This will be an important weekend. I am meeting the family! This of course is always an important milestone in relationship development, but it has a little extra kick when I consider the fact that R comes from a clan of nine (he's the youngest) and I come from, at this point pretty much a family of me.
I came into my family late as the third child and only girl to a sibling set of two teenaged brothers who were off in high school and not terribly excited to have me join the group. By the time I was four, Brother #1 was married and Brother #2 was overseas in the military. I was left to be raised pretty much as an only child, with them coming to visit and bringing their children as they arrived, I thought only to torment my solitary bliss. They, if they thought of me at all, saw me as the spoiled princess who wore out my already tired and aging parents. I had no real sibling relationships with them growing up, and my attempts to form them as an adult were only moderately successful. Brother #2 and I did grow closer in his later years as he recovered from alcoholism. This fledgling relationship was cut short by his early death in 1992 after heart surgery. Brother #1 was very hurtful to my mother in some ways that I have so far been unable to resolve in a way that has allowed me to continue to have a relationship with him. I have had no direct contact with him since the day of my brother J's funeral. Sometimes this bothers me. Sadly, when it does so, it is more in the whole global realm of human forgiveness and reconciliation than it is in terms of the personal connection to him. I often think, too if he had done something to hurt me, I could so much more easily have let it go. But it was my mother, and for some reason I struggle so much more with that, as if I were somehow charged with being her avenging angel, even though she has been dead now almost a dozen years. I have a feeling that she has long forgiven him, and sometimes in the dark of night when I lie awake and think of such things, I think I hear her urging me to let it go, too. But if I did desire to make a connection, I think I would not know where to begin. I'm not even sure at this point if he is still alive. Or if he has any desire to hear from me, for, as is often the way of these family battles, the anger and bad feeling was not mine alone.
So I am somewhat of an orphan. After J's death I did not remain in close contact with his widow or children. My father has been gone since I was in my twenties. When my mother died, with things being being as they were between Brother #1 and I, that was pretty much the end of the family ties. And it did not feel strange to me. Because even when everyone was alive, we were not all that close as a family. I'm not sure if it was the fact that I arrived so late...all my cousins were my brothers' peers...or that I always felt that I just never felt I quite fit with this bunch, or that we just weren't very connected in general. Family gatherings when they did happen tended not to be terribly pleasant affairs and often included drinking and arguing and somebody going away mad. So they were sort of avoided unless necessary, in the case of someone getting married, baptized, confirmed, graduated or buried. Then they tended to be short, stiff formal and perfunctory, unless they were as above, drunken and rowdy. Either way...not something I engaged in willingly and was only too happy to finally be old enough to avoid attending.
This is not the case for R's clan. They are big, they are connected and they willingly get together for all sorts of reasons. I'm getting the sense that they might actually be a group of people who enjoy each other's company. This weekend they are having the Annual President's Day Gathering, one of the selected times when as many as possible of the gang gathers. This one is at a hotel to just hang out for a weekend together. Eat, drink, visit, play cards...and this year, meet the new woman in R's life. The questions have been asked, the curiosity is rising, the time has come.
I am more than a little anxious. There are, for one thing, such a lot of them! Just keeping the names straight alone will be a challenge. And there is of course all the usual "will they like me?" stuff. R has been shushing me on that. Not to worry, as he likes me and that is all that matters. My friends tell me to relax, I am making him happy and his family knows this and that is really all that matters to the people who love him. Ok, yeah, my head gets that. And I'll be fine, I know I will. I do, after all know how to meet people. I do it for a living! But I have to say, I'll be glad when the first hour or so is behind me and they start feeling more like friends and less like this amorphous large clan of relatives waiting to interview me. I do want them to like me....after all, I have a sneaking hunch I may be having some long relationships with these people.