Saturday, August 27, 2005

Hawaii, Part V

The Ugly

(Again: certainly there was nothing "ugly" about our vacation. It's merely hyperbole, for effect. See how creative I am?)

My father is a complicated guy, and I've talked about him a little bit here. Of course I love him, and I know he loves me, but he can be difficult. One thing about him: he never sits still. He needs to always be doing something, learning something, moving. He loves self-improvement books, reads them by the bushel-full and actually takes their advice and tries to apply it to his own life. Oh--and he speed-reads. Yes, with his finger and everything. He learned how to speed read when he was in law-school, working part-time and trying to be dad to my sister and I. He's done it for my whole life.

Wherever we go on vacation, my father always needs to "explore". He likes to see what's out there, and he doesn't like to go to the same place twice. The first day we got to Maui, he hauled all the travel books out and demanded a family meeting so we could all work out our activities for the week. Snorkel boats, hikes, helicopter trips. Golfing, swimming, bicycling. Sunset cruises, garden tours, whale-watching. You name it, he wanted to do it. What he doesn't want to do is sit on the beach and rest.

For a guy so "on the go", he has raised 3 fairly lazy kids. Me? When I'm on vacation I like to sit on a chaise lounge in the sun with a mai tai and a good book. My brother is pretty much the same. My sister likes to get out and about a little--but not to the extent that Dad does. And my mother--good sport that she is--goes along with Dad on his excursions until she can't take any more.

There was a bit of resistance to Dad's excursions, not least of all because they happen to be expensive. Fortunately for me, I had a built in excuse for every event: my children need to nap. Also, they can't really swim yet, and they certainly can't go on a 4 mile "arduous" hike. So I spent a lot of time lounging by the pool at the house while the kids were sleeping. Worked great.

Other members of the family did not have such an easy out, which caused a bit of tension (this Dad was completely oblivious to). It's annoying when you're on vacation but you still can't do what you want to do, you know? Dad is definitely not the best at seeing things from other people's point of view. I will say that even I got tired of hanging out a home, not seeing much of the islands, and that after the excursions, people were mostly glad they had gone. (Though not on the arduous hike. Only Dad liked that one.)

When we got to the Big Island, even Dad was tuckered out, and we all spent the first few days lounging around. But by day 3 of that, Dad was in a foul temper, so we quickly sent him out with everyone else for what turned out to be a great hike in the Waipio Valley. (Lance and I took the kids on a driving tour, which was also kind of fun.)

The other thing about my dad: he likes to be in charge. He likes things to run smoothly. He doesn't like messes. He doesn't like to be questioned. He doesn't like 7 other adult opinions about how we should all spend the evening conflicting with his own. So, for example, when we went to a beachside park one evening for dinner, and Lance forgot the relish, and we didn't get there early enough so it was really dark by the time we ate, and it took 3 tries before we could all agree on the right park bench---that was a difficult evening for him. There was frustration, and shaking of the head, bulging of the vein on the forehead, clicking of the jaw. But we got through it!

Then there's my sister. Also very complicated. (Aren't we all?) Ann is incredibly loving and sweet, but at the same time she can be really rigid and competitive. The unfortunate dynamic of our family is that in the past 10 years, Ann has become the odd man out. Not for any real reason, it's really just happened by circumstance, and we all love her to death--let me explain.

My Dad went to UNC. My brother went to UNC. I went to UNC. My mother attended a women's college, not far from UNC and spent every weekend with my dad there, effectively "going there" too. My sister applied and was excepted to UNC but instead went to Princeton. (Can you imagine? Bad decisions will haunt you your whole life, Ann. (See, that's the kind of joke we make--and it's not really fair. Funny, to me, but probably not to her)).

My mom is fairly easy-going. My brother is completely laid-back. I am pretty good at going with the flow. My sister--not so much. She likes to be in control. She thinks she is smarter than the rest of us (she went to Princeton, after all) and she usually thinks she knows the best way to do things. You know what? She probably is smarter than the rest of us. Smarter than me, anyway. But that still doesn't mean I like to be told which bags I need to carry home, or that Ed will listen when she tells him to bring Sawyer's book in the car, or that Mom will appreciate her advice to bring more napkins and less potato chips on the hike. And even though we mostly shrug our shoulders and continue on in our mild-mannered way, we still kind of form a bond in opposition to her, rolling our eyes and cracking jokes at her anal tendencies.

Also--I moved to San Francisco after college. Chip moved to San Francisco after college. Ann moved back to Delaware. Although neither Chip nor I live in SF anymore, we share memories of that place that Ann doesn't. And neither Chip nor I live at home now, so the relationship we have with Mom and Dad is totally different than the one she has.

I feel, to a certain extent, like the prodigal daughter. Everytime I go home, everyone is always thrilled to see me (Ann included, of course), and I'm thrilled to see them. We're all on our best behavior. Then, before we start annoying each other, I'm gone. We get to appreciate each other, without psychoanalyzing or questioning each other's motives and decision-making skills.

I think the same can be said for Chip. And anyway, he's a boy and has a different relationship with Dad altogether. I think Ann is just a little bit jealous of that, especially since she knows there's nothing she can do to change it. She can't become his son, after all.

Since Ann lives less than a mile from Mom and Dad, she doesn't enjoy the same easy, surface relationship. She actually knows them much better than I do, and they know her and her children much better than they will ever know mine. But they grate on each other's nerves more easily. They criticize each other more and are less appreciative of each other. And again, I think she is jealous of the easy way the rest of us get along.

Plus, Mom and I are more alike--we laugh at the same jokes, which, Ann, in her seriousness, doesn't always get. We get pissed off at the same things but don't let a lot of things bother us at all. I don't think Ann really understands where we are coming from most of the time. And that frustrates her. Also she feels ganged up on. Like it's Mom and me versus her.

It's kind of an odd dynamic and I wish it wasn't so. I tend to feel a lot of guilt about her whenever I'm home, because I know that on some level, things are easier for her when I'm not around.

We still had a great time together, though. Here's a photo, to prove it:


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