Tuesday, July 13, 2004

He Ain't Heavy, He's Unbearable

I would never lie to you except in the sense of telling you things that aren’t true.

And I would distort. And I would omit. And I would be selective. And I would juxtapose facts in a way that would absolutely lead to inaccurate inferences.

But I would never lie to you. So when I said that I was on vacation I certainly was on vacation in the sense that my older sister and her husband were in my home having their vacation, of which my wife and I were host, facilitator and co-dependent. We were in the vicinity of a vacation, and I think some of it rubbed off, between Muir Woods and the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park.

But "on vacation"? Well, no.

I would never lie to you.

My sister is an adventure. My sister is my Late Father Lite. I had problems with my father, the principal one being he didn’t like me very much, and I do like my sister and she likes me – or does a reasonable imitation thereof – so I can re-experience or sample or look at the reflection of certain character traits she and my father shared without (well, let’s get down to it) my father actually and inconveniently being there as part of the package. My sister is one of those people with a big personality who meets people well. I mean, she tells people where she is from and asks them were they are from – any people, all people, people standing next to her in line – and she rolls her eyes and exaggerates her accent and plays at being a Southern belle.

Now, how is this like my father and how is this not? It is like him up to a point, and it is everything beyond that point that matters. My father was almost desperate not just to be liked but to be a power in the conversation, to know a little more, to be a little funnier, to suck more of his share of the air from the room. The last ten or 15 years of his life, he was convinced that he had found the cure for arthritis, a method that consisted of steepling your fingers and pushing them together and bouncing lightly on your toes. He would stop strangers in the street – no, he would accost strangers – and insist they go through a workout with him. The rest of the family would walk 20 or 30 feet away and pretend not to be with him, waiting for the victim to escape (some rudely, some shrewdly and some with unbelievable gentleness).

He was something of a loudmouth, a bit of a bully and (note how I have prepared you for the intensity of this modifier) the worst businessman ever to walk the face of the earth. As Shakespeare might have said, “Bankruptcy, thou art Jimmy Robertson.”

My sister is my father in translation, improved for a mass audience. I like my sister. I like my sister's husband, who once defended my wife when a crazy preacher was about to tell her to go to hell. (I'll have to write about that someday.) We all talk about my parents a lot. My mother, whom I resemble emotionally, has gone morosely batty since my father died, and now lives with my younger sister in squalor, which is not a place on the map and therefore does not need to be capitalized.

What a dusty old spider’s web family can be. The web is intradimensional, there but not there. Here we are so sunny and so happy, but turn the world a few degrees and see us hanging on the web, children and parents and all those ancestors wrapped up in their little silk cocoons.

I don’t even believe in the spider, but I believe in the web!

I wouldn’t lie to you.

(That’s 607 words! Another emotional spasm measured twice and cut once and nailed into place. And thus we see another compensation of being a columnist.)

1 comment:

edith said...

Funny. Incredibily accurate. Concise. The family as web! YES!!!!!