Evading a mother’s instinct and overprotection, a friend and I painted our town red Monday–in broad daylight, nonetheless. And as protocol to such an event, I was also introduced to some interesting new faces. The day was filled with what I have grown to consider the norm: hanging out most of the day in a tattoo parlor, taking lots of pictures, exerting too much energy climbing hills and dancing on train tracks, drinking enough caffeine to keep me awake until the following morning, and beautiful interpretations of what makes for true friendship. It is the type of rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle one cannot create with the magic of Hollywood–not due to the venue, but the characters. It is filled with too much reality and enough laughter to keep me sane for the remaining week.
Inside every person’s story, there, lying between the lines, hidden in all the subtext and facial expressions, is the triumphs and failures of the word “loyalty,” and how it either lives inside the subject alongside a passion for others, or was casually tossed away with their humility long before I met them. Three years ago, the idea of loyalty began to filter in my mind as something consisting of a bitter taste and with no lexical definition suitable enough to apply to my own life. However, even I have to sit back at times and realize where I am wrong. (Not to say I can ever think of a time of which I was right.)
With the passing of my mother came the inevitable demise of a once whole family. While, behind my home’s walls, sat a content family strong enough to withstand any attacks, it was the family separated by phone lines and emails that made moving on and moving forward a sin. Unable to connect the reasons for their jealousy and unjustifiable hatred, with my reasons to let go and just push it all away, it is still a separated family–divided by something much greater than miles and networking lines: we are divided by resentment and suspicion.
I am completely content living my life and simply walking away from confrontation. I know when to let go and when to fight. Three years ago, I would not have been as satisfied just leaving the line of battle. But when we sat in the hospital and my father had to tell my brother and I our mother was gone, I fell quiet and spent a lot of time in my own thoughts, though my brother was not quite as reserved in his reaction. The moment I prayed would not come, had, and it humbled me more than I realized it would. We all think we are safe from disaster until disaster strikes. Most begin blaming God or lashing out at others, but I found myself searching for a reason in it all. I found a few, though they are quite irrelevant to this story.
Through the fellowship of others and the human companionship that overwhelmed our family, we were happier and were ready to move forward with our lives. But despite the amount of hugs even distant family received, some were not as willing, and seemed to dwell in the moment, which lead to sparks of anger and rivalry. It was in those moments I realized words are merely just words, and carry with them no definition until physical representation follows. It was then I stopped using my words and simply said nothing–I believe my silence said more.
The English language is one of the most diverse and complex languages there are, and it is for this reason I find it fascinating to study. People say English classes are easy, but there is a difference between passing an English class and understanding the English language. I have the privilege of being born of this tongue, and as such, with the constant changing of colloquialisms and what is accepted in written language, analyzing text has become second nature. Consequently, through understanding the way people use language, I understand people even more. Quite possibly, this may be the reason I have given up fighting the neverending fights. I can find loopholes in arguments, but pointing them out would merely anger the opposition more, and I have no use for four-letter words and shouting. I have had my fill of them for a lifetime. And if any word of which could be construed as intelligible, even on the slightest measure, was uttered, the one used the most was “loyalty.” Because I did not take sides or get upset when my father was ready to move on with my lovely now-stepmother, Shanna, I was, according to my mother’s side, not being loyal to family. Then I began raising the question: what is loyalty?
In the past few years of headaches, I have been witness to most textbook fallacies, including, but not limited to: argument against the person, the straw man, missing the point, red herring, and appeal to pity–though I did hear the “woe is me” argument more often than the former four. It is no wonder I found myself underestimating such a loaded term, when the few times I had witnessed its reference were in arguments of desperation when attacking me was the only ammo this “family” had left to use. “What happened to family loyalty?!” they would shout. And I often wondered the same thing.
Monday, however, during my reunion with an old friend and the meeting of yet another new one, I was witnessing loyalty at its best. Two friends who had been there for each other in just a short amount of time, driven together by their own similar stories, and standing up for one another when it is most needed. The same friend and I have had an interesting ride as well in the past nine years. After being apart for a long time after one major fight, my mother’s passing was reason enough for her to come to my side and help me through it. And, over the years, our reunion has made us stronger and even still we can talk about our past conflict in lightheartedness. It is because of these people I have changed my mind about loyalty; its true meaning. Because, with it, I can no longer call it an empty word. My friends and I are physical representations of the everyday survival of such a thing as loyalty. And for that, I am grateful.