Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Josh Grimmer: Lost family

The prevalent theory of the under-35 set is that the modern-day family won't consist of your blood relatives, but rather your friends. You separate yourself from your biological unit, make your way into the world, and become your own person. You meet new people! You start to hang out with them. You confide in them, tell them your secrets. Your fears and hopes and dreams. They support you. You support them. You form a group of four, maybe five people who all share the same sorts of ideals. They're your new family now, biology be damned.

Except, of course, you've still got your real family. I always hated my family – well, my parents at least. My dad was pretty awful at being a dad until very recently, and my mom is, well, wretched. Now, most people don't believe me when I talk about how awful my mom is. Think of the worst woman you know. She's awful, right? Massive bitch. Just mean to everyone, depressing, cruel, manipulative, all of that, right? Well, she's biologically capable of having kids. Her name is Kathy, and she has three of them. That family is so far away from me. I have a new family now.

I spent most of my childhood as a feral cat. Sleeping whenever I wanted to. Eating whatever was on the lawn. Living at other houses for days on end. Three days with the Magnuses here, dinner with the Bussieres there. Out until 5am. Back for a couple hours of sleep. Off to school. Over to Nate's house after class. I would go weeks – up to a month – without seeing my family. No notes, no messages. Nothing. I spent three days in the hospital without hearing from them. I'm pretty sure that, in hindsight, I fucking hate my parents for not keeping better tabs on me. They didn't really know that I was moving out until the day before I got on the plane. My mom didn't go out of her way to see me on the morning of my flight. Then again, I've told her more than once that the next time I attend a function with her, I want her to be in a casket. I guess we're about even now.

I really want to believe that my family is composed of my friends. My family is you, and you, and you, and you, and you. I love you all so, so dearly and you mean the world to me. You do. The thing is, you're not really my family anymore. You were, for like nine months. Then I got married. My wife is my family now. My wife and my cat, pretty much. I tried for the better part of 20 years to be a good son. That never worked. Now all I think about is being a good husband. Well, that, and what I'm going to do when she eventually leaves me for an orthodontist from Orange County.

I have no desire to expand my family. It's me and my wife. That's enough. Plus Peepopo, the Unhelpful Cat. That makes too damned many already. Peepopo does nothing. She adds nothing. I don't make a lot of money, but at least I contribute. Goddamned Peepopo does nothing. NOTHING. The embodiment of sloth. She's good company, though. When I'm dicking around the house and my wife's not home, I talk to the cat. “Peepopo, I'm thinking of getting a slice of pizza.” “Y'know, Peepopo, I really ought to get back to writing.” “Did you hear that, Peepopo? Guided By Voices is touring again!” My major concern is that Peepopo has replaced my actual inner monologue. While I was on vacation last year, back home in Massachusetts, I'd read an article online and think “Oh man, Peepopo! I had no idea that movie was shot entirely on location!” Then I realized Peepopo wasn't in the room. And I wasn't talking out loud. I was thinking to a cat who wasn't there. I had gone insane.

My family is mercifully far away from me, entirely by my own doing. I don't want them anymore, but they're still mine. With the exception of my mom, I still really love them. If one of my brothers needed money, I'd do my best to get it to him. If my dad were to fall ill, I'd be there in a heartbeat. And, truth be told, I feel that way about my closest friends. And honestly, truly, if I had to, I could remarry. I don't want to have to, but I'm certain I could fall in love again. Maybe not the same love I share with my wife, maybe not even as much, but it's not out of the question.

Maybe I'll have kids, and maybe I'll love them. I certainly hope so. I mean, I want to. I don't think I can love children, though. Like, babies. I don't like them, or the way they look, or the noises they make. I hate the idea of any human – any living, breathing human being – staking their entire life on me remembering to make sure they stay alive. It's too much. It's scary, it's awful. It's ugly. Dark and miserable. There's nothing there for me. Maybe I'll be a good father. I come from a long line of terrible fathers, though, so the odds are stacked against me.

Maybe I don't want to be a good father. I think being a good husband is enough.


  1. "I was thinking to a cat who wasn't there."


    [love it.]


  2. I appreciated your musings about having kids, what with the timing of what I was writing for this assignment. "It's too much" resonated strongly with me. This is a great piece, Josh.

  3. Damn, you carved right into this beast. Bravo.

  4. Beautiful. You said many things that I feel. No mention of jealousy of people with great families though, so you're a better person than I am.

    Everything you said about the darkness of those people staking their lives on you in is true. It just happens there's this other stuff which comes with it that there's no way to preview.

    And, finally, I know this is a piece of writing and I guess I should be commenting on the writing but it was so good that I have a lot of feelings and reactions - SO! The biggest difference between you and your parents is awareness. You will be a gift of a dad if you ever decide to that. If not, you will continue to have really lucky pets.

  5. I think you also know that being a good father has little to do with genetics, and much to do with the heart.

    That's why I think you'll be a great dad.

  6. What Steve said.

    I loved this! Solid from start to finish with no tacked on ending. Hooray!


  7. I wish you were my dad!

    Also, I need money. Please?