I do my best not to ascribe ulterior motive or even ill will to the otherwise interpretable actions and words of others. I give others the benefit of the doubt unless circumstances or past history with that person counsel against extending the courtesy of taking someone at his/her words. But it struck a nerve in me when I called my brother on Saturday to check on the progress of his wife’s pregnancy — she has been on bedrest for more than four weeks due to an unexpected condition that ended with her water breaking last week — and he announced, with some surprise in his voice, “you’re an uncle!” I said, “well congratulations! So she must have just had the baby?” He tells me, “No, she had the baby Thursday, didn’t you get the email?” My first niece, Anna tipped the scales at 4 pounds, 2 ounces, born four weeks early, poor dear, but I understand she’s doing very well and breathing unaided, and feeding by mouth already. Huzzah!! A fighter already, a very good sign, in my eyes.
A fucking email? Are you shitting me? A goddamn email — a “blast” email sent to all of proud papa’s friends and distant relatives, and btw, to my work email address, sent during a week in which I was out of the office on vacation , and in response to which an ‘out of office’ reply message would have issued to the sender — to announce the birth of the first child of our family’s next generation?
I was gracious, and congratulatory, and didn’t display any hurt feelings at all, and I even sent a text msg to my dad’s mobile congratulating he and mom on their achieving grandparenthood. I didn’t even let on to anyone that anything at all was amiss, until dad wrote me back and asked whether I saw the baby on the NICU-cam. I wrote dad back, told him I was not provided the link/password, and that i didn’t even hear about the birth until I inquired of my brother how everyone was doing. Did dad write back with the link? No, his voicemail message back to me questioned how it could be that I didn’t get the message, because he could see that the email had been sent to my email address at work. He allowed that it might have been snagged by my spam-blocker because it had been sent to a whole stack of recipients. Uh, okay so you’re either questioning my truthfulness, or you’re flat-out calling me a liar and telling me it didn’t happen — when it did. This exchange typifies my father’s attitude and approach to me, his wisest son, whether he knows it or not. Son #1 is a bit of a fuckup, and has never been reliable, responsible, or particularly interested in being part of this family, although he is quick to jump on a bandwagon if he sees one form up – his main attribute, a weird sycophancy for the authority figure in the room, which blossomed from a mainstay survival tool in high school. Son #3 is the “brilliant” doctor who did equally as well as I in school, who doesn’t like getting his hands dirty, working hard, or thinking for himself. No, I am the apple that landed closest to the tree (I’ve exceeded dad on a number of counts, for which he ought to be proud) in terms of my work ethic, intellect, professional temperament, academic and worklife promise, and in actually living out the teachings of Christ in my dealings with my fellow man (whether I go to church or not), and yet I’m black sheep, baby. Second, when he’s not calling me a liar to my face (why would I lie about not getting notice of the baby’s birth from a person in my family who was in the know?), he’s completely missing the point as usual — in my worldview, in finer times than these, births in the immediate family merited a telegram. Now, oh a telephone call to a brother is probably the minimum socially acceptable method for announcing a joyous occasion like the birth of a first-born.
I sent dad a quick reply to the effect that a telephone call would have been nice, and his response was, hey, to be fair, d has been under a lot of stress with the decision to induce labor, and all that entails. To which I say, to paraphrase john binder in the breakfast club, yeah, well what about you, dad? Picking up the phone to tell me what is happening is just asking too much for you and mom to handle?
Boys and girls, nothing, and i mean nothing, says “I hate your stinking guts, fucker” more than neglecting to include you in one of life’s truly joyful moments when you had a right to be in the loop. But that’s my family for you, the apple hasn’t landed far from the tree.