Filial

Adj., late 14c., from late Latin 
filialis, of a son or daughter, from
Latin filius, son; filia, daughter; whether
you have only one or twelve of them, steps
coming down from the oldest to the youngest,
barely a year's difference between each.
There used to be a time when it was
considered normal to leave younger
children in the care of siblings really
not much older than them. Picture
a five year old, nose running, with a three
year old baby on her hip. Filial, from
a suffixed form of the root to be, exist,
grow; to be told, for example, that you
wouldn't be here if not for your parents,
which sometimes reaps a reply like I
didn't ask to be born. Is the proper
follow-up a slap and a shove
out the door? But who asks for anything
like that? And who asks to be thrown
into the role of provider, care-giver,
picker-upper, cheerleader, moral
compass, first teacher, first
anything just because the lights
were bright or dim one night or
the wine went to your head and you
gave in to that unfamiliar weakness
in the knees, desire to even just once
kiss and be kissed, never mind
that it's hardly original to want
to be wanted and filled. Filial,
meaning assimilated from felios,
originally a suckling; to suck, suckle;
which word makes you think unaccountably
of a pig pulled off its mother's teat
to be turned on a spit. It is in hindsight,
therefore, that we attain perfect
vision: the claims we lay upon each
other are forged in words called vows
or lessons, conditions. Marry, don't
marry. Stay, don't go, come back.
Divorce me, absolve me, abandon
me— Which is to say one thing depends
on another in the same way we like
to believe what's good for one
should always be good for the other.

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