Monday, April 20, 2009

Are We Talking About the Same Guy?

This weekend I went to my grandfather's 75th birthday party. My grandfather was somehow involved in union work/politics for a career, and did lots of traveling all over Europe, although his children never quite knew what his specific job was. Either way, apparently he's a little bit important in some circles so an organization he still works with threw him a large birthday party. As a result, it's understandable that the focus would be on his work life and career, but I was definitely pretty pissed off about the fact that when he went up on stage to give his little thank you speech, he mentioned a bunch of people he'd worked with but never once thanked his family for coming or making sacrifices so he could have his career. He'd originally wanted my mom to fly in from the States for this thing, and I'm having a hard time understanding why - why have someone fly for eight hours when you weren't even planning on acknowledging your family? Or would it have been different if my mom had been there?

The really ironic part was when he started talking about finding a balance between family and work - because he definitely didn't. The mayor of his little village came to congratulate him and referred to him as half an angel - my uncle and I were laughing our ass off about that one. Neither one of us can fathom how this man can be so loved by everyone but his family. It's like he's a completely different person around them.

I dragged a friend of mine with me, which was good since sitting over in my corner (I was at the children's section of the table!), I otherwise would have been completely bored out of my mind - the only people I knew were my uncle and aunt, my grandfather and his new wife, and I had met my grandfather's sister before but didn't remember her (the Munich side of the family was always a little too stuck up to deal with the rest of us - that's the other thing, my grandfather has spent his whole life trying to be on good terms with these people that never really quite saw him as completely part of the family and would use him for their benefit, but then made sure he didn't receive the same share of the inheritance when their father died - he's the half brother). While watching all the toasts and the random stuff going on, my friend compared the gathering to Rachel Getting Married, except the room was full of old white Germans, and the only diversity was that there were some people from Czech. There was even a random twenty something white girl doing a belly dance. Which seriously, creepy. I don't see how that could be comfortable - doing a dance for a seventy five year in room filled with a bunch of other men above sixty while wearing some rather revealing clothes. Also, for someone who is has old fashioned and German as my grandfather, I've really got to ask: there wasn't some traditional German folk dance they could have performed?

Basically, I want to have an important career, and be acknowledged for it. But if I have a family, and since right now I'm not planning on having children, that will really just be my partner/husband or whatever comes along, that person isn't going to be so reduced in the background that it looks like all I had in life was work. Even if it is a fulfilling career, I don't want to be completely defined by it and alienate my friends and family in its pursuit.

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