you don’t know what you’ve got…

Most of the people I know will not realize what they have in their families until their parents or siblings are dead or estranged. I look down on them for this, and I realize this is nothing to be proud of. Some of them, it is true, have shitty families. Abusive ones. Parents who should never have decided to have children; siblings who ought to have restraining orders put on them. But it’s not those with relatives like this that I mean. I mean the people who, twenty years from now, will see a movie or a news blurb and realize the perfect person to empathize with them about this, or to inform them or to just experience it with, is dead, and has been for years. And they’ll realize they blew it, their chance at being close to these people. They were too busy clinging to the last desultory, rebellious vestige of an adolescence they delude themselves into thinking they can reclaim. “Oh god, it’s MOM calling again. Let it ring.” “I can’t man, I have to hang out with my dad this weekend. I know, lame, right?”

I call them foolish for this, and I know it is foolish of me to do so. Probably this snobbery is a way I have of dealing with the fact that the people who don’t like their parents and have little interest in them are those whose parents are fine, untouched by illness, undisturbed by the tick of the clock or the ripping off of another calendar page. In my fury at these people who do not know what they have, who waste it, I look down on them, and preen in my panic over the understanding I have of my parents that, however fragile and fleeting, I at least managed to arrive at in time to benefit them. I hope. Or, if it doesn’t benefit them terribly, at least they get to see it. What good will it do them if, forty years from now, I realize how much more insightful and mature and meaningful and non-frivolous they were, compared to other people’s parents? What appreciation will they get? When most people have lived long enough to realize how tremendously awful other people can be, how awful they can be to their children, it’s too late to thank the people who weren’t awful. I’m taking the express train to that point, and sticking my tongue out at everyone I pass along the way. Which, I realize, it itself childish in almost the same way I am accusing them of being.

But I have to get back at them somehow.


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