Circles

I've rambled on endlessly in this space about trying to break the circles that surround my family's history...of mental illness, of abuse, of neglect, of just generally being really shitty people. My brother and I both have struggled with this since before we had kids, more-so after. We both have days when we lay in bed at night, taking our searching moral inventories, balancing what we did that day against what was done to us and hoping the plus goes in our columns.

More often than not, however, those moments happen on the hour, on the half-hour, minute-by-minute. When something like what is ingrained in not just our memory but our flesh and our DNA becomes so wrapped into every minute of your life, it's a battle of epic proportions to rise above it. You blink, you forget for just one second what you know you should do, and you're throwing a child across a room because that's what you know to do. That's what you learned. That's the kind of person you were born to be

Except, if you're really really on top of it, it's not the kind of person you are at all. We are really, really on top of it, and more importantly, we're really afraid that we're not. There are no better motivating factors in the world than fear and love.

As so we fight every day to make sure that our kids lives don't even bear a vague resemblance to the lives we had. And you know what? We're doing it. I've had kids for 12 1/2 years, he's had kids for 9, and so far we've managed to raise kids who couldn't comprehend our lives if they tried. They'll never know anything we knew (except Douglas Adams, of course) and they'll never see anything we saw (except Labyrinth).

Well, at least, not by our doing.

The truth of the matter is that somethings are just out of your control, maybe destined to be, maybe just sickeningly predictable because kids are kids.

A few weeks ago my brother called me to tell me that his oldest almost-but-not-quite broke his middle son's arm. I laughed and asked if I should get the jump rope ready. He laughed, too, but only a little, because what he knows and I know but they don't know and that you don't know is that when I was four, he broke my arm with nothing more than a jump rope, a set of bunkbeds, an astonishing-for-six-years-old understanding of basic physics and a strong desire to again be an only child.

Like,' bone sticking out at an angle bones don't stick' broke my arm. Like, 'a night at the ER and a splint and a sling on the arm that I wrote with, right before I started kindergarten' broke my arm.

This is why I can kick your ass at pool today, because I can shoot with both hands. Everything has a silver lining.

But his kids did not succeed in reenacting one of the more traumatic events of our childhood (what happened after isn't exactly fit for discussion in polite society, if you know what I mean) but they did remind us how fragile the line we walk on is, the one between what is in our control and what is not.

And then, of course, last week, the phone rings at way too early for the phone to be ringing and it's my brother, who just says, "So..." and sits there on the line, breathing. I went through the Rolodex of people in our lives with whom I have not yet found closure with, and picked which one I was prepared to tuck into a casket with my unresolved issues before I asked what happened.

He said, "So, 2of4..."

And I said, "Oh no he didn't..."

And he said, "Yup, going into surgery. Best case scenario, 3 pins. Worst case scenario, 3 pins and a metal plate holding the bones in his arm together for life."

And I said, "Bunk beds?"

And he said, "Better. Dog pile."

And I said, "Do I need to get out the jump rope?"

And we had a really good, long, nervous as all fuck laugh because we are learning that, though we can't stop the timeline of history from repeating itself, we can stop the way the story plays out. Now we have the excuse, and quite possibly the responsibility, to share a little bit of our story with our kids, albeit re-written slightly, and that is a really exciting prospect. The idea of being able to look at our kids and say, "Yeah, that happened to us, too, this one time that we were really bored and testing the laws of gravity..." is foreign to us, and so is letting go of all that old shit we lug around with us every day.

But not every circle has to be a scary thing. Not every pattern needs to be broken. Neither do any more arms, children. You've made your point. Now get with wrapping each other in bubble wrap and staying in one piece forever, because you're giving my brother and me nervous disorders.

Not at all unrelated aside: I have a new post up at Polite Fictions, if you're into that sort of thing.