Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Favored Child

This year as last, I was able to see many of the Oscar contenders because of my SAG membership.  While there were many films that were outstanding, I found one of particular interest August: Osage County. My interest was not in the acting, as I agreed with the Academy that Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, and even American Hustle scored higher in that category.

The thing that caught my attention was that even in such a dysfunctional family, the fact is that if there are more than one child, there is a favored one. That favor is bestowed by a parent is a given.  That it may vary from parent to parent and from time through time is also true.

I was one of two children; the younger and the sole male sibling. Growing up, my sister was favored by both my parents, but that didn’t bother me too much, as the differences in how we were raised were small, and we both received love, nourishment and favors beyond expectations.

My father believed that his obligation was to give us education commensurate with our ambition and talent and I ended up a dentist, like him and Joan an architect, one of four in a five-year program.  My father passed away seven years after I graduated, and my mother and sister got closer and closer, geographically, emotionally, and in dependency, to a point where they spoke on the phone every day. I wrote and received a letter from my mother once a week.

Our family was too small for a real reunion, but maybe that was all for the best as some reunions go terribly wrong.

In the film, the oldest daughter returns home to an ungrateful mother, who is drug dependent, and almost pathologically bitter.  Each of the children has almost crippling weaknesses that severely limit their ability to help their mother, who wheedles and berates them for those very weaknesses.  The tragic conclusion of the film comes when the mother has driven all of them away, including the older, favorite child.

I finished watching and reflected on how the years have caused my feelings to vacillate what favor I bestowed on my two sons, as one would have greater needs than the other.  The favor does not actually have much to do with love as much as it does attention. There probably is no difference at all in love, but only in the manifestation of the love, and maybe the amount of time the child is in your thoughts or daily deeds.

When Mary’s mother was moving from the family house and home to an assisted living facility near to where one of her middle daughters lived in Florida, the six children met for two days in Janesville, Wisconsin, to decide what items to send with her and which to divide and/or place in consignment. No spouses were allowed, so I can only depend on Mary’s recollection of events as to what transpired.

There were three events that she passed on to me:  first, the oldest son was so off-put by the bickering that he threatened to leave after day one.  Second, a bowl, which was supposed to go to one child disappeared and was not found until several years later, when, at a reunion of sorts, it mysteriously found its way into the back seat of the original claimant’s car.

The third was when the youngest child left the group with the comment, “I can’t help it if mother liked me best!”

And perhaps she did…at one time.

Mary’s family survived that event and remain very close to this day.  My sister has died, as has my mother, so Mary’s family has increasingly become my family.  We are fortunate to have the opportunity to entertain some of them at our home in California and my extending family, including grandchildren, see their brothers, sisters, in-laws and cousins in Wisconsin almost every summer.

I can truthfully say that I have no favorites in that group.  But the thought of who they might be is intriguing.

We had an interesting event recently involving bees.  In my next post I’ll share a few things I learned from the occasion.  You might find it interesting.

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