Thursday, March 1, 2012

Half....Not

I used to love the sitcom, Half & Half (starring Telma Hopkins, Valerie Pettiford, Obba Babatunde, Rachel True, Essence Atkins & Chico Benymon) which aired on the CW from 2002-2006. It was a show about 2 sisters….half sisters……who shared the same father, Charles Thorne (played by OB). The sister had 2 very different upbringings and led completely different lives which, of course, let to some conflict. Mona was the eldest sibling and raised by her mother, Phyllis (played by TH) and Dee Dee, the younger of the two, was raised (and spoiled) by her married parents. Throughout the series, the sisters and their mothers had numerous disagreements and confrontations. Mona often felt neglected and treated ‘lesser than’ while Dee Dee seemed to be oblivious to her ‘higher position’ on the Thorne family tree. I loved the show because, not only was it entertaining, but some of the situations presented were real; things people actually deal with in those kinds of situations.  It reminded me of my own family tree except mine has many more branches than theirs; and where Mona & Dee Dee referred to each other as half-sisters, my siblings and I never, ever use the word ‘half’ when describing each other. I am the eldest of both my parents’ children: my mother’s 3 daughters and 1 son and my father’s 9 daughters and 1 son. I am going to break it down for you so please, pay attention. With my mother (Mom #1), my Dad had 3 daughters; with Mom #2, my Dad had 2 daughters, with Mom #3, he had 1 daughter and with Mom #4 (who became his wife), he had 3 daughters (one of which passed away as an infant) & 1 son.  After her 10 year relationship with my Dad ended, my Mom got married and had 1 son with her then-husband. My maternal baby brother shared a special relationship with my Dad and although he is no blood relation to them, all of my father’s children claim and treat him as if he were. So, in all, there are 10 of us (living).  Got it? Okay……moving along.
All of our lives, my father emphasized to my siblings and I the importance of family and of sticking together, no matter what. He didn’t care what the argument was about or who had done wrong, we better have each other’s back at the bottom line and that’s that. So, we lived by that, for the most part. There have been violations of one by another, in varying degrees and we have managed to survive them all.  Yet, there does lie an undercurrent of resentment and jealousy that hasn’t really been dealt with. Thing is, that undercurrent wasn’t sparked by anything my siblings and I did towards each other; it was ignited by the relationships between our parents and the emotions of our mothers. In the early years, at one time or another, each of our mothers was guilty of speaking negatively about either the other mothers, the other children or both. My Mom, in particular, wouldn’t allow us to claim 2 of our sisters who were born ‘on her time’ (while she was with my Dad).  Anytime we’d mention ‘our sister, so-n-so,’ she would promptly and emphatically say, ‘That’s NOT your sister!’  We never stopped claiming them though.  After a while, she got over it (I assume, when she got over her feelings for my Dad and moved on with her life) and, since then, hasn’t tried to make us disown our siblings. My other siblings’ mothers have been guilty of the same or something similar or worse.  Despite it all, though, my sisters, brothers and I remained a unit. My father didn’t have a lot of money so he didn’t financially support any of us as much as he was responsible for but what he couldn’t do with money he tried to make up with time. Some of us got a lot, some of us got very little, which is another source of the resentment a few of my siblings carry.

It wasn’t until we were all in our late teens – early 20’s, however, that the jealousy and resentment began to rear their ugly heads.  We didn’t recognize it as such, in the beginning.  It came across as somebody having a bad day or a nasty attitude or an incident-specific reaction. As the conflicts became more serious and behaviors more hurtful, deeper discussions began to take place. There have been times when one wasn’t speak to another….or a few. There have been loud debates, treacherous arguments and yes, a couple times, blows have even been thrown. Throughout it all, though, we remain a unit; partially because we don’t want to disrespect my father’s legacy by falling apart but mostly because, we really do love each other. We spend A LOT of time together and we genuinely enjoy each other’s company.  Our children are very close and within the group, there are extra-special bonds.  If my father were alive today (he died 8.5 years ago), I think he would be proud that we’ve managed to stand together, despite our issues. In my father’s memory, the bonds of sister/brotherhood remain strong. We fight hard, we love hard, we protect each other….hard.  No matter what goes on behind the scenes, we (will) find a way to work it out and remain side by side…..and ain’t nothing ‘half’ about that!
I Love you Charliez Angelz!!