I have family on my mother's side of the family that I have absolutely no contact with. I have two cousins I have never even met. I don't even know their names, their ages, what they look like. I have three cousins that I played with as a small child in New York; we all slept at our grandmother's house, played in her garden. I have pictures of me, maybe 5, holding two female cousins, both babies. The cousin I probably played the most with is now deceased. He passed away last May, right before I went on vacation. He had been fighting cancer; he was only a couple of years younger than me. He had two babies when he passed away. The only reason I know any of this is because I sought them out on myspace, and through Google.
The last time I saw him was more than 10 years ago. I was 19 at the time. He came down to Texas with his family because our grandmother was very sick, and in the hospital. I don't remember any of our conversation; I just remember looking at him and realizing that he wasn't the little boy I remembered. Now he's gone.
Both of those baby girls I held? One is married now, and supposedly pregnant. The other is engaged.
I have three older cousins who I have very little contact with. The last time I saw them was when I was barely 15 at the oldest's wedding. 16 damn years ago. They all have kids now, and I only know them through pictures.
For some of you, this may not be a big deal. It may be normal to you to have distant relationships with relatives, or no relationship. But for me, it's not right. I remember being little, running around my grandmother's garden with one cousin, playing on the floor of the living room with the babies. I guess I just took it for granted that these blood relatives would always be in my life.
When my grandmother was in the hospital the 1st of her last 2 times, they all came. All 4 of my uncles, their children (minus 2 cousins and 2 unborn ones). We hadn't seen each other for years, and rather than talk and catch up, we were all bound by the anger of our parents. My uncles ranted and raved. My aunts cussed at my mother. I remember hearing someone call my baby sister, then barely 2, a 'bastard child' and 'a shame'. I remember my mother's tears. And I surely remember my own disgust at these men, these family members who I had adored when I was little. Who were these people, now? What right did they have to waltz back into our lives and demand answers for our actions all these years? What right did they have to question the time and effort and love we put into caring for my grandmother? Where were they when my grandmother spent hours on the toilet bowl, calling out to my mother? Where were they when we were lifting her in and out of the bathtub, washing her hair, bruising her thin skin by cleaning her with a washcloth? Where were they when she was in a coma in the hospital, when my mother sat vigil by her side, 18 hours at a time? Where were they when we were turning her comatose body to prevent the bedsores (that turned out to be the cancer eating through her body)?
One of my uncles didn't even show up for my grandmother's funeral. Everyone sat in stony silence in the funeral home, facing the casket. No one comforted my mother, besides my father, myself, and my brother. Her own f-ing brothers. They all left immediately after the funeral, but not before they demanded a copy of the will, a chance to rummage through my grandmother's things, and definitely not before they asked for 'their portion' of my grandmother's money.
(Might I mention here that my grandmother had cancer for years, and during those times she went on cruises, went on trips across the US to visit all of her children & grandchildren, and eventually needed hospice to keep her comfortable in her home??)
Surely, after 11 years of my grandmother being deceased, the anger had died down. Surely, my uncles are no longer wondering what happened to the money. Surely, they did not spend the last 11 years putting a bad taste in my cousins' mouths when it came to us. Surely.
But it would appear so. I have a cousin who un-friended me on Myspace; another who doesn't respond to my emails. I didn't even know one had moved from California to Texas, a few hours from me. Weddings, babies, etc......I have no sense of extended family.
I am not looking for pity. I do not fall short in the family category: I have friends whom I consider family, I have my father's side of the family, I have my brother and sister.
But, after all these years, I was surprised to wake up this morning angry, after a dream about all of these people. I am still livid about it at 10:45 at night. Livid that they have deserted my mother. Livid that they wanted nothing to do with my beautiful blessing of a sister. Sad that they know nothing of my brother, my daughter, my marriage, me.
One uncle has fixed his relationship with my mother. He was never angry; he just went along with the others. He has tried to get his brothers to talk to my mom, but they refuse. I can't help but ask myself "Did that really happen?" I can't help but feel that maybe the childhood past I had with these people never existed.
All day I have been thinking, aren't they ashamed at their behavior? Would they allow their own children to be this way to their siblings? Don't they feel any guilt when they think of their deceased parents, my grandparents? Hasn't their anger faded? Will they really leave my mother to grow old by herself, alone, without her siblings. Statistics show that we live longest with our siblings than anyone else-longer than our spouses, often.
Will they come to her funeral?
I cannot spend my life being angry at them, for I would be as irrational as them. I cannot waste my love or energy on them, for I will be as brittle and hateful as them. I can only hope to have a bit of a relationship with a couple of my cousins, the ones who respond to my attempts. I can only ensure that my children do not do this, that my brother, sister, and I do not do this to one another.
If you have family that you haven't talked to, for no other reason than that you have been busy, I urge you to take the time-send an email, a postcard, a myspace or facebook comment, SOMETHING. Don't waste this short life we have. It's maddening to me that we all waste so much of our short lives (myself included, to be sure!).