What makes family members close? What are the forces that push them apart? My cousin Paul’s daughter, Katherine Thompson-Thompson recently inquired of him about the relationship with the four boys in the family. Why were we close especially in our younger years? I am the oldest and Scott , my brother is next in line. Bruce is my oldest cousin and Paul is the youngest of my cousins is turning 50 on Easter Sunday. Kim, my sister came into the picture just before we left New York City in 1972.
From my perspective we have a small family, my father had one sister Anne and my mother was an only child. I suppose it starts with that the size of the family. While Bruce and Paul had a few other cousins from Uncle Winston’s side they were our only cousins. Our families never lived close to each other. Scott and I lived in with our parents Murray and Nancy in New York City and then in Seattle. Anne and Winston lived in Toronto. Bruce remains in the Toronto suburbs and Paul lives outside of Chicago. The last time all five cousins were together was at my Father’s memorial service in 2013.
So Katherine, since you asked…..
Our parents were great friends, well as good friends as you can be living a 10 hour drive away and ultimately with most of the North American continent between them. Anne and my mother kept in touch by writing letters. Phoning Toronto from New York was typically limited to a few hours on Sunday when the long distance rates were at their lowest. They were the ones who kept in touch. Had it been up to Winston and Dad I doubt the families would have been as close as they would have been. Anne and Mom were sisters of different mothers. I remember my Mom hoping Anne and Winston would eventually move to Vancouver, BC but Anne would never leave the older folks that depended on her for day to day care.
Our parents also vacationed together and had fun together. This fun included, spending rainy days in a leaky canvas tent, getting food poisoning, car troubles, marathon games of Rook (Google it) and Coleman Stove meals. Even in their later years they took a few vacations together and those are probably some of their best memories.
When Bruce and Paul were young it was a happy day in New York when the mail delivered the latest letter from Anne describing my cousins’ “Antics” and these were killer stories. Scott and I would beg Mom to read these over and over. Bruce helped Anne out with chores around the house by washing the bathroom walls with soiled cloth diapers from the diaper pail. Pots and pans spend more time on the floor of the kitchen than in the cupboards and every wall was a canvas.
Scott and I were very excited when Bruce was born. I still remember looking in on my sleeping infant cousin Bruce in Toronto and trying to wake him up so we could play with him. He was a little brother.
We all enjoyed hockey, we enjoyed competing, we enjoyed getting into trouble together and when we were together we spent time together. We all liked golf and played as much as we could when at Cape Cod. We played golf before Bruce, Paul and Scott were married.
I can’t say now that we are all close. Paul and I are close and can talk about pretty much anything. We are closer than we are to our own siblings. Part of that was because I had a job that brought me to Chicago several times a year and we had the chance to play a few rounds of golf, head out to coffee to catch up and keep the ties close. It wasn’t always that way. When Paul and Mary were just starting out they were plenty busy and other family members were closer
Now Bruce and Lois will be taking an Italian cruise with Kim and Rick. They will create their own bonds.
Being family does not mean you will be close. Why have I kept in touch with just 2 friends from High School when I had so many friends when I graduated? What about my college friends? In the end, we will be close to the people we are close to and some of them might be family and some not.
To me, if our Moms had not been friends then we would not have been close. Everything else that happened just happened. Well memorable vacations happened together. New Hampshire, Maine, Cape Cod, Prince Edward Island and many more. We left our mark everywhere. But I think at least once a week, Anne and Nancy sat down to write a quick letter to each other, I’m sure many crossed in the mail. Down in the Seattle house basement there are boxes of letters. I’m not sure if Anne has saved my Mom’s but if you are interested in a little history you are welcome to take a look when you venture out West.
Paul and I are close because we talk about meaningful stuff, life, love, work, family, kids, parents, our history, our challenges, our victories and our failings. Yes we talk about golf but to us that is meaningful. Paul knows more about me than anyone in the family. It just worked out that way. But it all started with our Moms being like sisters. Had either of them had a sister it probably would have been different. I don’t think it is much more complicated than that.
Thank you for reading!