I had a perfectly good out yesterday since Fifty begins with F. But I’ve always eschewed using numbers as alphabet substitutes. Besides, I really wanted to write a note about Family.
It’s hard to discuss family in a time of crisis without tending towards the maudlin. So much of what I would say is tautologic – of course they are my bulwark and support during the pandemic. Of course, I am making decisions that are in their interests, in terms of both health and security. To say so merely sounds like I’m echoing the ubiquitous (and manipulative) television advertisements that would have us believe that every product from fried chicken to half-bed trucks should be purchased “now more than ever.”
Family is one of the few areas that has provided serendipity during the lockdown. My nuclear core finally has the time to stop and think about what we are as a unit. My son, part of my remote cadre by virtue of living in Chicago rather than Dallas, has revealed responsibility and maturity. My sister-in-law, a part of our physical shelter group, has proven to be a steadfast friend. My time with my wife has allowed me to recall what made us such perfect soulmates from the first.
Probably the best serendipity has been the reacquaintance with my cousinship. My father was quite close with his two brothers, so growing up we spent a lot of pleasant and formative time with our firsties. There were ten of us in all – three of my dad’s, three from what I think of as the Pittsburgh branch and three from the California side (although during our closest interaction they lived in New York just as we did). We saw them at holidays and summers. With time, we separated both in location and in experience.
Three of the cousins have died, the second-born in each family, a sort of inverted Biblical curse. The others of us had kept our council, meeting only for rare family reunions and now painfully more common funerals.
Now, through the magic of Zoom and the irony of social distancing we have come back together for weekly visits. We are starting to fill in the lacunae of our experiences and to enjoy the wit and the laughter that we had savored so long ago.
First cousins are an irony in themselves. We are so close genetically that we share family traits – voices, faces, hair color. In animal packs, we would be part of the same inner circle. But humans are migratory, and whereas it feels like I know them so well, there is only a small portion of their lives to which I am a party.
So, here’s to this brief, unasked for and mostly unwanted moment in our time. Here’s to the opportunity to reset the Family button, not to sell cars or insurance, but to strengthen the common and unshakable bonds of genetics.