The Family Business.


Recently, I’ve grown to love organized crime films and shows (if you’re not in with Peaky Blinders, do yourself a solid and get on it) just as much as, well, almost everyone- not just because of the gratuitous violence, gritty history, heavy one-liners, suspense, and bevy of men with slicked back hair who pull of suits extremely well but because of the fundamental family aspect of each story.

In the past few months, I’ve gotten to meet Ritchie’s side of the family. I’ve spent more time with all of them; some in Phnom Penh, some not- from his sister and cousins to his parents have come to visit from Dublin and Glasgow. To see where he gets some of his qualities, features, and mannerisms has been an extremely interesting thing to see. Being adopted, I sometimes feel like I miss out on those blood connections. While on plenty of occasions my mom and I are told we look alike or have very similar mannerisms (we actually pointed one out last night together: the flailing animated hands when telling a story conveying a point) there are some inherent traits I did not get from her and some characteristics that I wish I did have. Finally after weeks of not having any quality time together, I got to sit down with her under a mango tree last night and sip some cocktails, spill our thoughts, and lift some weight that has been sitting heavily on our shoulders. The closeness we have is something that I cannot take for granted. Seeing daughters, sisters, brothers, and sons who don’t have that deep connection with their parents saddens me, but makes me all the more grateful for what we have. It’s something I wish I would have been able to reach with my dad before he died.

Along with all the meetings of the bloodlines and taking a good, long look at my own, I’ve found between families of all sorts the types of difficulties that come with every unit. Whether it be jealousy, the inability to let go, insecurities, fear of failure, terror of loss, unwillingness to risk moving out of a comfort zone, stubbornness, judgment, pride, immaturity, or coddling- there are flaws that come each of us and may have been instilled in each person for years. While the problems that arise within a real mob family are different to extremes than what I see as typical relative’s issues- embezzlement, bookmaking, murder…one thing stands out for these crime “families”; they stick together.

Sometimes we all have the internal dialogue “Tommy’s a bad seed. What am I supposed to do? Shoot him?” and respond with “that wouldn’t be a bad idea”. But even if Tommy is going off the chains and acting like a sociopath, Jimmy is going to be there to slap him in the face, rein him in, ditch the body, and help figure his stuff out. They act as a unit- even if a member is being a complete idiot. It’s tough love, but it’s love.

I translate this over to my own family and the families that I begin to grow closer with, in heart and proximity. While I won’t accept some people into my life fully because I cannot agree with their lifestyles, choices, or behavior (definitely not mob-like on my part) I don’t want anyone sleeping with the fishes.  That doesn’t mean I will put up with shenanigans happening on my doorstep for long and it would be in everyone’s best interest for them to get their shit together because you really don’t want to see me when I’m angry (read in a Brooklyn accent). To set aside my own frustrations and opinions about certain situations or relationships is something I will continually have to work on, I’m sure they’re all doing the same towards me on some level.

At the end of each story- whether fictional or our own- it’s always the family that counts and every individual in it, because in real life? There isn’t one Don who should be calling all the shots.  To function as a group and community with no-holds-barred honesty and openness is what I hope for one day.

I want to be able to say, “by the way, I took care of that thing for ya.”

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