Friday, November 03, 2006

Family Lies, Family Ties

Sunday, October 29 ~ Mt. Sinai Subdivision, Dalton, Georgia

No commandment-inscribed stone tablets drop into my hands as I drive through this hilltop subdivision across the road from my hotel. Yet something drops into my consciousness as my thoughts wander back to my recent visit to Montreal.

Families are funny things. Growing up, my relationship with my older sister Susan, my sole sibling, was volatile, occasionally violent and often ugly.

From my childhood perspective, of course, she was the demon terrorist, responsible for many of my fears, scars and traumas. I'm sure that from her point of view, I was the kid brother from hell.

In a recent e-mail, Susan reminds me that our mother always swore one of us would end up in jail for the murder of the other.

Although it never happened, those childhood experiences -- and terrors -- stayed with me into adulthood. Not surprisingly, they colored my relationship with Susan, from whom I always maintained what I considered to be a safe distance.

We spoke rarely, except during our mother's declining health and subsequent death. And my physical departure, first from Montreal and later from Canada, didn't increase the frequency of our communication. Nor did the advent of email have much of an impact.

And so life continued as I maintained both my wounds and emotional shields.

By the time I crossed into Canada 16 days ago, some family business had produced more communication but no more closeness, at least not for me. In fact, the thought of seeing her for the first time in nearly a decade probably contributed to some of my resistance to the visit.

And then two things happened that began to shatter my decades-old patterns.

The first was when Susan told me she had freed up her entire weekend and would be taking Friday off from work to be able to spend time with me. I was stunned.

The second occurred as I drove into Montreal and, visualizing the next day's planned reunion, saw myself crying.

I did cry.

For the first time -- perhaps ever -- I was deeply moved to see her. For the first time -- perhaps ever -- I was happy to be with her and felt safe and comfortable in her presence.

My Montreal weekend was powerful for many reasons, some of which I wrote about in Ghosts I. Another reason, one I wasn't going write about until Susan encouraged me to do so, was our reunion.

What shifted?

I did.

Of course, Susan has grown and matured. Who hasn't over the course of a decade?

But I see now, on the slopes of Sinai, that even as Susan and I grew up, changed and matured, the put-upon little brother never did. At 25, 45 and 52, I was still always 5 or 8 or 12 when I thought about her, talked to her or spent time with her.

I'm stunned to realize that, for more than half my life, my relationship with my sister was built on a foundation that crumbled and dissolved long ago. It's been built on a lie, on an illusion, on a fog that was waiting for my breath to dissipate it.

As I celebrate and give thanks for a closeness I've never before felt with my sister, I feel a need to inventory all my relationships, past and present.

What other illusions am I living that prevent me from experiencing the openheartedness I now feel toward my sister? Which relationships are still stuck in a time-warp?

The moment I pose the question, one particular relationship leaps to mind. Ouch.

If there's one, there must be others. However many there are, it's up to me to fast-forward them into the present -- living and relating as who I am today with the present-day personas of everyone in my life.

As I wrote so presciently in The MoonQuest, "The past is passed. I let it go."

Photo by Robert Montgomery: Mark David & his sister, Susan, in Montreal

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