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Practicing Family

I don’t think family is everything, I think it’s the only thing. Everything else is just noise, and accessories.

I disagree with Merriam-Webster. Family isn’t just a noun, it’s also a verb, an action you practice when you’re showing your highest loyalty, selflessness, and greatest love for someone, all at the same time. And not unlike love and hope, some days family, and the practice of it, feels like a double edged sword.

Some people practice what I call “family lite,” with conditions and limits to how far they’ll go. I’m Filipino and most of us go hard, driving ourselves nuts along the way. As long as I consider you a part of my family tribe, then no limits, no conditions, and we all rise and fall together.

I am the self proclaimed matriarch of my nuclear and extended families. The glue that holds shit together, the one you consult when you’re in a bind, and the one who encourages you to do what you’re supposed to be doing. I’ve got the spreadsheets and legal documents to prove it.

My family is decked with mental illness, diabetes, high blood pressure, and dementia – heavy on the mental illness. That’s before we talk about the eccentric personas and strong Asian influence. All that said to correctly imply the depths my loyalty and love – my sense of family, are often tested. Some weeks family feels more like a metal chain, as opposed to a boastful necklace, heavily clanking around my neck,  the chains soldered in loyalty, love, and an Asian culture that shuns nursing homes.

I am writing this in the era of COVID chaos, but honestly, I could’ve written this last year, primary difference being right now I have the time to reflect on my life.

I am sheltering in place with my two 19yo daughters, my grumpy 71yo aunt, my sister who has just started trying to rebuild her life, a mother with dementia, and seven dogs. No need to gasp at the mention of number of dogs. That’s my pack and believe me when I say they are the easiest of my family tribe.

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Quarantine shenanigans.

My mom’s degree of dementia varies each week. On a good week she can take care of her personal hygiene, didn’t set a kitchen fire, and tells random stories over and over in an hour. Last month she was  installing locks on her kitchen cabinets because she believed the contractors remodeling her home were stealing her foil pans. She also likes to jam her unsolicited opinions on everyone, on repeat because she forgot she just did it ten minutes ago. These last two weeks she can’t find 90% of her words, needs to be spoon fed, keeps hugging the toaster, and I just bought her the most dignified looking adult diapers I could find.

My aunt is how those old people stereotypes come to exist. She stands watch behind curtains and keeps tabs on who parked too close to our driveway. She’s convinced that neighbors are swapping out our garbage bin because ours is “cleaner.” They’re not. When the kids were younger and had friends over, she would arrange the pantry and refrigerator so that she could tell what was eaten and deliver angry oral reports in the morning. She also asks 30 questions a day and needs the answers repeated at least twice.

My sister, well, you’ll have to read My Sister’s Keeper for that story. I will say it’s always challenging to be a part of a support circle for anyone trying to get back on their feet, especially when mental illness is involved.

And to keep this real. I’m no picnic. I’m more like a fancy dinner party with a five course meal, a dress code, serving MD 2020, where I sit at the head of table holding a bullhorn in one pocket and a bottle of Lexapro in the other. I’m an alpha and a perfectionist. I seek control in lists and plans. I have written apocalypse plans, danger passwords and all my kids have “go bags” in the trunks of their cars. I think a mile a minute and extra AF.

 

My 19yos are going stir crazy during this quarantine. Their plans to move out together have been postponed, first with the holidays, and then with COVID. But as the days needed to shelter in place increase; forcing them into online classes; robbing them of their young adult social lives; and, as the number of daily antics my temporary convalescent home residents pull off rise, I can see my daughters’ patience dissipate and their agitation grow, and understandably so. It’s the same slight of attitude I sense from their older brothers when I tell them to take my mom or aunt to do groceries, visit my sister, or help me move a giant piece of furniture (pre-COVID).

Here’s the thing. I get it. I really do. But I don’t feel bad for my girls. And yes, I realize most of their friends and our non-Asian community don’t have to shelter in place with convalescent home residents. But that’s because we don’t exercise family lite, it’s not a luxury afforded us. We family hard. 

It’s trying times right now and tolerating family is part of that. Some days that looks like laughing for days, family movie night, and talking about nothing and everything over dinner. Other days it looks like inconveniently living together a while, telling my aunt you have no idea why the grass is greener on the left side of that tree for the third time in a row, ignoring my sister having a conversation with herself, and following my mom around the house turning off all twenty lights she turns on every hour. And that’s what practicing family looks like.

Like I said earlier, family isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. I  won’t let my kids forget that, not now, not ever.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. geraldine urquidez
    April 11, 2020 at 9:29 PM

    Thank you for another wonderful reading that I can relate to ❤

    On Sat, Apr 11, 2020, 1:45 PM Maria’s Random Rants wrote:

    > mariasrandomrants posted: “I don’t think family is everything, I think > it’s the only thing. Everything else is just noise, and accessories. I > disagree with Merriam-Webster. Family isn’t just a noun, it’s also a verb, > an action you practice when you’re showing your highest loyalty,” >

  2. Jeng
    April 12, 2020 at 12:49 PM

    When I feel like I’m alone in my thoughts, you pull right up! Thank you for sharing this ❤️ I love and miss you Maritez! Sending the fam love and prayers and big a$$ hugs 🤗

  3. Dave Knight
    April 13, 2020 at 9:14 AM

    I love this paragraph! “My aunt is how those old people stereotypes come to exist. She stands watch behind curtains and keeps tabs on who parked too close to our driveway. She’s convinced that neighbors are swapping out our garbage bin because ours is “cleaner.” They’re not. When the kids were younger and had friends over, she would arrange the pantry and refrigerator so that she could tell what was eaten and deliver angry oral reports in the morning. She also asks 30 questions a day and needs the answers repeated at least twice.”

  4. Kristle
    April 14, 2020 at 2:07 PM

    Very reflective piece Ate Maria! This phase of Covid sure gave me and all of us a lot of time to reflect on what’s really important in this precious life of ours 🙂 xx

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