much bad stuff, and I don’t know how you do it, and sometimes I just wish I’d call you more.” But when I asked what brought that on, she immediately changed the subject to some of the health issues of people out there.
It felt as if I had missed part of a conversation somewhere.
Maybe it means nothing more than the latter part of the comment: sometimes we just wish we talked more often.