Cousin Lola always used to tell me when I was younger, “God lets you choose your friends, because you can’t choose your family.” I’ve been thinking about this more and more lately, especially since The Toppie lost his job at the beginning of the month. Family are nowhere to be seen – and yes, I’ll concede that some of them are estranged because of bad attitudes, stupid feuds and stubbornness. I keep coming back to the adage “blood is thicker than water”. I don’t see much of my family, and to me it’s not really a big deal – there is no animosity between any of us (well almost any), it’s just that we move in different circles, and we have virtually nothing in common. These family members are those that I don’t ask for anything, nor they from me. It works.
But then…let’s face it – we all have someone with whom our DNA is interwoven that quite frankly we’d rather not be related to. Others unfortunately join the ranks through marriage. The upside of this is that the feeling is usually mutual and as a result paths don’t cross that often. These people are the ones that you might bump into at a wedding, or a funeral. In my experience it’s usually the latter. I could chalk it up to paying respects, but sometimes attendance is merely to say I’m still around, Fam-i-ly, just in case… you know, my name might be appearing in late Uncle Joe’s will. I always did love that landscape painting by Obscure Artist that hung in his dining room. What my hypothetical Wannabe Art Collector doesn’t know is the good ol’ Uncle Joe ended up on the bones of his arse and worked himself into his grave to keep his wife safe and cared for as he promised her a lifetime ago in front of many of the people at this very funeral. It doesn’t say much for my Wannabe Art Collector, but it does speak to the kind of person Uncle Joe was.
Moving away from hypothetically dearly departed Uncle Joe, and back to the reality at hand…
The past three months have been hell for my parents. The Toppie had a tough time at work (more than that I am not allowed to say at this stage), and he was let go four days into 2019, tensions were (still are!) high because of rising costs and the place they’re living is in an industrial area, so human contact is almost non-existent. I’ve tried my best to get them to come and stay with me (as hard as the adjustment would be for all of us, and they’ve declined), and they’re both still competent, so I cannot force the issue. I’ve tried too to get even a little help from some family members who should as far as I’m concerned have a moral duty, but with no success. It’s disillusioning to say the least. I hate seeing the two people I care about most in this world have to suffer as they are, when there are people that knew where my parents were when a hand or Rands were needed. The only thing I have to console myself is not everyone thinks like-, nor were they raised like me. Add to that, that God doesn’t sleep and I do feel a little better about things.
But, as I have learned in an attempt to become more enlightened, I look to what I can be grateful for in this situation – and it is for friends. From the ones that travelled from Cape Town in September last year and brought my parents a crate of non-perishables and some meat, to the one that baked them some biscuits, so that they’d have something nice to nibble on over Christmas, to the one that drew money out of her bond to loan to me so they could pay their car (and yes it’s a loan to me, which is to be paid back), to the ones that gave The Toppie a painting job so the rent could be paid, to the ones that are sharing a post I’ve put on Facebook to try and help The Toppie find a job to keep him busy and bring some money in, to the one that lets me travel with her to work, so that I can help my folks out with some things they need, to the one that sent me money to take The Bean and The Toppie out for their anniversary. These people have zero obligation to help at all, but they care about me, and by extension about The Toppie and The Bean.
You know who you are, and I just want you all to know that everything you all do for me (no matter how big or small), is valued and appreciated. I’m grateful to each one of you, and I’m proud to call you all family.