One Thing about Large Families

Not that the Phillipses are incredibly huge, but large enough that you can both see how things play out in similar ways among people with similar temperaments and how “similar” is not quite the same as “the same.”

Last night I was at dinner with my parents. We went to El Rey Azteca, which I like to support both because it’s good and for its role in bringing down Paul Stanley. The waiter called me “señora” which made me feel a little old, but then he called my mom a diminutive I’ve never heard before. I know “señorita” is for young woman. But I think he called my mom something like “señorota?” Something that had a “ta” sound. And then she tired to argue with me that he was calling me “señorita” and her “señora” and I was like “Please, Mom. He looked right at me and said ‘señora.’ Then he took my order. Then he addressed you with whatever the other word was.” So we were bickering and my dad was all “I don’t see why there wouldn’t be some word in Spanish that meant ‘little old lady who always takes too long to decide.”

It made me laugh.

Anyway, my dead cousin came up in conversation. We all are Facebook friends with his kids and his daughter posted a status update yesterday about going to decorate his grave. And my dad said that he wished he could have a few minutes with my cousin S.–my dead cousin’s brother–because my dad felt that S. ended up in a similar situation to my Grandpa with his brother Bill. It turns out that my Grandpa gave Bill money regularly, even though he was pretty sure he was just going to drink it away, because he couldn’t bear the thought of this being the one time the money really was needed and him having it and not giving it to his brother. Apparently my Grandpa found out that Uncle Bill was trying to sell his wife’s jewelry behind her back, so he bought it and returned it to her. (This is also apparently how one gets to divorce a Phillips with the full best wishes of the Phillips family. Or at least that’s the memory now.)

Uncle Bill died when my dad was four and yet he spoke like it broke his heart fresh about how his dad felt so guilty about not being able to do right by his brother or even figure out what the right thing to do would have been. My dad said that my Uncle B. (my dead uncle I’m sorry is dead) would regularly have to talk my Grandpa out of these kind of depressive guilt episodes.

And my dad wants to say something to my cousin S., to let him know that he’s not alone in not knowing what he should have done or how he should have done it, that he shares that with my Grandpa.

I don’t know. I have a difficult relationship with my Grandpa, that has improved now that he’s dead. But something about that story–which I know is depressing as hell and I am sorry–made me feel deep compassion for him. I hadn’t heard it before.

And I am glad to have a story about him that makes him human again for me.