the people you relate to
I know it has started to look like there is a logical progression of posts shaping up here, and now I am deviating from the sequence that the orderly people of the internet have started to predict. It turns out that another of the side effects of this profile-a-day format is that the short time frame I have to complete each post doesn’t leave me a lot of space for directing the process – the time constraint means it has to be a pretty organic thing.
In a format that leaves more time for thinking through my intent, I can determine what I’m going to write about, then wait to start typing until my thoughts have begun to jell. When I have such a small amount of time, there is no waiting. Whatever – or in this case, whoever – is on my mind in the hours before I sit down to write will become the subject. And whatever seemed like the next logical step in the series will crop back up another day, when the thought has resurfaced.
And today, the thoughts on my mind are of my brother-in-law, who has been one of the real surprises of my adult life, and one of the unexpected joys.
By that I don’t mean that I was surprised to find I enjoyed Eric’s company. I mean more that I had just never considered what it would be like to have in-laws, at least not to any realistic extent. When Lance and I began dating our freshman year of college, I knew and liked his parents, and knew that I would enjoy spending time with them in the years to come if our relationship took us down that road. And I met Eric, then a freshman in high school, at a time of life when personalities seem as mutable as the fashions trends he shifted through from month to month. I liked him and the whole family. But it didn’t occur to me at that time – and maybe in my superstition about my new relationship’s lasting potential, it would have made me nervous, like I would jinx things – to imagine all of us hanging out as adults, what that would look like.
Then time marched on and Lance and I got serious and finished college and started working and Eric went to college and branched out and one day he came home for a visit and there we were. We were all adults, hanging out, reaching that level playing field. And there was a little bit of when did this happen? and a little bit of how did this happen? and a lot of damn, this is kind of cool. Because suddenly there was a real give-and-take of ideas when we were all talking, and conversation was a lot easier than it had been when we had all occupied different worlds, and it was really pretty cool.
Also, we started all having things in common, and our conversations were not anymore all about the next family gathering and what Lance and Eric had gotten up to as kids. There is still plenty of that. But now there is also talk of cooking and food and gardening and yard maintenance, and Eric will text me to tell me about some new ingredient I should try the next time I go to World Market, and will try the salad we make when he stops by for dinner. He diagnosed the fungus I’d given our tomato plants by overzealous sprinkler use one year and helped me correct the problem. I’d hear him and Lance discussing the merits of adding a second major in Spanish to their respective degrees in English and golf course and turfgrass management.
It has just been really awesome to me, that my husband’s brother, who I met as a kid, really, has turned around and become a friend, someone who knows what’s up and with whom talk flows easily for hours. I’d just never thought about that happening – the shortsightedness of the firstborn child, I guess, not realizing that at some point everyone younger than you will also grow up and be people you can relate to.
Probably the coolest part is that all this eating and conversing and poring over mysteries of plantkind in our backyard has allowed me to get to know and respect someone I would never have connected with if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to marry his brother. My brother-in-law is awesome, y’all. He is laid-back enough to get along with almost anyone, but has a strong sense of who he is and what he’ll tolerate. Like the rest of his family, he can keep a conversation going all night, but you’ll know if you run afoul of his code of ethics.
Watching him flare up when someone has gone too far makes me laugh in recognition and respect, because he’s gonna let you know where you stand. And it really is a matter of where YOU stand, because he always stands in the same place, and that’s not a place he jumped to because it was easy or prescribed. Eric is the most mixed bag of opinions I’ve ever met, but over time I’ve seen that every one of them is reasoned out and deeply held. He’s sort of a different take on the proverbial still waters that run deep. Instead he’s the sociable guy who you just didn’t realize was doing all that thinking. You would never be able to sound this guy out and figure out who he’s going to vote for – but bygod he’s gonna have a good reason for how he votes.
Eric is just not into fitting a mold. He’ll laughingly take whatever label you want to put on him, at an age when friends are into labeling each other as frat boy, hipster, athlete, hippie, golfer. He collects them. And then he goes on and does whatever he was going to do anyway. If you’re down with that, you can come along.
It’s been fun to watch, this brother I never thought I’d have, not so much coming into his own as revealing who he was always going to be anyway. I think he’s great. I’m glad we get along and glad we’re family. And it’s cool to know now, when I’d never thought about it all those years before, that there will be so many more years of this, of everyone understanding each other and being comfortable together around the dinner table.
It’s a valuable thing to have, and I know I’m lucky to have it.