My CPE class is based on Family Systems Theory, and what better way to learn about things than through your own family…right?! (haha). Well, one of the things we look at (or are starting to look at) are genograms. Basically fancy family trees that not only show who is related to who, but also what are people’s relationships to one another; who is suffering from a physical or mental illness; not only births but also miscarriages and abortions; so basically a supped up family tree that tells about people’s relationships.
Well, I have to do a genogram for my family. And part of getting information is well, calling the people in the family and talking to them. Finding out what their experiences are and how they deal with the good, the bad and the ugly. How they interacted with their parents, friends, in college. How did they get to be where they are today. Find out secrets and the such.
I’m not actually so close with my family. I mean, I’m not really distant, but I’m not so close. I used to get into a lot of fights with my father when I was younger, and I learned that if I stay away then, well I don’t fight. I also feel like I was too much for my siblings, and so it was easier when I was away. I have a weird thing that I don’t want my parents to know what I am doing, because well, they will make a bigger deal out of it then it actually is or the things that are important to me, they just don’t understand. So, I’m a bit nervous to actually make phone calls and ask things. I don’t know the last time I spoke to my aunt and uncles. I know that my mom speaks to them weekly, as well as to her parents. I know that my dad doesn’t speak to my mother’s side, basically at all. I know that I am potentially the only grandchild (at least from my parents) that call my mother’s parents. So, one could say there is a lot there.
Tonight I called my grandma (my dad’s mom), because I felt that she would be the easiest to talk to. I am very close to her, I always have been. There is something special about her, but also I think we are very similar. Speaking to her I found out some things that are beautiful and things that made me actually quite sad.
She seemed to have had a great childhood, despite the Depression. She felt like she had everything she ever wanted and needed, and never felt burdened by finances. She felt like her parents loved her and loved each other. She went to college and to camp. She dated A LOT. Apparently she was dating 3 guys at once. She told me hilarious stories, one of speaking to a guy on the train and just continued talking till they got to Canada (his destination, she was going up to Buffalo). Or the guy who flew a small plane, and she would regularly go with him from city to city, and her family never knew.
She loved my grandfather. He took care of her and did everything to make her happy (even after she joked they would need a cook, he actually looked into it OR despite his natural need to have plans and know what is happening, took a trip to Morocco with no plans at all, just for her on their 25th wedding anniversary). He made her smile. He was tall, handsome, well dressed, well spoke, religious and smart (hearing her list, it is basically exactly what I am looking for).
But she found my father difficult to deal with as a child. She wouldn’t go into detail (she said that she doesn’t remember details), but said that he was not always so nice. That he was religious and mean about it, and she thinks (or maybe my uncle said this) that is why my uncle is not religious, because of how my dad treated them. She feels like he is still quick with his temper towards her and others, and it hurts her that he is like this. She feels like it was something that she did wrong. That she noticed it, and hoped that he would change, but he never did. She was amazed that he found someone to marry him and put up with him.
It hurt me to hear that he was always hurtful to people or that he continues to hurt her today with his anger. I wonder if he knows that he is constantly hurting her. She said that he always says “I love you” at the end of the conversation, but is unsure how he shows it, and doesn’t always want to answer back. It is the thing that she feels is the hardest part of her life.
It is crazy to me that he has been this way forever. He was quick to anger when I was younger, and the truth is even now. I am both afraid to get close to him, but also part of me does not have such a strong desire. I don’t really know how my mother has patience for him, because he is not always easy to deal with.
My grandmother told me that he is upset with me that I don’t tell him anything that is going on in my life. She knows because she asks what is going on, and he always answers in anger that I don’t tell him anything. But then again, I both don’t want to tell him things and the reality is that there is nothing going on – I go to work and then home again, that is it. But maybe I need to try harder – although I am not sure that it will ever be enough…
I also know that I can have a temper and push people away and put them down, just like him. I try really hard not to let it show, but every so often it does happen. I hope I don’t take on that trait. I hope that I can really not speak down to people (maybe I learned it from him- but my sister always gets angry with me saying I speak down to her…)…
Getting close to family again is scary and making me feel really nervous. I am scared about what I will find out and a bit more scared about having to share this with people. Well, I guess now that I started, I’ll have to continue. I hope that over Thanksgiving I will get a chance to speak to my parents and maybe some siblings, and then Sunday call my grandparents (I can’t fathom calling them with my parents next door).
Here’s to learning more about the nitty-gritty of the family….