I guess you need someone to talk to. We are everyday establishing and re-establishing our social connections and standing with people, unconsciously communicating our thoughts and feelings and receiving the same from others, and doing our best to ignore pain and reality, ours or otherwise. We are babbling, gibbering, selfish purveyors of inane truths and big dumb lies. We don’t know or understand or care about each other, except as to how it concerns us. If you are above me, I want to know how you got there; if you like me, I want you to keep liking me, because that feels nice; and if, remarkably, you have a good story, I want to hear it to make it mine.
That’s how we navigate. How we survive all that is out of all those pleasant absent people, there are some that we can talk to. Real people we cannot offend, who have heard our stories and know us, who want to know more because they are invested in us. There are real connections, and all of our social negotiations are made to produce these few bonds.
I have six siblings, and most of them are loopy. I am loopy, too. Some are too young to be loopy, but it doesn’t look good for them. Only my sister Janice, who is older than me by a year, and certified so today, her birthday, seems to have come out okay. She is still strange—she’d have to be, with all of us around her, and her in the middle of it, shepherding us to some kind of normality, only enough so that we don’t get too loopy, like Tiny Tim the ukulele player or Napoleon Bonaparte the megalomaniac. She is like the pretty, blonde, suspiciously normal niece on The Munsters. She fits in, kind of, only because she may be completely necessary. We need some semblance of normality, some sort of grounding.
Janice has been strong for a long time, which comes from being the oldest of a big, loopy family, and from having a pair of loopy parents. Janice has been trying to commandeer this family for as long as I’ve known her, and she may have finally done it. She is our go-to person for any sort of family business: dates, memories, news, advice. She had a hell of a time selecting godparents for her child, but I don’t think the rest of us will have as much trouble. Toughest would be weighing whether it wouldn’t be better to just hand our children over to Janice at birth.
She’s got that survivor spirit, that thing opposite what marks a spoiled child. She has stood with her feet in the mud and hung her brother’s underwear on the clothesline, day after day. She held onto her New York Catholic prudishness in an environment of dirty, barefoot, redneck boys in the godless backward of Pasco County, Florida. She tried to remain cool and popular in school in spite of a never-ending parade of goofy younger siblings whose only desire seemed to be to destroy what she built up. It is remarkable how little I saw of her in high school.
It all makes her the smartest, quickest, funniest person I know. She has applied her gifted intelligence to a well-rounded, compassionate, and personable character. She is a capable person, well-adapted and prepared for life on Earth, and she’ll outlive all of us. She’s my friend, too, as good as I’ve got, and it’s better than most. She’s an everyday presence in my life, though I haven’t seen her in a year. She’s good people, the kind of person you hope to meet, the reason you get out there and face the embarrassment, tedium, and stings of social networking. I’m lucky that she’s been that for me all my life, though it took me a while to realize it. She probably knew it all the time.
Happy birthday, Janice!