In fact, I would say that every family has its demons. MY BFFs family is wonderful, yet the women routinely carry the load of the housework, defer to their husbands in what seem to me to be outdated ways, and are just generally more submissive than many other modern women. They also work their tails off, serve other people to the umpteenth degree, and care deeply about the lost, the hurting, the lonely. They’re wonderful people.
This is common, right? The good mixed with the bad?
My own family is notoriously disturbed. There were certain public incidents that evoked so much shame in me that I know I’ll never get over them. I dream about the house I grew up in (with a woman who truly outdid herself embodying the stereotype of an “evil stepmother”) at least once a week, to the point that instead of dreading such dreams, I now welcome them. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Rather, it feels like a chance to revisit a rare time of possibility and hope in my youth, and I get to see former step-siblings who’ve since died; from drugs, from drowning, from self-destructive emotional chaos I never understood.
However. There is one person I cannot imagine losing, even though he consistently drives me crazy, and that’s my bossy, controlling, tennis-playing older brother. We don’t always like each other, and we’ve had plenty of fights, disagreements and emotional duels. What’s that saying? When you look at a troubled family, don’t look at the children’s relationship with the parent or parents; look at their relationships with each other. Competing for scant emotional resources doesn’t do much for bonding. This is something for which I can personally vouch.
I’m writing this on the day I learned about David Sedaris’ sister Tiffany’s suicide. I have no idea what that must feel like. I can’t imagine how bereft I would feel in his shoes; how disoriented, like working on a puzzle that’s perpetually missing a vital piece. So, even though many people have said that they believe Mr. Sedaris’ reaction was callous, they can’t know the whole story. Unless you live it, you never really do know a family’s story. Regardless, I think it’s terribly sad to lose a sibling to suicide. And even though I truly believe that my brother’s last words to me will probably be along the lines of, “You’re doing it wrong” (in re: dying; resting in my coffin; coughing my guts up and choking on blood; digging my own grave; whatever), I would feel like I had lost a limb if he killed himself (granted, a limb that causes me trouble, like an arthritic foot with a recurring bunion). He’s the thorn in my side that’s embedded in my skin.
So, I’m sorry, Sedaris family. I’m sorry, Tiffany.