Sign of the Times

“It’s too late when we die to admit we don’t see eye to eye.” — Mike Rutherford

I was reading an article last night that talked about family estrangement. It isn’t even the one I attached in the article. That was a wholly separate thing that is basically saying the same thing. Apparently, it is a phenomenon not only in the United States, but in Europe as well.

The whole idea of estrangement has always been foreign to me. Certainly, there are some family members that you talk to more than others. Obviously, there is a natural dividing line between family we would consider to be close and family that is extended beyond what is reasonable to expect a regular connection with. The folks talking about family estrangement aren’t really talking about that.

In particular, the article I read was focused more on the relationship between adult children and their parents. According to one article, as many as one and four Americans and one in five Europeans reports they are estranged from at least one family member. Again, I’m not sure how that is defined. The focus of the articles seemed to be on parent/child relationships but even that figure in Europe seems high.

Estrangement is a unique thing. It means ties are severed forever. They become persona non grata and that just seems like an extreme measure. Yet, it is not difficult to see why it is on the rise. The politics of the last five or so years have gone from bad to downright frightening. I can’t relate in my own family and yet my wife is estranged from some of her extended family. It has always been the case as long as I’ve known her and as far as I know it isn’t political in nature.

It happens when someone in our life becomes too toxic to continue. My grandmother made a request of my father that he do everything he can to keep the family together. It meant having a once year golfing weekend that continues to this day. It meant getting together for Christmas even though it won’t be until late January this year. There’s a difference between not getting together and refusing contact.

Everyone likes to put this at the door of one man and I suppose that seems natural enough. Yet, that cannot account for the fact that this is happening in Europe as well. I have no idea if it is happening on other continents as well. I suppose that research would be easy enough. There has always been tension in between the generations. Go back far enough and you will see quotes about how the new generation just doesn’t get it. They’ve become soft. They’ve become entitled. They’ve become fill in the blank. At any point in history they could have been talking about our own generation.

So, it isn’t that either. Our daughter honestly feels like things will get better when her generation takes over. They weren’t the ones to muck it up. I had to point out that Generation X says that about the Baby Boomers. Yet, enough of us are in positions of power that we now get to own whatever it is that has gone wrong. I also had to point out that the people in her classes that she calls idiots, jackasses, and whatever else will some day be in charge.

Again, that’s all natural and has always been there. This is something else entirely. This is finding out that someone in your family has become so vile and so toxic that we cannot associate with them anymore. I suppose we could say they’ve become that which we loathe, but chances are they always were that and we didn’t notice. Chances are we even saw it and told ourselves we could live with it before.

I guess I really don’t have any answers. I can’t fix what’s broken and I cannot judge individual family dynamics. Everyone has to do what is best for them and their family. It’s sad enough to see a family member become radicalized. I suppose we can only hope we don’t become one of them.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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