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  • Robert Farago

Pre-Thanksgiving Anxiety

A dreaded family reunion

I’m anxious as hell. In two day’s time, the Farago family will gather in the City of Angels for the first time in seven years. The backstory….

Peter and Daphne Farago were immigrants, from Hungary and South Africa respectively.

My father was a Holocaust survivor; his parents and extended family were exterminated. Father managed to get his two brothers to the United States. I saw them and their children maybe twice, and never since.

By the time she left Johannesburg, my mother’s parents were both dead in tragic circumstances. I met my mother’s sister and her husband briefly in what was then Rhodesia. Again, no further contact.

I grew up in the most nuclear of nuclear families: my parents, my two older brothers and me. I was the last born. My brothers were closethanthis. They had little to nothing to do with me.

As the children of traumatized refugees, the three of us suffered what’s called trans-generational trauma.

I got the worst of it. My mother physically and emotionally abused me. My father was unequipped to intervene.

I suffered textbook symptoms of the syndrome: feelings of guilt and shame, depression, antisocial and disruptive behavior and, wouldn’t you know it, hyper-arousal.

I like to think I’ve overcome most if not all of these issues. There’s one psychologists don’t recognize that bedevils me still: loneliness.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I grew up alone. I didn’t have a close friend until High School, and no “friend group.” I still have few friends, who tend to drop off after a while.

My brothers and I have no relationship to speak of. Same for their six children. I have never met nor spoken to my eldest brother’s grandchildren.

Perhaps you can understand my anxiety, meeting my semi-extended family after seven years, knowing that the next meeting will be in the far flung future. If at all.

I have no doubt I’ll get along with all and sundry. I’m nothing if not gregarious. I harbor no ill will towards any of them. Even if this get-together proves to be a damp squib, I’ll be meeting two of my daughters, with whom I’m lovingly close. But the dangers are legion.

When people reunite with their “original family” they inevitably fall back into the role established in their youth. I’m not Robert Farago, successful writer. I’m the third wheel.

I’ve made my peace, indeed my fortune out of being a lone wolf. But being on the outside looking in at my brothers and their families has traditionally triggered bouts of depression. An affliction that I’ve worked hard to overcome, yet still sits outside, waiting to come in.

On the positive side, well, let me tell you a story…

The last Thanksgiving with both parents was a catered event in Florida. I was sitting next to my oldest brother. At some point, he made a snide remark, implying I was gay.

I’m occasionally bisexual; I have no problem being it or admitting it. No one in my family is homophobic. His comment was pure offhand meanness, masquerading as a joke.

My reply came out of my mouth unbidden, from somewhere deep inside.

“Hey Alan, fuck you.”

The entire gathering stopped dead in its tracks. Everyone looked at me. My brother said something meant to take the wind out of my sails.

“No Alan,” I said. “Fuck you.”

After more than forty years feeling like the second rate out-of-control also-ran black sheep, in a single instant, something changed. I relieved myself of the burden of trying to prove my worth to my family.

Despite embarrassing my father, I was glad to finally separate from the past. Again, I harbor no ill will towards my eldest brother or any other cast member in the psychodrama that made me who I am.

They have their issues, I have mine. Good luck to us all.

I’d like to think, I hope I won’t revert to the “old me” when I see my bothers and their family over Thanksgiving. I know I’m not the only one facing this challenge.

To those of you who can relate, I offer a piece of advice from Charles Orlando: “You don’t let go of a bad relationship because you stop caring about them. You let go because you start caring about yourself.”

If there’s one person in your life who loves and respects you for who you are, warts and all, let that be enough. If there isn’t, stand fast. You are not alone.

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