gratitude: family

A month ago, Karyn and I got into a debate about fate, particularly our own. I said that it isn’t some kind of destiny that we’d find each other. We had to really work at it to find, connect, and continue. (Or, at least, I really had to work at it. Being with me should come a piece of cake for her.) I get her point that it’s comforting and even romantic to believe that we find in one another “the one” — and what a great thing to have discovered. There are lost puzzle pieces and unpaired socks, but we’ve found and remained with one another.

I’m reticent to call this fate, though, because it’s such hard work. Sticking with one another in spite of all our foibles is remarkable, especially if it isn’t fated. Maybe it’s less romantic, but I prefer the notion of free choice and agency. We don’t stick with this because we’re so predestined, but because we will it to be. I’ll go so far as to say that this is more romantic than fate. We don’t “fall” in love and stay comfortably nestled in some gentle valley. We happen upon one another and “climb” in love, not towards some final place to rest but just a continual, effortful but satisfying ascent.

For the record, I admit that it’s good that I’m not employed a poet.

A few months ago I started this prompt on “gratitude.” I’m grateful I’ve done this, but mostly I thought of it for the thankful month of November. Still, I’d always thought that it would culminate with some thanks for family, especially the one that lives with me. They’re harder to write about that it would seem, though, and this entry just sits aside waiting for the attention it really deserves.

I’m grateful that my family hasn’t deserted me. Not that I’ve ever given them a sordid situation and a good reason, but then again why would you really need a good reason? It seems as though we should just get tired of one another, call us out on our inadequacies and frauds and go find another group of people to live with. One by one my immediate family could team up with others and leave me behind. Certainly, as a group, we’re a mess. Grace is a grump, Anna gets weepy, Karyn goes hyperbolic in her reactions. Maggie barks and wags when I come through the door, and the cats make me sneeze. It’s quite the picture of disfunction. In fact, it’s a picture that no one else in this world gets to see (until I reveal it on the world wide web). And, there’s no other group of people who gets to witness Grace practically falling off her chair in rolling laughter, Anna’s lilt as she says ‘Hi Daddy,’ Karyn’s calm warmth and compassion. Maggie barks and wags enthusiastically as I walk in the door, welcoming me to all of this. The cats still make me sneeze; there’s nothing redeeming about the cats.*

I love them all, even the cats.

There’s a lot about all of this I don’t understand. Karyn, I know that this isn’t fate, but when I flash back to us at 20 I also look forward to us at 60. When Anna was born I was melted by how easily she formed into the wrap of blankets and my arms; when Grace emerged I was awed by how her eyes pondered right through me and said “I already know you.” When I strip away all the mysticism and sappy poetry and look at it all, objective and testable, I’m still left without explanation. I’m good with that. I’ll call it love and not bother reducing it all to chemical reactions and neural sparks. I suppose this is why we invent words like “fate” and “love”. To call it anything less would be an injustice.

Whatever it all is, I’m grateful I have this group of people living under a common roof. I am my complete self only as this partner and parent, trying to find the words to describe it all.

____

*I’ll deny this in other settings, but I should confess that I even love the cats. Celie is as old as our marriage, and I picked her out — or she picked me out — in the animal shelter as a kitten. Minerva, the girls’ cat, is charming in her own way, but mostly serves as a good foil in all my interactions with the girls. I’m only a little bitter that they make it harder for me to breathe.

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