Families

I just got off the phone with my daughter. This coming Thursday she’ll be a married woman and it suddenly occurred to me a few minutes ago that I will become the last surviving member of my family to be able to carry on my father’s name.

Is that a bad thing? In some ways yes, in some ways no.

In Mexico, a son by tradition becomes like his father. If his father is a professional man, he’ll become a professional man. If his father is a butcher, chances are he’ll become a butcher too. Young men in Mexico (and women too) are bound by this tradition.

I was having this very same conversation with my friend, Max just a few days ago. That conversational thread began by me asking the question of how (or why) the entrepreneurial spirit seemed all but nonexistent in Mexico. What – if anything – motivated young people to succeed? What was the catalyst or agent that inspired certain individuals to transcend social boundaries?

His reply suggested personal advancement was not a cultural value. I wasn’t shocked by his answer but found the lengthy reply to add more weight to the premise that has been forming in my head around why some cultures succeed and why some cultures fail.

I grew up in the 1950’s in the United States where individuality, creativity, and success was/is so ingrained in the collective cultural consciousness that by the 1960’s the last thing a young man wanted to be was like his father.

And so many of us growing up in this era also wanted to kick our respective father’s asses; both literally and figuratively.

It is interesting living here in Mexico to view my past through the lens of another culture. And it is my observation that the only collective cultural value that still binds much of the US – and that also continues to give the country its world class competitive edge – is the belief that we as individuals can do any damn thing we set our minds to.

In three days time I am leaving Mexico to join my daughter and most of her extended family and friends in Oregon to celebrate her marriage.

To see my daughter again I am both pleased and excited. To see my ex-wife and ex-inlaws much less so.

America families are so fucked up. Maybe they’ve always been so, I don’t know.

I was talking to one of my oldest friends on the phone this morning, lamenting this same story of families and how broken and little in common save blood we seem to share with one another. His reply was, ‘There’s always Happy Hour.’ I said, ‘No shit.’

It was Hemingway who once said, ‘Sometimes we need to be a little drunk to spend time with our friends’ (or something like that). And more so goes with our family; especially our ex-family.

I learned in this last conversation with my daughter that her mom is going to sleep on the couch because neither one of her brothers (early 60’s) are fit enough to climb a single flight of stairs. Unfucking believable. So she is giving up the only bedroom on the first floor – her own – because neither one of her brothers have had the sense to even moderately maintain their health.

Why don’t they just stay in Michigan? The travel has got to be insanely troublesome if their health is so bad they can’t manage a single flight of stairs. Oh, wait a minute. That’s why they have so many wheelchairs in the airport these days is because there are so many other fat nitwits who can’t make it to the plane on their own either.

My daughter’s evil twin sister (actually her somewhat close cousin, they’re ten months apart and grew up together) is going to be there with her asshole, know it all husband. I look forward to seeing Anna but I’d rather take a pass on Ian.

He doesn’t work. He has two ‘minor’ felony convictions (as if any felony conviction is minor). And while he professes to know just about everything on every subject, he has never found the time to attend university.

He is tall, handsome, his parents are rich, and can be on occasion considered charming – or so I am told. I’ve never met the bastard, but given the circumstances of family, I will have the intense displeasure of spending 7 days under the same roof with the little shit.

Thank God my friend, Hendrik is going to be there the whole time. He has an even lower tolerance for bullshit than I do. He’s tall (as in taller than Ian). An ex-World Bank senior executive. Educated (speaks five languages). Well traveled. Sophisticated (as in only the most arrogant of the superior Dutch can be). And probably more prickly now at age 78 then when I last saw him in Mexico some 4 years ago.

Ah, yes. I can now see some roguish pleasure in introducing the two of them.

It’s true we can’t chose our family (but we can certainly punish them by proxy through our friends).

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