Yesterday I accompanied the wifey and her family to a little family outing too Cantigny Park inWheaton IL. I can’t say that I was uber excited about walking around all day looking at flowers and whatnot, but my manager was kind enough to get me the day off, so any day out of the office is a damn good one in my book. I don’t know if it was because the weather was cool and pleasant, for being late July, or if it was that we all were feeling a little giddy about not being at work on a day that usually we all would be working, but something had us feeling like a bunch of Arthur ‘Fonzie’ Fonzarelli’s. There was this jovial vibe that seemed to be coursing through all of us. Any internal worries that might have been hanging around in the back of our heads decided to take the day off, and allowed us to just enjoy the day for all that it was worth.  So the father in law, two sister in laws, two nephew in laws, the sister in law’s husband, the wifey and I hopped in two vehicles, drove 20 some miles down the road and entered the former 500 acre estate of Colonel Robert McCormick. As soon as we pulled up to the place, I spotted a bunch of decommissioned tanks. I immediately got excited at the site of these war machines from a bygone era. But when I found out you could actually climb those metallic beast, I got extra happy,  and I thought to myself, this day might not turn out to be half-bad.

I did what any 340lbs, 35 year old kid would do, I claimed on the tanks. This turned out to be a bit of a physical exercise for me since there were no steps. I just had to grab on to something and step on the tracks in order to climb up. But it was fun. All the guys in our group were doing the same. The women just laughed at us and took pictures. We then toured the 1st division museum. Walked through the Ideas and Rose garden. We had lunch at the McCormick restaurant. Laughed at the sister in law’s disbelief when the waiter brought over this ridiculous large half sandwich, which she had only ordered because she was under the impression that it would be a very lite meal. We took the tour of McCormick mansion, marveled at his dining room and library, and looked over his impressive gun and ancient sword collection. We wondered out loud what the estate must have looked like in it’s heyday, when the richest and most influential people in Chicago, Hollywood, and Washington D.C. would frequent the grounds. After touring the estate for the better part of the morning and most of the afternoon, we all climbed back into our cars and headed to the sister in laws house for some grilled hot dogs, burgers and beer. All in all it was really pleasant day.

In my eyes the the wifey has such a large, extended family, and they are a close nit group to boot. When I am hanging around with them I feel envious of my wife. Yes, I know I probably shouldn’t feel that way, but I’m sorry, I feel what I feel, and that right there is what I feel. I admire how the wifey’s family support each other, sometimes financially, but always emotionally. Even the wifey’s father, who I am pretty sure was not my biggest fan at first, came around. He even helped us with the down payment for home. Without her father’s help, we would have missed out on our little dream a reality. The wifey’s family seem to share a bond that I have only seen fake TV families share. I never been lucky enough to experience that.  I’m not saying that my family and I never shared any happy times together. But it sure seems to me that we shared a lot more bad ones than good.

There are times I find myself fantasizing about what it would be like to hang out with my mom and siblings again. It’s not exactly a happy thought, but it is one that comes across my mind at some point after spending some time with the the wifey’s family. That’s one of the reason’s why I sometimes look for an excuse to skip out on one of their countless family events. I don’t feel the need for the constant reminder of how different my family dynamic is.

When I first arrived to Chicago, and I met the wifey’s family, I was really freaked out by them. They were really nice and kind, lite hearted people. Well maybe not so much her parents, but her siblings were real cool with me. I on the other hand was real skeptical about the whole bunch. I used to think that there was no way in hell that these people could genuinely be so pleasant and innocent. It had to be an act of some kind. But after spending almost 10 years mingling with the wife’s family, I can tell you with all the confidence in the world, that it was no act. They are genuinely a nice group of people that really love each other .

I know for a fact, that if our marriage failed for any reason, my wife will be able to count on the loving support of her family. At no point will she ever really feel alone. Because her family will do everything in their power to make sure that she knows that they are there for her. Her mom and pop’s, sisters and brother, aunts and uncles, and countless cousins, and nieces and nephews, will each take the time to pick her up, dust her off, and make sure that she stays up on her feet. Whether she cares to admit it or not, the wifey would have a much easier time recovering from our failure. I can’t say that I would be as fortunate. If the wifey woke up today and decided to leave me for whatever reason, I would pretty much be left to fend for myself.

When we got married, all of the wifey’s immediate family, and some of her cousins came to witness the event. But the only people that I had there for me were some very good friends (that I had actually met through the wifey), and my ex-roommate and her family. I knew that my kin didn’t have the financial means to make the trip on a short notice. So I figured that if I made it a 2 year engagement that it would buy them enough time to scrounge up enough cash to get their affairs in order and join me for my wedding day. But for one reason or another, they wound up not being able to make it for our big day. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t mind not having them there. The truth is that it stung a heck of a lot. I really wanted to have them there with me. We had experienced so many sad and unpleasant times together, that I had kind of hoped that I could at least have one memory of all us together, sharing in what turned out to be genuinely the most beautiful day of my life. I wonder how maybe their presence would have somehow made an already special day all the more incredible. I did manage to push off the hurt feelings long enough for me to enjoy the festivities that evening. But when it was all over, a part of me felt a smidgen of melancholia because I didn’t have my family around.

Then there was my attempt to throw a housewarming party for our new place this past spring. I had invited my brother, mother and sister, to come out and spend at least a long weekend with us. I thought it would have been a good opportunity for me to get the family once again under one roof. For once I didn’t want to feel like an outsider intruding in the wifey’s family events. I just wanted to share a very special moment for me with my family. But again, I could never get a real concrete commitment from any of them. Eventually I was turned off by the whole idea of holding a house warming party. So I called the whole thing off. I know it was stupid of me for canceling. The best thing I could have done was to hold the event as planned, and enjoyed the day with my friends and the wife’s family that has become my family. But I am an idiot, and I allowed my family not being there to get to me. All I managed to do by doing that, was to rob the wifey from having what would have been a very special moment for her. Which just made me feel twice as shitty.

The thing is that I am just as guilty. My brother had his first kid almost two years ago. And I have yet to meet my beautiful little niece. My wife encourages me to go back home and meet the little one, and her mother, all the time. But I always manage to convince myself of a million different excuses as to why I can’t go. My mother has been inviting me to visit her in Puerto Rico for the better part of two years now. She has even offered me to pay for my trip. Yet all I can come up with is more excuses.

I don’t know what is wrong with us. It’s not like there is any hatred or leftover animosity between my family and I. At least I don’t think there is. We talk to each other on the phone at least once every two weeks, however for whatever reason, we seem to do everything in our power to avoid being in each others presence. I don’t know why it turned out this way for us, it just kinda’ did. I wish I understood why, cause that might mean that maybe I could figure out how to bring us back together again. Even if it was just for one day.

There is this great quote from the movie Garden State, that I often go back to when I think about my family:

“You know that point in your life when you realize that the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have someplace where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone. You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.”

I gotta say I agree with that assessment. It sure seems to correlate with my own experience. I guess that longing won’t end until I have my own kids someday. Or at least I hope it does.

I have nothing but kind things to say about my wifey’s family. Well…there might be some things I could do without. Like the fact that their food is way too spicy and it makes my ass feel like there is a fire burning right through it when I go to the bathroom. Or how they seem to share a love for loud, repetitive, Mexican music that features major accordion and tuba solos. They like chili powder on their candy, which should be considered a crime against nature. And some of them believe that most Puerto Ricans are knife wielding criminals that have an odd fetish for hubcaps; which I just notch it up to cultural misunderstandings. But when it is all said and done they are a loving bunch. They have accepted this Nuyorican into their home, and have reminded him of what I need to strive for when I have my own family. And as long as they don’t introduce any of my future kids too Tex-Mex fashion, I will always be proud to call myself an honorary Deluna.

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