Thursday, February 17, 2005

PC but non PC

Would we act any different?

I’m staring at a photograph of me and my father at my high school graduation. I’m in a white cap and gown, he’s in summer blue slacks, a white short-sleeved shirt, and a pink tie with navy blue circles on it. His hair is grey, but he still looks very fit and healthy at this time.

I was 17 when that picture was taken.

I’m 35 now, so that means 18 years had passed between now and the day that picture was taken.

If I had known my father only had 18 more years to live…how different would I have acted?

I knew his time here was limited. He was an apprentice undertaker in his youth, after all, and he told me all the weird stories that he had acquired from working in the funeral industry. I knew about mortality.

It just didn’t seem so immediate to me at the time.

Look at your families, people. They may have 18 years yet to go – or only one year. They may only have til next week. No one knows. “Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.”

That said, my mother and I are rather baffled about Father naming Debbie co-owner of the house with me AND making her executor of the will. Let me explain.

See, here’s the thing about my sister – she didn’t grow up with me. I had NO contact with her, and neither did Father, until about 1995 when HE sought HER out. She didn’t go looking for him at all, even once she turned 18. Debbie is in her late 30s now, I think. She’s not much older than me. By the time my father contacted her, my great grandmother Katie (and please note that grandma Katie wrote a poem called "Larry" about my father, and she mentioned my mother Billie and I in the poem, but not Nancy or Debbie at all) and my aunt Mary and grandfather Fred and grandmother June were all dead. Debbie is the product of my father’s marriage to Nancy, his first wife. I am the product of his second marriage to Billie. Nancy remarried and the man she married adopted Debbie, so he was not allowed to have contact with her.

So she grew up completely apart from the rest of us Holladays. By personal “culture” she isn’t a Holladay at all – only by genetics is she my sister, really, and I don’t quite mean that as cruelly as it probably sounds. Granted, it’s not her fault. It’s just a statement of what is. But as a result of not having grown up as a Holladay, she knows nothing of our family’s in jokes, for example. She doesn’t know why it’s the biggest HOOT that I got June’s “throne” and her organ that she used to play the world’s worst versions of “Silent Night” on you’ve ever heard in your life. LOL!!! Debbie does not know any of this -- our family’s power plays/struggles, what things have meaning to us and what doesn’t, how the Holladays think, she isn’t familiar with our family traditions (such as serving dessert at Thanksgiving on the beautiful blue/white Copenhagen Christmas plates, or the fact that those Christmas plates were actually purchased by aunt Mary as a gift every year for my family, those being Dad and my mother Billie and me).

This is why it’s shocking, completely shocking, to me that he willed to her the yellow-pattern china that had once belonged to aunt Mary and grandma Katie. And Debbie said she wanted the bedroom furniture in the blue bedroom for her son Bruce, because he has no bedroom furniture. The thing is, we’re talking a very elegant antique bedroom set that belonged to June’s mother, Mrs. Hoban. My family had a THING with antiques that were kept in the family, and she doesn’t know how we Holladays value those things that have been in the family for so long – and Bruce, I feel, wouldn’t treat them with the care and respect they are due as real family heirlooms. She also wants the dining room set…but she never sat down to a Christmas dinner at that dining room set with Fred and June in West Orange, New Jersey. I have. My first birthday was celebrated on that dining room set with the family. I have pictures of it. I think I also celebrated my fourth birthday on it too – I remember the Pooh cake I had.

I suppose there are a lot of levels to this. One is, Debbie was able to get to see him more frequently than I was these last few years. She also took him up to PA for the holidays a couple of times. Second, I think he wanted her to feel as much part of the family as possible, to make up for lost time.

But Mom and I believe that everything should have gone to me for this very reason – she just isn’t a Holladay. I don’t know why, as soon as she turned 18, she did not attempt to find him, knowing that she was adopted by the man she called “Dad.” She never called Father “Dad.” She called him Larry.

I called him “Doc” as in Doc Holiday/Holladay. Even my former boyfriend Dann knows more about the family than Debbie did. He’d know why it’s so hilarious that I got June’s throne (and what that is is simply a beautiful upholstered lounge chair that she ruled her roost from – you’d have to have been there to get it).

I know this isn’t politically correct, but I had to get it off my chest.

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