The well-known adage, “Blood runs thicker than water” contains perhaps an unintended and unfamiliar paradox:
In modern society, the proverb “blood is thicker than water” is used to imply that family ties are always more important than the ties you make among friends. An alternative interpretation of the phrase is stated as “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb” which means bonds made between you and the friends you choose are stronger than the bonds of the family you were born into.
When I was young my friends were highly important to me. Most of my time was spent with them. The paramountcy of friends over family was undisputed. Lately however the frequently less glamorous sphere of family has overtaken the once captivating influence of friends. Almost as though I have only so much substance which to share with family and friends, the balance of both interest and preoccupation has shifted from friends to family. No doubt the experience of others may be different. Some seem forever absorbed in what their family is doing and friends are of almost collateral or strictly commercial significance.
Unquestionably my heightened involvement with family is the product of aging, both mine and my family’s. Equally undeniable is the persuasive effect of awakening need. On the heels of my father’s death I have felt a near instinctive inclination to lead and direct my family. This is odd, first because I haven’t a traditional family of my own; and second, because for most of my life I have distanced myself from the daily concerns of my family (probably a product of having been at boarding school since age 13 years and never having returned home). It is possible that my current focus upon my family’s affairs is the result of having been a lawyer who regularly advised people upon matters of succession, not that all family matters are intent upon testamentary wishes or the inheritance of property but the training cultivates a readiness to address inevitability in all its manifestations.
Whatever the reason for the alteration of my attention, I find that dwelling upon the well-being of my family is appeasing. It gives me both purpose and gratification. An unexpected corollary is that the depth of my complicity has had the effect of estranging me from people whom I once considered friends. My delight in friends has waned as my attentiveness to family has bumped up. This could of course be dismissed as merely the result of pressing need, much as flavourless necessity is the mother of inspiring invention. I am however convinced that the posture is driven by more than distress; family has trumped all else. The strength of family outweighs the vigour of friends. The grittiness of family has also forced an analysis of friends. I am resigned to thinking that apart from the occasional social diversion of most friends, and the exceptional intellectual attraction of certain friends, family carries the day. From time to time I am disappointed to imagine that the bond with friends was largely symbiotic even sycophantic. Admittedly this proposition was initially advanced to me as the spin-off of my legal experience though I confess I was never aware of anyone seeking from me particular advantage or gain in that regard. Nonetheless with the amortization of my career there is remarkably a corresponding diminution of my so-called friends. This at first disturbed me but I now accept the attrition as being in line with the predictable evaporation of clientele generally.
The sting of this experience has fostered a degree of chariness in my perception of friends. I am alive to what can only be dignified as the baser instincts of humanity. Even though upon examination there is likely no one who would deny the propensity of people to seek to improve their position in life, it is seldom that we are so ready to acknowledge that we are a stepping stone for others. To be caught in the traffic of desire is seldom foreseen. It is in this respect in particular that the bond of family distinguishes itself. Family is very much a spectator sport until one makes the move to participate; and usually the motivation has little to do with reciprocity. The impulse is virtually genetic. It is a happy accident of the proclivity that it incorporates the biblical admonishment regarding the honour of one’s parents. There is also an oddly attractive clinical element to the congress with one’s family; namely, it furthers an altruistic improvement of one’s immediate clan while at the same time fostering the betterment of society as a whole. In an era when the role of family is evolving to support a wider class of membership (specifically children and grandparents now remaining in the same home), the relevance of the family bond is inescapable. And when all members of the class can no longer claim entitlement to dependence, the need and desire to contribute to the overall well-being is intensified.
As with so many things in life, the enlargement of one entails the declension of another. My empathy with the progress of those beyond my family is limited to casual information only. My energy is now directed to my family. I acknowledge that this dilutes much of the enthusiasm I once had for friendship; but I also concede that many friendships have disappointed me. I certainly do not blame any of my erstwhile friends. Our mutual bonds have dissolved with time. My only point in emphasizing this disintegration is to turn my deliberation from what is proving to be a dead end. Sometimes it is just better to go it alone.
Post Scriptum June 16th, 2015
I am afraid this latest expedition has strung me out. My affection for family has acquired the same poison that I earlier attributed to friends. After having spent the entire day with my mother in an attempt to dispose of the garbage and junk of which she has complained for years, there is little of a charitable nature I can muster for her in particular and for family in general. I enlarge upon the contamination because, after today’s painful experience, I attempted to relate the affair to my sister and encountered a similar persistent contradiction. In case it matters, the problem was that my mother attempted to retake most of the debris which we had arranged to have carted away. When I asked her for example why we should keep four large pieces of plywood, her response was that she might need them some day! She’s almost 90 years old! She has harped about the rubbish in the garage for eons! I won’t expand upon the further preposterous pronouncements she made continuously throughout the day, but I can assure you they each contained the same element of nonsense. For me now, going it alone is both sans friends and sans family.
Post Scriptum June 17th, 2015
It is only fair to record that my sentiments today are once again entirely altered. The metamorphosis began shortly after eight o’clock this morning when my dear mother telephoned to make enquiries about the upcoming plans to relocate her to the retirement residence. I confess I hadn’t in my wildest imagination contemplated such a pacific enquiry from her on the heels of yesterday’s tribulations. In any event, her mollification of the previous distress obliged me to contact my sister to share some additional advice and as a result that bridge is patched as well. What a mockery I have made of my own impetuosity and lack of patience! I still cannot however report such favourable reconciliation with former friends.