Alternate title: Family; what a strange word.
So, yesterday was my step-grandfather's funeral. We always called him "David". That was how we knew him. He was my Grandma's third husband. Her first husband was actually my mother's biological father, whom my mom never knew. Her second husband was my mom's adoptive father, and the man that I called Grandpa.
Most of the funeral attendees were members of David's family. Though my Grandmother and David had been married for most of my 45 years, I had never gotten to know any of his family. So of course, I found myself in a room full of strangers, save for my brother, my parents, and a family friend who accompanied us to the funeral. At one point I decided to exit the funeral chapel and make my way down to the lounge, to find myself a cup of
coffee and a bite to eat. Several attendees were also in the lounge, and I could feel their eyes on me, each of them wondering if I was one of Melba's folks, and if so, which granddaughter? Whose kid was I?
After munching on a piece of pizza and sipping on some cheap coffee, I found my way back up to the chapel. There was my brother, chatting away with a young man, probably in his early 40's, whom I assumed was another one of David's people. He even bared some resemblance to my dear departed.. David.
I later was surprised to find out that this young man was named Michael. As in, my cousin Michael. My first cousin, Michael. Son of my mom's sister. My first cousin. I found it so extraordinary that I did not know my first cousin from Adam. Okay, maybe it's not so extraordinary, really. After all, I had not seen this person since I was about eight years old. Well, unless perhaps, he had attended any of the family reunions that I had been
to over the years, and no one had bothered to point out to me that he was present. I would not have known who he was on those occasions, either. First cousin. How can it be that first cousins can be total strangers? Aren't first cousins supposed to be your first friends in life? Your best friends FOR life? In most families that I've come to know, that always seems to be the case.
My family is obviously different. I'm a grown adult though; have been for at least 27 years. In those 27 years, I suppose I could have tried harder to acknowledge that I have these family members whom, like them or not, I should know much better than I do. Now I'm sitting here at a desk at work, reflecting on meeting, again, this very close-in-blood family member whom I barely know. I decide to open Facebook.
I look up yet another cousin. The son of my mom's full brother, Bubby. His name is Brad. He lives right here in my state, and actually works at a correctional complex where I almost took a job as a nurse. He is my first cousin. He is one of only two full blooded first cousins that I have. He's practically as close to me in blood as my dear brother. And he is a complete and total stranger.
I look up his sister. Her name is Eriel. She grew up in Kentucky but now lives in Louisiana. She has pictures of herself on her Facebook page, as well as pictures of her children. She is
beautiful and successful, and her kids are darling. She is my mom's full brother's daughter. She is a complete stranger.
How did this happen?
I think I understand how Mike, and Angela, and Larry Jr, and his sister Katie... how they became so separated from my brother and I. Mostly by distance, and time....What about Brad and Eriel? Full blooded cousins who grew up right here in the same state as my brother and I? Why are we not the best of friends? What if I sent them both a Facebook
request? Do they even remember who I am?
I believe I know. I think I know how it happened.
My mom once told me a story. Well okay, she's told me this story several times... of her brother Bubby, asking my father to co-sign on a vehicle loan. My father, being the generous soul that he is,reluctantly (I'm sure) obliged. Bubby, in return for my dad's sweet generosity, decided not to make the payments on the car, leaving my dad with what I suppose was a heavily damaged credit record.
That event damaged my mom's relationship with Bubby, and helped to ensure that I would never get to know any of Bubby's offspring very well. My mom still had enough of a relationship with Bubby, that they would visit each other sporadically over the years, but not often enough that I would ever get to know my cousins.
Now, please do not think that I'm bitter towards my mom, for not visiting with her brother, and allowing me to play with my cousins. This is hardly the case. Because, for reasons besides the fact that my uncle ruined my Dad's good credit... I've come to realize
that my uncle Bubby is a vile human being. Nevertheless, I would love to know my cousins.
I am a grown woman now. I am 45 years old. Whether or not I decide to reach out and try to get to know these people who share my same blood and might as well be siblings... it is totally up to me. Whether or not they accept my attempts, is totally up to them.
Might as well try. After all of these lost years, I might as well try.