When Dad died, some surprising family dynamics emerged. My youngest brother disowned me, vowing to never return. My “older” brother (I’m the oldest) was executor, and blocked me from understanding what was going on.
Later on, the older brother gave me a lecture. He declared our family dysfunctional and decried the ineffectiveness of holding a grudge. He was diplomatic enough so that I couldn’t be sure who he was accusing, if anyone. I sat there attempting to be a calming influence given that he had a lot on his shoulders, even though I found his words inconsistent and insulting.
Months later, my younger brother returned to our fair city. His wife has cancer, and our hospitals are world famous. We learned they’d come and gone too late to visit or offer support. But this event did trigger a discussion among our little family about what it means to be a family.
Here’s my take. More importantly, it’s something that you can measure and record. It’s one small step towards making all those soft sciences a little bit harder.
Sharing information. Let’s not worry about what’s true or false, what’s gossip and what’s important. In a tight-knit family, information is shared quickly. In today’s age, it can be shared among everyone instantly. It doesn’t matter if it’s about Mom’s breakfast or sis-in-law is town for chemo. Who knows what and when, among the family, is very important. In our case, we found out through a very roundabout non-family member.
Mi casa, su casa.
Many times in the past my older brother came to town, sometimes with his wife, but never notified me, and never stayed with us. They could have, but generally I didn’t find out that they’d arrived until they’d always booked accommodations. Yes, we extended an invitation every time.
In the case of the sis-in-law, they also booked rooms. In fact, their hotel wasn’t too far from us. In both cases, they could have stayed with us. The comforts of home, more time to spend with each other, more time to share experiences and give emotional support.
I know of families that always stay with each other, even if they live in trailers. They can’t stand it for too long, after all they are human. But they try.
You might argue that it’s a money thing, or a culture thing. You’re partially right. But you can ignore those factors and look at the willingness of people to be together, to be close.
My older brother lectured me that families are comprised of people who are different. That’s a given, everyone is different.
What defines a family is the willingness of “different” people to be together, argue politely together, and support each other.
Measuring how fast they share information, how closely they spend their limited time together when able, how open their homes are to each other, that’s a great measure of family integrity.
My extended family scores fairly low, but our nuclear family is tight.
How about yours?