Perhaps one of the most haunting lines from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby comes at the end with an image of boats straining tirelessly to edge their way along a path against a current only to be carried further and further away into the past. I had long been in love with the shallow and imperfect characters of Fitzgerald’s creation even before they became in style. I love them because I know them all in a bizarre composition, all different people who try to constantly recreate themselves and their pasts into something different, possibly more pleasing, and all people who can’t seem for the life of them to let that boat drift sail away.
To some extent, we all do this. We all want to remember ourselves a little bit thinner or a touch more cool or athletic. Even NPR recently highlighted this idea in an article about the benefits of “story editing” and coming to terms with tragic events. These are situations that can make sense for some people to want to stretch the truth or to live in the past a bit longer than others. And yet there are others who seem to make living in the past their life’s work. I seem to come from a family who is determined to make this their legacy and I am ready to set sail for more scenic waters.
I have very few aunts and uncles. My mother’s brothers and sisters, except for one, all live in South America (those who are still alive) and my father only has one brother and one sister. Of these aunts and uncles on my father’s side, I have little to do with any of my cousins. Some of this has to do with age, but most has to do with all of these adults persistence in living in the past. As a young child, I had very few family holiday parties or birthday parties due to hurt feelings and gossip stemming from past events that had nothing to do with me yet somehow still affected me.
And so, here we all are now in some semblance of an extended family that is really just an assortment of individuals who watch what they say and do around each other or even how they breathe out of worry that tales will be told back and forth. Realistically, there isn’t a need to be so cautious since tales will be told anyway. What drives this incessant need to whisper behind hands and phone receivers or to delight in kinfolk’s misery? Why must my family tree’s branches be so entangled with cobwebby hurt feelings that refuse to be swept away with time?
The one question I ask myself the most often though would be why can’t the past just be allowed to hit the shore and then be swept out to sea?
Just a couple weeks ago I finally told my father ,”I don’t care”. I admitted to him that I knew and was aware that I am gossiped and talked about in what this hodgepodge group can call a family and I honestly don’t care what is said about me. I have far too much in my life to be happy about and to be concerned over than to fret over idle talk. I also told him that I wished I had that much time in my day to be so meddlesome in other people’s business, but I don’t. There is too much good to be done to waste time doing bad.
And so really, dear family — I don’t give a shit over who is marrying whom and where and when. I hope they will be happy — I truly do. I don’t care who wore what kind of hat, or why someone would say this, or why someone’s engagement broke up — my heart breaks for that sadness. I care about people being happy, healthy, successful, and blessed. Period. Send me an email if you’d like to catch up or get to know me or my kids.
If you don’t, dear family — I don’t give a shit over that either. And I don’t care if you’re offended by the word “shit” either. It’s too beautiful of a day and it’s time to set sail.