Dec 5, 2011

Of 'imperfect' families and 'fitting right in'!

At first, I thought it would be a quiet dinner for two friends who hardly have the time to catch up. Since there's no song practice after church, we had an impromptu plan where we'd catch up over a plate of crispy dry chilly lamb. The evening turned out to be more than we expected.

My friend, a very responsible daughter, soon started outing tearful tales of her family problems - problems, I know, bad enough to be shared with someone who's not family. While I listened to her, wishing there's something I could do, I also somehow admired her for having the strength to share problems so intimate and personal yet I felt so inadequate to be the one hearing all of the problems. We went for a short walk after dinner and she took an auto home. 

On my way back, as I closely hugged my jacket against the dipping temperature, it got me thinking about the complexities of life and family and about my own in particular. I don't have the perfect family. And I will lament on the incompleteness of my family for a lifetime. After all, losing a mother can never be fair to any human. There will be certain personal clashes in the family. After all, despite the fact that we share bloodlines, we are all born with different personalities. But at the end of the day, as dysfunctional as we are, we are still family. And in times of need, we will somehow turn to each other and stick by each other.

My mother was my role model. Right from the way she was active in church to the way she used to dress only in neutral colors. Till today, I look at situations and problems and try to envision my mother handling those and I try to do the same. She was my superwoman  who could defeat everything that could even slightly harm her family. My father is my hero. When I was a child, he was the man who could do no wrong and the invincible man. But it took me 18 years to realize that my parents were also human beings. My mother was but a woman who loves her family fiercely but who also, in the end, succumbed to cancer. My dad, somehow, was also just a man who was lost without the love of his life, his wife and the mother of his four children; a man who somehow struggled to stitch his life back together after burying his own heart. 

It turns out, my mother was no superwoman and my dad is nowhere near the invincible man I envisioned him to be. They turned out to be just human beings after all, prone to mistakes, problems and who could also be haunted by the bad decisions they made years ago. And my brothers... ah! my brothers! I could write books and books about their irresponsible behavior and how frustratingly human they can get.

The funniest thing about life and family, I feel, is that in life we don't get to choose our roots yet we get to be a part of them for the rest of our lives. And as dysfunctional or imperfect that our families are, we get to be a part of that imperfection for our lifetime. I've heard of people who've turned their backs on their families and choose to face the world alone. Definitely not me! I'm such a loser when it comes to facing the world alone. I don't want to face the world alone, I don't want to face problems solo. At the same time, I don't want to celebrate success alone and I don't want to go through milestones in life without someone to share it with. I need my family behind me, to celebrate with me and be proud of me when I succeed and to fall back on in times of loss.

I know I don't have the perfect family. But I have a family who stands by each other, a family who loves and respects me. My brothers and I don't always get along but we all want the best for each other. I have a Dad who loves and  values me in a way no man ever will. I had a mother for 18 years of my life and aunts who worry over me, sometimes too overwhelmingly. 'Overwhelming' meaning setting a meet-up between you and some 'eligible bachelor'.

I have nephews and nieces who all fight for a sleepover since I am the cool A Ni who lives in Delhi and comes home once a year. I never slept in a bed during my summer in Aizawl, my bed or even my dad's giant bed was too small for 3 sometimes 4 little bodies who'd suddenly take up four times the space of their body size when they fall asleep. So we always end up sleeping all over the floor!! I have a niece who's the spitting image of me and who even sounds like me, and another who shares my name (at least half of it).

I know I'm so much less than the perfect daughter. Despite all my goodwill and my 'genuine' love, I know I'm the daughter who stays a thousand miles away, the daughter who's hardly home for Christmas and the daughter who's hardly there for my dad even when he gets sick. I am but the aunt who disciplines the nieces too much that sometimes their mother refuses to speak to me; the sister who's everything but docile; the cook who's always close to burning water in the kitchen; the tigress who's ready to bite if anyone leaves a footprint on my freshly waxed floor and the sister who gives a long lecture while doing laundry for the brothers she hardly takes care of!

So somehow, I fit right in with my imperfect family. And I know that if I conquered the world or even landed at the bottom of it, my family are the people who'd be there with me. So what if we have problems we sometimes  find it difficult to weather? We're in this for life! And while so, we'll learn to live with and for each other!

So here's to my dysfunctional family. I'm proud and thankful to be a part of the imperfection!

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