My family tree traces in two directions, but with one ideal. On my mom’s side there are stories of massive personalities, money saved over years and years to buy a piano, only to be spent when the crops failed, and men landing in New York with nothing but pluck and determination carrying them to the couches of Arcadia. On my dad’s side there are barn-raisers and fiddle players scrapping their way across the Tennessee valley and broads landing in New Orleans with only their wit and their strong backs lifting them over the Rockies and landing in Compton just in time to flee once black people started moving in.

We’ve allowed for very little weakness in our family. Man, when my first marriage fell apart, it was never more clear. Everyone was really upset that I was so torn apart, but, y’know, after a month or so it just started getting… old. Sure, we know, we know, but, y’know, she’s gone now, she’s got her own place, maybe it’s time to put all this behind you. My ex and I were talking about reconciliations and living arrangements at the beginning of November when I discovered that she wasn’t invited to Thanksgiving.

Which was fine and right, our marriage was over and people from the outside recognized that before either of us did. But no-one wanted to talk about it, no-one wanted to help lick my wounds. Again, that’s fine, that how we’re made, I’m not whining about it. I’m glad. I came out on the other side of that strong as hell.

The only person who was always willing to fight and help and take care of me was Michelle. Because she is already strong, she doesn’t need to be hardened up. I feel like she was dropped into this family like a kitten in a pack of scarred old work dogs. And yet she has always picked up her load, shouldered her burden and tried as hard as she could not to talk about her problems.

So now she’s thirty. She got the least parenting of any of us, my parents split up when she was 13, for chrissakes, leaving her in my retarded hands. She’s had a series of horrible boyfriends, mostly because she probably thought she was supposed to. She chose about five different career paths, all of which have had built in dissapointments.

Her love life has been macabre, tragic. Look, that’s just the way it is. We talk about it and she laughs it off. I try to talk to her about the way’s she’s hurting, first because I love her and second because I owe her a debt. I owe it to her to be there for her when she’s gotten this sad.

You can buck up, you can put on a happy face, you can decide that you’re fine. My brother Ian did this for years and years, harboring secret obsessions and ticks that he never trusted anyone with. Until he finally met a woman who loved him not in spite of these perceived weaknesses, but because of them, in a way.

Sometimes you need to howl. And, what is even more annoying, sometimes you need to howl for a few months. Sometimes for a year or two years. If you’ve always been told to stop howling, to stay quiet, to buck up and be strong, it could take years of tilting your head back and screaming and screaming about how unfair it has all been.

I use this blog so I don’t have to leak all over the people who have been kind enough to put up with my howling all these years. The only reason I have happiness in my life now is because I spent all those years screaming when I needed to, and anyone who needs to scream, including Michelle, should just keep doing it.