21 April 2009

Switching Families

I am a child from a "broken home." It's a badge I wear proudly, because I know my parents are better off as they are now - apart. Their relationship is strange, but it works. If I call my mom with news, it'll be less than an hour before my dad calls with "what's this I'm hearing about (the aforementioned news)." Sometimes (when any of us feel an intervention is needed) we all talk on the phone at the same time. Conference calls were necessary (for example) when I told my parents I was moving from Fargo to Vegas, and when we told my dad he was about to be a grandfather. My parents bring out the funny in each other. And when it's time to not be funny, it's best that they can go their separate ways. My "broken home" is best (and biggest) in pieces. There are only a few times I'm sad about it - including when it's time to switch families.

It's rare for me to be with my two parents and two brothers at the same time. I can only think of two times it's happened in nine years. Ty knows my mom, my dad brings him to visit during summer vacation. Ty actually sees my mom and Derek more often than I do. But neither my mom nor Derek vacation with us for Ty's birthday trips. So this year, when it was time to bring him back to his mom for the end of spring break, it was time for me to switch families. My dad and I brought Ty back to his home, where we left him with his brother. I thought I was sad to leave him, but later realized that wasn't the case. I was sad to have two brothers who I can only see one at a time. That was the problem. So I came up with a solution. Next year I'll demand Derek come with for Ty's birthday. Told Derek. He's down. Brilliant.

And then my dad and I hit the road toward my mom's house in Maryland. My dad loves driving. He loves his diesel engine that can go more than 500 miles on a tank of gas. He loves his GPS and his radar detector and his sound system. He just likes to ride. I don't think anyone whose ridden in his passenger's seat can say the same though. I wouldn't call my dad a reckless driver, but saying he pushes the envelope is a severe understatement.

I learned more about my dad (and about myself) during that road trip. My dad - it turns out - is deeply affected by what he hears on the news. Murders, rapes, child abductions (the stuff people like me put in the news) all disgust him. He said it weighs on him and that's why he can't watch. Then there's me, who constantly hears about heinous crimes and only stops to wonder if my audience would care. I constantly learn about humanity at its worst, and at this point in my life I do little more than shake my head and wonder why.

My dad says I'm too connected. I don't think such a thing exists. Had I not been connected, we would not have know about the three police officers killed in Pennsylvania that day or about Farah Fawcett being hospitalized. Admittedly, we would have survived just fine without knowing about either. I just don't like playing "catch up." I don't like not knowing. I think it comes from my job. The person who shows up Monday without knowing the big story is a joke. Vacations are an allowable exception but seeking information is a habit that's hard to break. My dad says I have to disconnect. I'm not sure I (a) know how or (b) want to be out of the loop.

So for all our similarities, we're different. It's good to know.