The black sheep

I’ve always wanted to write a story on the black sheep of families. Greg and I hold that position in our families. We aren’t barbarians or plunderers. We just see more gray in the world than others in our families. Life experience and much thought have caused us to veer from the views of our childhood.

When I’ve looked for reading on the subject, all I’ve found is the hollow advice to not discuss politics and religion. That’s a good starting point, a way to keep the peace. What I have recognized during the past few years though is that our beliefs inform nearly every aspect of our lives. People on opposite sides of the political spectrum gather news from different places, read different books, and eat different food (Do you prefer Cracker Barrel or Whole Foods?). Those of you who read my brother’s comment on my previous post know that even medicine is a subject of debate.

That leaves little common ground on which to build a relationship. And it leaves the best parts of me — the passionate, interesting parts of me — tucked into a shell. I have always had the temperament of  a teacher’s pet. I wanted to please the “adults” in my life, and I needed years to understand that I couldn’t please everyone, that trying to please everyone made me miserable.

I am unsure of how much I should work to improve tenuous relationships, or whether it is possible to improve them. I do want Eleanor to know and love her extended family. I used to think that we would all float toward each other with time, but I can see that we’re on two currents moving in opposite directions. We only become more ourselves, more committed to our beliefs, as we age.

One of the many reasons I love Austin is that it is a land of misfits. Many of our neighbors and friends are also drastically different than their families. There is a sense that we are building a community here in which to raise our children. And so, last week, we took a little vacation with some of our Austin friends. It wasn’t perfect. There were children who stayed up too late and meals that didn’t suit every diet. But there was also love. And that’s what I want most for myself and my family — that we be loved just as we are.

Concan, Texas 2013


6 thoughts on “The black sheep

  1. Very interesting. I feel this a lot with my own family. I was the only child who moved away – my siblings both live very close to the house we grew up in. We see things very differently. Even avoiding politics and religion specifically, our approaches to almost everything is so different. I also think that life experiences have pushed us apart – I think tragedy, like the loss of a child, can either bring people closer or push them apart. For my sister & I, it’s pushed us even further apart. I struggle with what that means long-term. But having a family of friends is an amazing gift. Those certainly look like some happy kiddos!!

  2. Sometimes the tightest family bonds are those that we have chosen. Being in the gay community, there’s no shortage of people who are the black sheep in their family, me included. I also think it’s possible that our generation’s paradigms of familiar bonds may need an overhaul in this new era of brothers and sisters living across the country from each other.

  3. Sometimes I see our family (B’s side with some pretty serious Catholics and my side with some very un-religious types) and think there is no agreement at all. I am not Catholic. The anti-woman, anti-family planning slant of the Catholic church is really hard for me to handle.

    Then I think about one of B’s most staunchly religious aunt & uncle bringing us soup after we lost our baby. They didn’t (and don’t) know that we terminated our pregnancy because it was so bad for my health. They won’t ever know that, like a lot of people who I love, that I am one of those people who had a late-term abortion (though that’s hardly ever a word I use to describe the worst thing that ever happened to me and the hardest decision we ever made). But they showed us love. They made us soup “to nourish our bodies as our hearts heal,” according to their card.

    I have thought about whether telling all the dirty details of my story matters to me. It does in many ways. But it doesn’t in that I don’t want to make it ammo in an argument. I have written about our experience and really want to publish what I’ve written, but I don’t want it to become something other than our very personal, very horribly, very difficult situation.

    Sarah, as always, thank you for your thoughtful, interesting story. I think our family is what we make it. I know that my family is so different than it was 15 years ago and so much fuller of love. Thanks for writing this. :)

  4. Amanda, I completely understand what you’re saying about using your story as ammo. It’s hard for me to hold back when I hear opinions from people who have never experienced something similar to what I have. But I feel responsible for protecting my daughter’s memory, and I want to sew love on her behalf.

    As for the diverging politics and religion, I have also experienced great kindness from people of all different backgrounds. That’s why I cringe when I am told that I need to adhere to a certain set of beliefs to be a good person.

  5. I was on the phone with my mother a couple of days ago. She was happily sharing her and others’ excitement with the new pope. He’s from Latin America, he’s a Jesuit, he’s humble, he chose the name Francis, he’s changing things, etc. “But mom”, I said, “he’s not that progressive… he’s against same-sex marriage.” After she repeated my comment as part of our conversation, I just heard my dad said, “Well, everyone is against that!”… And I just laughed and told my mom that was going to change in the near future… “In some years, gay marriage will be completely accepted. My dad will likely not live to see that but it will happen.” She just asked, “you think so?” Yes, mom, I am sure.
    Talk about “black sheep”… I moved out of my house and left my country!! I moved in with my boyfriend before getting married!! Nothing like that had ever been done by my cousins or friends… Mom more or less tried to understand, Dad was livid at some point. Yes, we have some different beliefs my parents and I. But I think that deep down, deep down, we are just the same… I am the kind of woman that I am mostly because of them (and I don’t have time to write all the examples that prove that my conservative father is also a radical liberal), and I know that we only have love for each other. In my early middle age, I love visiting them or having them visiting us. Often they drive me crazy but I love seeing them, having them around. And few, few, few things give me more pleasure than seeing my son’s and my father’s face when the airport doors open and they see each other. Santiago’s big smile and a loud “Abuelo!!” are just priceless…

  6. Oh, families.

    I read that comment to your previous post, and it left me with my jaw dangling around my knees. It’s been a while that I’ve read something that smug, self-absorbed and judgemental. I don’t find it hard to understand that you feel a distance between him and you. How dare he, I thought!

    Black sheep of the family sounds a bit harsh to me. Genes works in mysterious ways, you don’t get to pick your parents and siblings. Sometimes it’s father like son, mother like daughter, and sometimes – not. You’re different. In a good way. I’m sorry you don’t feel that close to them.

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