“Family is better”

May 10, 2005

The other day while navigating rush hour traffic on the bypass, I passed a small Chevy RV. This was one of those setups where the owners of the RV tow a smaller, more economical vehicle behind them used for side trips or navigating tight streets in tourist towns. In this case, the car being towed was a Subaru Forester like my own.

The idea of disappearing into the landscape in an RV is appealing, and is one of those fantasies kayleigh and I seem to be having more frequently these days. Insult to injury perhaps is the knowledge that except for two or three anchors in our life, it’s quite doable. And yet those anchors are the heaviest of all.

Family ties truly bind. I love my family but there are times when the obligation is one I wish I didn’t have. I never expected to have children — grown now, but my children nonetheless — nor did I expect to live next to my aging parents and know that the onus of their care would eventually be mine as the eldest son.

I get jealous of a friend of mine whose mother died a few years ago, and his father years before that, and who has no close relatives left at all. He has no familial obligations no reunions, cookouts, or holiday gatherings to go to again and again. On the other hand, and though he would never admit it, he’s a very lonely man. Much of this is self-inflicted. He’s not an easy person to know and harder to get along with occasionally.

Until recently he always laughingly agreed that he had it pretty good when I groused about my family obligations around holidays, when he would sit at home and watch TV, read, nap, or drink. But right before Easter when I was lamenting yet another holiday with aunts, uncles, cousins and other family members, he surprised me. Maybe it was his recent bad health, I don’t know. “Don’t be jealous,” he said in an unusually quiet voice. “Family is better.”

Still, the longing one gets while watching a small RV drive off into the sunset without you is hard to shake.

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