Dead Bird Society - Family Birds
In case you are not familiar with the Dead Parrot Society, it is based on the Monty Python sketch (see "The Dead Parrot Society" story) in which a man is confronted with the undisputable fact that he sold a dead parrot to another man and he just denies the whole thing. The D.P.S. is an organization dedicated to the identification and sometime exposure of dead parrots (clear lies and embellishments) for the edification and sanity of the population. In other words, we sniff out the dead birds and then take the appropriate action.
There are many times that the people involved just donít want to know that the parrot they are so attached to has "passed on". One of the most common examples of this is the bird of "family love" - whole generations have ignored the stench of the decaying fantasy of a loving family even as they are thrown under the buss by their family members.
Year after year they go to family holidays pretending that the crushing hugs they receive at the hands of their siblings are not about aggression but are actually affection. They feel that any family relationship is better than none. So the family parrot gets stuffed and all agree to pretend that it lives and is just what they want. Even when they return to their regular lives, they will talk about the wonderful time they had in the bosom of their family - the one they barely escaped alive.
Now, I am not saying that all family relations are like this or like this all the time. It would just be the ones I have personally encountered. There have been those that looked as idyllic as a fifties TV show (e.g. Father Knows Best, where every decision is based on the fact of unselfish family love) but on closer examination they more closely resemble The X-Files. Some normal nice warm families may be out there but I have not met them.
n the group of people that I am related to by blood (the blood part makes the most sense), the D.P.s were stacked up like cordwood. Everywhere you looked there were birds staring back at you. "Donít you dare talk like that to your Mother." This from a person who at lest a daily had screaming matches with that very same person in which all kinds of words were clearly OK to use. I wondered if it was about being a certain age - like being old enough to drink.
It started very young, when I was instructed to sincerely thank an aunt for a gift I did not like right after I had been admonished for not telling the truth. The trick seemed to be knowing when it was good to lie and when it was not. One is quickly alerted by gentle cues (like a smack in the back of the head) when one had misjudged the appropriate action or words.
It is also difficult to "get" a clear understanding for the feeling of love when you are instructed to tell your brother you love him when he has just destroyed your favorite toy. Or demonstrate loving feelings when your sister has just whispered in your ear that you are stupid looking and no girl will ever want to go out with you. If these things were an indication of what love was like, then it was no wonder people get nervous when they are told they are loved.
The most surprising thing to me was always that things that would get you arrested in general society were completely overlooked in family life. Property destruction, assault, character assassination and general mayhem were part of daily life in my family of five children and two adults. I think five was a key number. Being an odd number it was fertile ground for shifting alliances. There was never a time with out intrigue and of course everyone was innocent.
The saying that "you can always go home - they have to take you back " wasnít talking about my family. At least, I knew that even if they" took me back" I would most likely wish they had not. For some reason, I was one that could not would not "feed" the dead parrots. I knew they were dead and would not eat so I refused to play along. For this most unforgivable of Sins (as I have since found out) I was ostracized and cast out by my family. I saw the reality of my parentís relationship (a marriage that had come to be based on fear not love - where my father was the "good guy" and my mother was the "bitch" -they both had their roles and were comfortable in them) and in a crazed moment of helpfulness (based on my recently acquired degree in Psychology) pointed out to them that I understood and wanted to
help. Not only did that end my relationship with them, for ten years no one in the family would talk to me.
So the point? It is good to see Dead Parrots - then you are not their prisoner. But if you wish to have a relationship with your family it is important to know when to feed those parrots. After all how much will they really eat?