Monday, July 05, 2010



Yes, I've had a bit of one with this blog. But no, that's not what I mean by "breaks." Maybe I'll apologize for walking away from the blog some day; probably not.

Because I'm guilty of far worse breaks over my half-century on this planet. You probably are, too. It's an ingrained part of the human psyche, I think. Or at least mine. You deal with what you can deal with, and the rest... break.

For example, my parents separated when I was 18, and divorced a year later. Three months after that, my mother remarried. You do that math. In any event, I sunk into a decades-long pattern of avoidance, and managed to strain my relationship with both my mother and father for years. These were, in true WASP fashion, very cold breaks: emotional distance papered over with quarterly phone calls.

Sometimes less than that. During one lengthy period of estrangement, my father only learned that I had moved from Rochester to New York City from an item in the Rochester newspaper. He reached out to me. That is to his credit; not mine. I was bull-headed enough at the time that I was willing to make the clean break, and if I hadn't heard from him, well... But I did.

There have been other breaks -- I jettisoned a lot of people from my past when I came out, because I knew (or thought, and I'm pretty sure I was right) they wouldn't understand, and it wasn't worth my time -- but the family breaks had a bitter taste.

I never got over the problems with my mother. That mostly had to with her husband of the last 30 years, but it's not a great excuse. She deserved better from me than avoidance and neglect. I was never really angry with her, but I'd been trapped in the middle of the problem when I was 18 and 19, and, well... I broke. And now she's been dead for the past 26 months, and I can't go back and make anything better.

I can kick myself and admit she deserved better than she got from me, but I can't make anything better. Now.

My father -- the alpha dog of the family -- is slowing down, too. Bad hips, bad shoulders, you name it. At 76 -- 77 next month -- his body is showing the wear and tear of hard labor (which I do not do) since before I was born. He's probably got another decade in him. Maybe two. But sometimes I'm scared to get glimpses of his relatively recent frailty.

A few days ago, Bradykins and I flew to Rochester. It was supposed to be a quiet weekend, but -- minutes after we arrived -- we discovered my stepmother had just broken her hip. She was in the hospital before we arrived, although she'll hopefully be home tomorrow. She's a fighter. We used to drink together back in the '80s. She'll get past this. Still, that's a bad break.

When we left this morning, he (like my stepmother) kept apologizing that -- because of her broken hip -- we probably had a boring weekend. Quite the contrary. It sort of opened my eyes.

The thing is... if Brady and I hadn't been in town, my father would have been wandering around between the hospital and an empty house. That's not a good place for a 76-almost-77-year-old with a bad hip and bad shoulder. We were glad that he had us to come home to, and I feel a bit guilty tonight that he came home to a dark, empty house.

And -- much as I hate the phone -- I also broke pattern tonight to call both of them (her in the hospital; him at home), to check in.

I can't undo the past. I can only start appreciating what I have now. So I will force it, if I have to, to keep those ties strong.

Because, really, they break too easily if you let them.