In the Company of My Loving Family by Lisa K. Buchanan
Given the size and scope of my family, I consider myself lucky that we are so close. I particularly appreciate the way my family members provide support and address grievances in a timely manner—from the daily and concrete to the sublime and abstract. They heart me. They shield me. They listen when I speak and are quick to remind me of just how much they value my loyalty.
Whenever I call my mom, for example, I’m greeted by her actual voice (“Hello, Sweetie. Your call is important to me….”), no matter the hour, no matter that she may be helping other daughters, no matter that she’s experiencing an unusually high call volume. Sometimes she even gives me the option of waiting in silence, without the tinny music, and only rarely does she ask me to try my call again later. My mother cares—deeply so—about my privacy and though she might record our conversations from time to time, she would never share them without allowing me to opt out. A punctilious observer of family rituals, she has tried to inculcate me with same, from the glass candy bowl and ballpoint pens on her countertop to “Second Notice” email reminding me that flowers are due to a newly widowed aunt—examples of the many ways in which family goals are shared.
My stepbrother and I are also close. I had been somewhat anxious about our recent lunch because I knew his wife had just received a devastating diagnosis. Unfortunately, the subway got stuck in the tunnel and by the time I reached the restaurant, I was frazzled, mascara-streaked, and rain-soaked.
“No problem,” he said, after I had apologized for the inconvenience. “As a one-time courtesy, I’ll waive the late fee.”
In addition to the excellent service provided by my immediate family, the tentacular network of extended kin is ever eager to help me lose unsightly facial lines in ninety seconds, destroy my belly fat, find a f*ck buddy(now!), make my love stick hard, warn me about masturbation, buy a college degree, avoid bankruptcy, update me on orders I don’t remember placing, help me to become the most interesting person I know, and even earn points toward Heaven with a simple transfer of funds on behalf of a woman dying of cancer in Thailand. Or is it a man with a brain hemorrhage in Ghana? In any case, not an hour goes by without some such offer of love and assistance. Sometimes, I’m almost overwhelmed by the beneficence, the simple knowledge that so many caring souls seek to protect me from a profound, possibly fatal, sense of aloneness.
Writings by Lisa K. Buchanan have appeared in Hippocampus, New Letters, Narrative, The Offing, and River Teeth/Beautiful Things. Awards include the Sweet 2020 Flash Nonfiction Contest (winner), The Bristol Short Story Prize (shortlist), and the Fish Short Memoir Prize (honorary mention). She likes The Charleston, black rice with butternut squash, Downward-Facing Dog, and breaking the Rule of Three. She lives in San Francisco. www.lisakbuchanan.com