How should we define family and what is the glue that holds family together? I look at my siblings differently as time marches on, as parents go to their reward and artifacts from our family of origin are dispersed across our separate families to await distribution to the next generation. Do other animals, those ostensibly suffering from a reasoning inability, feel the same way about their littermates and cousins as their lives take substantially different paths?
There is always, of course, the common history, the family stories that, while similar, also serve to differentiate one suburban household from another. These are the seedbeds for movies that leverage those histories by putting Chevy Chase behind the wheel of the family truckster or Robin Williams behind the wheel of the RV. And there are dramas as well as comedies, thoughtful narratives that use issues like substance abuse or sexual orientation to creep into our dens and ask us to grapple with our own humanity or to affirm that denial is not just a river in Egypt.
So we enjoy some good times and struggle with some bad, and some suggest that we are all brothers and sisters in the sight of one god or another, but then we resume killing each other over stuff. Globally we kill our brothers and sisters for religious supremacy or for oil, though one day soon we’ll likely do the same for clean water. Locally, we kill our brothers and sisters for Uncle Earl’s estate or Aunt Eunice’s chifforobe and silver tea service. It’s not always a physical mortality. Often it’s simply a cauterization of the fresh incision that separates parents from children, sibling from sibling. And if family relationships are this tenuous, what is the glue? What is family?