Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Ties That Bind and Gag

Family Ties is streaming on Netflix right now. I've been completely unable to resist the lure, mostly because I loved that show and everything it stood for, but also because I don't sleep all that much and it's a lot more wholesome than looking at porn.

As a kid, I remember being so excited to dive into the world of the Keatons each week. I have no idea what day it was on or at what time, but now, as I re-watch the old episodes, I vividly remember the feeling of comfort and security when, at the end of an episode, the family rallied around each other, safe in the knowledge that they would always choose home, family and each other. I remember it the way you remember and respond to the scent of the person you love most in the world. In the Keaton house, parents turn down high-powered jobs to spend more time with their kids, daughters chose not to quit school or to have sex too young, based on Mom's wise words, brothers blew off college interviews to help little sisters grieve first love, friends from all over the neighborhood were always in and out of the house and though Dad might have been tempted, he never cheated on the wife of his youth. No mistake was too big to be forgiven and no tragedy drove a wedge too deep. The Keatons were there to stay and we, especially I, believed in, and was inspired by, them.

That was the family I wished I could be part of and even secretly hoped I would someday help build. It's never been clearer to me than now, at 3 am, when I'm sitting hunched over my iPad, crying as I watch my favorite sitcom family parody my heart's tenderest wish. I know the show is cheesy. I know it's outdated. I even know that it's unrealistic. Families are crazy. Every, single one of them. Nobody's family is perfect and they certainly don't wrap up their problems in 24 minutes, with two commercial breaks. Also, there's way more zits and bathroom breaks and nobody's bathrobe is ever completely closed in real families.

Apparently, that hasn't stopped me from chasing the dream. I've come face-to-face with my secret hopes a lot since I got that positive pregnancy test result. I've run up against some hard truths since then, too. I've started my son off in life using the same formula that was calculated for me. The players are different, but the acting, much the same. I've realized that the line between arrogance and humility is only about 5 feet, 4 inches long--the length of my body, fallen flat on my face. I've realized that I somehow managed to fulfill the life I tried for so long to overcome. Damn.

I've tried to make up for and to cover over my mistakes since that day in October 2010; to give my son the best of what I wished I'd had as a child, what I wished I'd seen modelled for me so I'd know how the hell to do this thing as an adult. In the last few weeks, it seems to have come to a head, after an awful struggle. I've pursued hope, love, a nuclear family, even redemption, for all I was worth and for all my striving, I think the only thing I've managed to do is exhaust myself. I'm very tired. Too tired, anymore, to try to push against things I've never had the power to change or to control. I need all the energy I have left just to live the life that's been put in front of me.

At the risk of going back on my word not to show pictures of the cutest little boy on the planet on the internet, I'd like you all to meet my little family. I justify it because I'm in the picture, too. For protection.

We don't have the same last name. His mom and dad don't live together and are not committed to love each other, 'until death do us part,' and if he ever gets siblings to fight with, they likely won't look like him, but he's mine, I am certainly his and there's nothing I wouldn't do for him. We're not sitcom-perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we're all in, 100% for each other.

I'm just gonna sit here and do that for a while. I'll worry about the other stuff, later.