As the youngest of four, I was raised on questions.
You see, I was always last to understand, and so, I inevitably asked a lot of questions.
Like: what do you mean I shouldn’t lie?
or Why am I in trouble?
or Why don’t you want me to tell the truth?
or Why are you crying?
Who’s that? and what does that letter mean…for us..for you…for me?
But despite my insistent, wondering nature, there are many things I still do not know about my family.
Why my brother seems so much like my father, his face striving to cut those same sharp cheeks; to furrow a similar brow. I wonder how his mind must have captured and sealed away stark, signpost, still-life reliefs of my father’s way of being angry, a man who, for me, remains shrouded still in the penumbra of my secondhand memory. Did my brother need my father’s love to fill his heart so much that he mimed out angry outbursts as if they were no different from other words of kindness? When we were children, I must remember: my brother was also just a child. He knew not what he was doing.
Other questions nag still.
Why did my grandmother stay with her corpulent, boorish abuse for a husband when we blocked them in the parking lot of the assisted-living apartments with our vehicle – a slapdash intervention to prevent their surprise reunion. How did she resist the entreaties of her family as we contentiously pursued a condescending intolerance the like of which was unfamiliar to my quaking voice, in a winter not yet frigid enough to have me shaking like some last leaf of autumn. Weeks later, my grandma foisted up an answer. She said she stayed because of loneliness. All that time. In a house across the street from the graveyard. What is loneliness?
Did my grandma’s bullheadedness have anything to do with why my mother and sister were butting heads, or why my mom told me to tail my sister who was running out of doors to slam? She should have known I couldn’t keep up with her. Lacey was so much more my senior, colossal, with great strides and the rebellious brilliance of a teenager enthralled by her own presumptive independence. There was a question I remember asking myself repeatedly, after I was spotted by her and I failed my mission. I remember asking, “Why couldn’t I have been a better ninja?”, even though I returned home unnoticed by my mother.
Now, it seems to me the worst poems are written with unanswerable questions so I will try my best to rationalize some mystery.
I say, In all these lurid vignettes poorly lit by memory’s shadow, there was true filial love when we could remember to forget the faults of our family. Where pride, arrogance, and envy all dissolved in the acid of our jokes, the umami of thanksgiving dinners, and in the ambrosia of songs whose words we all knew like secular scripture. Yet, taken together, these questions remind me, in my youth as in my adulthood, I know nothing about my family.