When your best hasn’t been good enough

My family isn’t the closest one in the world.

It’s by far the biggest understatement I’ve written or said in my life and it can be any truer when I speak or write about my family, especially on my dad’s side.

The case study: About 10 minutes before my son played in another instructional league baseball game, I get a phone call from cousin back in Metro Detroit. She called to see how I was doing after she learned my dad was in the hospital sometime last month to put in a heart monitor after a couple of strokes.

I’m fine, I replied. I’m glad you called. He let me know through email.

No way!

Yep. Email.

And that’s my family in a nutshell, well at least half anyway.

When it comes to my dad’s side of the family, what he’s said in the past is true: we get together for weddings and funerals and that’s it. At least some of us. A little less than 10 years ago, I married my wife. Some of the family showed up, some did not. Which is fine. No complaints. I understand that some family members are off in other states, such as Florida. Not a big deal.

Even as I was getting married, years before isolating myself and my family from the other members of our clans, we didn’t really get together. For my dad’s side, I have two uncles and two aunts, who have their respective spouses and children. I’ve seen my uncles in the past five years, the aunts not.

Rumor has it one aunt is living and working with her husband here in Wisconsin. Don’t ask me where, no one will tell me.

As my wife put it last night, we don’t look for handouts – not from our family and not from others. I don’t like to receive charity. Ever. It makes me feel as though I didn’t do a good enough job for myself. When I’m in the direst of straits is when I go to my family, typically my mom. And I can count maybe on one hand the number of times I’ve done that in the past 10-15 years.

My mom’s side of the family is a little better about that. We’ll sometimes see some of my aunts, uncles and cousins while we’re in Michigan – the one week out of the year we make the 11-hour trek back to what was our home. One of my cousins contacted us to see about what’s going on in Wisconsin on their way to the Black Hills and we wound up camping with them along the Mississippi River in La Crosse.

The saddest part of this episode is nothing will change. I’ll continue to not get phone calls when something bad happens. I’ll continue to know I’ve got family out there – somewhere – in this world, and I may even pass them in the hulking Mall of America and not know it. Wouldn’t even have a clue.

The only lesson learned is this: try to stay in contact with my brother as best as I can and continue to draw in my kids and wife to me. Maybe we can be the start of a family that grows together, not apart, as the years pass.

I also feel as though there’s another lesson here, and that is I need to be a better dad to my own kids. I haven’t always been the most encouraging, most loving, most affectionate person in the world. I know the reasons or excuses why, but I need to change that.


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