The imperfect family

David Busch

There was a party at my house on Sunday. No, not a five-keg, barbecue outside, slip-and-slide party, but a family party. It was a celebration of Easter for my mother. It was a remembrance (though belated) of Passover for my father. It was a birthday for my brother.

And so the family arrived. My brother from law school was down in the kitchen with his cynical comedy. My 96-year-old grandma relaxed on the couch and enjoyed the presence of seeing another birthday for my brother. My uncle from Indiana, a real-life Socrates, argued every statement and fact of the afternoon. My other grandma, tired from a move from her old house to a new apartment, wondered where the past 30 years had gone. My other uncle from Cleveland rode up in a sleek new Audi, shades down around his nose. My aunt, who has lived a life of constant sorrow, looked up and smiled at me as she climbed the stairs. My other brother, for whom the birthday celebration was for, paced from one end of the house to the other, waiting to open the presents. And, of course, my mother and father, who embraced this crazy family that has been put together through the grace of their love.

Thus, the celebration began. Food was placed on the table and hungry mouths lapped it up. Presents were opened and the fresh aroma of coffee lingered throughout the house. Stories danced between the present and the past. I heard the story of my uncle who was just down in St. Augustine flying old World War II fighters, reenacting the horror of war in a game of fun.

The conversation directed to the newly passed health care bill. “It’s just a skeleton. Nobody knows what it means,” argued my uncle, the one who arrived in the Audi.

“But who actually wrote the bill?” asked my Socratic uncle. “As a country, we have institutionalized insurance companies. Many were screaming ‘I don’t want the government in my health care.’ Well, I don’t want the corporation in mine.”

“But something had to be done,” argued my parents, both seasoned workers in health care.

Conversations got intense as my Socratic uncle brought up the Israel-Palestine conflict. “The land takeover by Israel,” my uncle argued, “is a root cause of the problems there.” I agreed. “Most wars fought there by America was influenced and engineered by AIPAC,” my uncle went on to say. I didn’t agree. My father, head down, left the room. He heard enough. My 96-year-old Jewish grandma, leaned over at the front of the table and said, “You have gone too far.”

And then the party died down. My uncle in his Audi sped out, a quick handshake and he was off to go ride his horse. My brother was off to the library to study law. My birthday brother raced off to the nearest bar to celebrate. Both of my grandmas went home. My Socratic uncle relaxed by the pond. And I drove off to Cleveland — Little Italy to be exact — to drop off my aunt.

Holidays are holidays. Some do it because it is a celebration of beliefs. Others do it because they have become the socially and culturally accepted celebrations of this country. Regardless of why, families gather on holidays.

My family is an interesting mix of backgrounds. My father’s side, with its Ashkenazi Jewish beliefs, believing with each ritual. My mother’s side with her Catholic background filled mostly with skeptics. Each side is filled with its own great history. I sit in my living room in 2010 connected to this extensive history that stretches back to the ghetto walls of Latvia to the hat industry of Great Britain to the Russian lines of World War I. With different histories come different beliefs and interpretations of life. Sometimes they clash. Sometimes they fuse. That is family. It is glorious, but it is not perfect. And so when people gather in celebrations such as Easter or Passover, perhaps the celebration isn’t just a celebration of belief but also a celebration of family. This past Sunday I celebrated my imperfect family with its differing beliefs and histories, its conspiracy theories and flashy cars and its overpowering love that somehow transcends it all.

David Busch is a senior psychology and history major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].