Family, Part III

I have noticed that when I sit down to write, family is on my mind more often than not. I’ve written about what makes a family, dealing with conflict within my family, and many of my struggles with my parents. I like to hear about other people’s families too. As I’ve gone through life, I have discovered that every single family has their own brand of dysfunction and none of these brands are all that different from each other. So much of it comes down to miscommunication, misunderstandings, making assumptions, and people who are not willing to really reflect on themselves.

So my dad feels conflicted about my uncle, my mom’s brother. I haven’t talked to my uncle in a long time because…why should I? Once he adopted his daughters, I ceased to exist in his world. He barely talked to me, except to making creepy remarks about my body and teased me mercilessly about stupid shit like turning 10, dating, and figuring out what I was going to be in life. I became slightly more interesting when I joined the military, as he had been in the Navy, but in general, our relationship disintegrated long before I moved to another state.

My uncle is really sarcastic. Personally, I think it’s his shield because he’s not the most masculine guy there is. I don’t buy into any one definition of masculinity, but his generation does. And as a person who loves plants, flowers, tropical fish, and gardening, he often found himself on the outside of men around him. He was a perfect husband in that he let his wife dress him, he could somewhat barbeque, and he was a good conversationalist most of the time. Growing up, my grandmother worshipped him. As an adult, she worshipped him and his wife, leaving my mother and her sister out in the cold. There were like Cinderella, doing all of the work, while their brother got all the glory.

Since my grandmother died in 2007, there’s not been any real get together with all of us. I can’t remember the last time I saw all of those family members. My parents moved away from that state in 2012 and they have never gone back. I have been through there on the way to visit my wife’s family, but…I don’t want to visit that part of my family. There’s been a bizarre inheritance of this weird resentment, although some has been added by my younger cousin.

Up until I was around 9 or 10, I had no first cousins. Both of my parents come from three children households, but my mom’s sister was not interested in getting married OR having children, and her brother’s wife was dealing with breast cancer in her 20s. I can’t remember if she was told not to get pregnant or they decided it wasn’t safe for her. On my dad’s side, his youngest sister was born with Down Syndrome and his mother made the other sister feel like she was going to be responsible for her younger sister as a teenager, so she never left home. She barely worked as a lawyer. And none of these people had any children…until my mom’s brother and his wife adopted two young girls from Korea.

I loved those girls from the minute I saw them in the airport. I was obsessed with saying their Korean names correctly and wanting to learn Korean to be able to speak to them secretly without our parents knowing what we were talking about. Unfortunately, at ages 4 and 2, they were unable to retain their Korean language skills because my aunt was uncomfortable with them whispering in Korean to each other. Sad, but true.

But I was overjoyed to have cousins, FINALLY. All those family parties suddenly became interesting and we didn’t have to sit at the table silently during the longest and most boring adult conversations about local politics, everyone’s plans for the month, and what new recipes they were all trying. We could get up and play! It was so freeing. They were cool kids and were up for playing pretty much anything. They had every Disney movie there was at their house, so we would go down to their playroom and watch movies we didn’t have for what felt like hours. It was a good time!

As we got older, I was the first one to be too busy with work and extracurriculars, so I sometimes had to miss family parties. When I went to college, my brother started missing the parties with his work and activities. And just two years later, it was my older cousin. By the time the younger cousin was working, I was back home for a year and we both made an effort to make the parties and see each other at different times. Her parents would ask me to stay overnight with her when they went away because she wasn’t quite old enough to stay home alone overnight. I took her to a concert and she came over for New Year’s Eve. I helped her get a good job where I was working her senior year and we saw each other several times a week at that point.

Then she went away to college. I was the person she called when she woke up in bed next to a stranger. I was the person she called when she thought she wouldn’t be able to actually do this whole college thing. I was there for her every step of the way. Eventually she found her trusty friend group and we started losing touch. But not completely. She was the first person I told when we were expecting our first kid. She was the first person I told when I doubted that I really wanted to be in the military still. We weren’t just cousins, we were friends, even though she was about 7 years younger than me.

She told me when she found the man who would be her husband. He was amazing. He understood her. He didn’t say “Wow, it must suck to be born on Christmas day,” or “You are adopted by white people? Holy shit!” These two things haunted her for her entire childhood. Instead he told her that Christmas was extra special because it was also her birthday. He went out of his way to show her he cared. I found out from my parents she was engaged to him. And then they told me when their wedding invitation arrived. I eagerly checked my mail for two weeks following that, excited to get my invitation to my little cousin’s wedding.

It never came.

I was devastated.

My parents tried to tell me it was ok, that I was off the hook for sending a gift. That wasn’t the point. My cousin, Tiny Toon I called her, was having the biggest day of her life so far and I was not invited to be a part of it. I WANTED to BRING a gift to her. I wanted to be part of her big day. I’d been a part of all the small days and big days previously. But not this day. It broke the relationship in half. I was not able to connect to her anymore.

About 12 years ago, I wrote a snotty passive aggressive post about family on facebook. She got the message clearly and messaged me, asking if it was about her. I told her that it was and that my feelings were really hurt about the wedding. She said that she didn’t send invitations to my brother and I because she didn’t think we could come. I told her it was shitty to just completely leave me out in the cold, after everything we had been through together. That it was a really cheap way to save money on her wedding. She tried to make up excuses like she didn’t want me to feel bad or she didn’t want to seem like she was just asking for a gift since I couldn’t come.

That’s just it. I would’ve been able to come. I wasn’t in training. I wasn’t locked into anything at that point. I would’ve been there with bells on for her. And she never even asked me. She just assumed.

She apologized, but nothing was the same after that. I still find myself filled with sadness when I think about this moment in time. I sometimes cry, thinking about myself being so excited for the invitation that never came. I was so trusting that of course Tiny Toon wouldn’t leave me out of her wedding completely. I never expected to be part of the wedding party, but dude…not even invited as a guest to my first cousin’s wedding?

Her older sister makes this part easier…she’s been engaged to her fiance for like 7 years. It doesn’t appear that they’re actually ever getting married. But if I don’t get invited to her wedding, meh. It’s fine. We weren’t all that close anyway.

So yeah, family, nothing but miscommunication, misunderstandings, and making assumptions.

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