Not at ALL What You Thought

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Family Thang

Last night, my pastor spoke about covenant, the churchy concept concerning the fact that people deliberately choose other people in their lives. Early on in his message, he repeated the oft-repeated dictum, "You can't choose your family," but added that not everybody we love, or are related to, or know, is in a covenant relationship with us --nor should they be.

Covenant is important, and should be entered into only with large gravity. This sounds, I know, like marriage, but, apparently, some marriages aren't covenant, primarily because the folk in 'em don't want that kind of marriage.

Well, what is the thang, anyway? It's a relationship I choose for my good. Ideally, I can trust this person to "cover" me: to keep my counsel, to hope the best for me, to pay attention to me (on occasion), to stand up for me --to my face and behind my back, to believe that my presence in her life is important. And I offer the same (at the very least) in return. Where this relationship is concerned, we speak of cutting covenant.

(You know, I think the concept did begin with marriage --or at least sex with a virgin, who would subsequently bleed-- and/or circumcision. There is blood/pain as well as intimacy in the history of this thang, but I personally refuse to actually cut or deflower anyone. It's a figure of speech, y'all.)

Over these forty-five years, I've come to realize that, while I can hang out with, be friendly, and even love anyone (and I do mean anyone), I can't cut covenant with just anyone. Not everyone gives a flip about me (nor, of course, should they); I don't give a flip about everyone (nor, of course, should I). Certainly, some of the folk with whom I've cut covenant are family, despite the fact that not every member of my family can keep counsel, for example.

(I'm looking at you, Goobs. Everybody knows you ain no refrigerator. If you think it's interesting, you pass it around, like crab dip and crudites. Mommy loves you, though. Mwah!)

So I can't consider all family in covenant with me. Last night, as I listened to pastor talking about what covenant was not, I thought about my relationship with one of my big brothers. He lives with us. Now. But he and I have recently decided that he should be looking for another place to live, I primarily because I've realized that, even though the house is mine, and I had asked him to move in because I wanted to help him, he doesn't respect me. Among other problems. But the disrespect, especially with my daughters as witness, is where the other problems come from. It hurts to know that we can't live together.

(Is that a grown-up sibling thang? Do other brothers and sisters, sisters and sisters, brothers and brothers somewhere live together in peace till they die, or is the family dynamic --a coupla adults forcing little kids to live together and love each other-- too unnatural to survive long past puberty?)

Here is a silly, tiny example of the disrespect.

My brother moved in after we got Nimue (the medium mutt). During the first days, my brother'd lecture us on the proper place for dogs --outside. "A dog is an animal," he'd intone. "It wants to be outside." He began with this assertion of his better knowledge of dogs, and graduated to other assertions: that we should rub Nimue's nose in her --evidence of elimination control; that Nimue hated dry dog food; that Nimue's neurotic fears (like the remote) were due to our inability to treat Nimue "like a dog." And he refused to call her "Nimue." To him, she was just "Dog," though probably not with a capital "d". My last Mothers' Day card "came from" the girls and "the yody* dog"!

(And the most annoying thing about this is that Nimue was so smart, she soon learned to respond to that name, especially since my brother was often hollering, "DOG!" while slipping bacon grease in her bowl. I don't know what he'd do about names if he was staying, now that we have another dog.)

It's silly, isn't it? That a dog's name would come between a brother and sister? But this is how I see it: the dog's name is something the girls and I decided on; it's part of, yes, a rather common delusion. We believe that Nimue sees us as her "pack." We see ourselves that way, too. (I'm the Alpha, or Big, Dog.) Or, rather, we see her as a member of the family. Naming her (and referring to my daughters as "your sisters") symbolizes that. It's not necessary that anybody else believe that. It's not even a "Love me? Love my dog" thang. But accepting the names of our dogs is part of accepting --and respecting-- what we choose to believe about our dogs. It's just a "you have a right to your particular delusion, so long as it doesn't hurt anybody else" thang. Everybody else, even people who wouldn't have a dog in their houses, calls the dogs by the names we gave them.

My brother refuses to do that.

I do love my brother. He's knowledgeable, mostly warm-hearted (dotes on my daughters, for example), and generous. But he works my last nerve. I can't trust the man to suspend his disbelief in this small thing. Or, to be truthful, right many bigger things, it turns out. It began with the dog, you know, and then it went on to What's Not Funny (the sitcoms/movies I watch), What's Not Interesting (the books I read) and What You're Doing Wrong (cooking, raising my daughters, and even resting). And that's not even an exhaustive list.

You know, I should've said something about Nimue's name in the very beginning, but I'm the easy-going, quietly-obsessive, anthropomorphic type.

*Honey, I don't know. The man speaks German like a native; maybe it's a German thang.


  • At 4:32 PM , Blogger Heather said...

    It's me (Lo/Diri) -- I hear ya, dear. The man doesn't respect all the members of your household. And doggas is fambly -- at least the ones we choose to be (other doggas work for a living). They're our furry chirren, and your brother doesn't respect that. Furthermore, he's not respecting that side of YOU, the one who loves her furbabies. Not a silly problem at all, it's serious.

  • At 4:33 PM , Blogger Heather said...

    Doggas is fambly, our fuzzy chirren. Your bro needs to respect that. Period.

  • At 12:34 PM , Blogger Gine said...


    And he's movin. Whew.


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