“Mom, why do we never spend time with your family? You have all these cousins I have never met. What’s up with that?”
I cringe when the topic of my mother’s family comes up, never really quite certain how to explain.
“None of them like me,” is the easy explanation, and in part, it’s true. One of my cousins told me as much, one night when he was drunk. I was smart, as a kid, went to a school for gifted students, and my father liked to flaunt the fact – more like shoved it down everyone’s throat. I didn’t like me either, in those days.
What I don’t tell her is that same cousin, invited to stay at our house when my children were young, stayed up all night and drank himself silly, and that I, being the good hostess kept vigil over him so that he wouldn’t drown himself in our swimming pool. He, who confessed to the family’s dislike of me, did so while at the same time announcing his sexual arousal and desire to “do me”; it was all I could not to drown him myself.
“Why don’t you call your cousin?” my mother likes to prod. “He’d love to hear from you.”
Second-guessing myself, I decide to give my cousin another chance. My daughter and I are travelling to his town. His wife greets me warmly on the phone, exclaims that they are excited to see us and extends an invitation to stay with them. I beg off politely – we have other plans.
Cousin has opened his schedule for us, is very accommodating…and pushy!
“Come to the house! Don’t stay at a hotel.”
There are too many reasons why not to stay with him, and I haven’t got the energy to get into it. This trip has cost me, health wise, and staying in the hotel room is the extent of my energy. He whisks my daughter off to pick up food.
We’re at his house, she texts me a little while later. I start to feel uneasy.
“There were so many bad things that happened in our family,” he says to me when he gets me alone. “We are a screwed up bunch.”
“I know some of it, but not all, being younger. Older cousins have told me things.”
“Yeah, pretty bad.”
“I know that there is a lot of alcoholism,” I add.
“You got that right.”
“And that being a female in this family is not an advantage.”
He glances at me sideways, thinks about it, then concurs. “You can say that again!”
He starts to unload on me about my father, and uncles, until my daughter reappears, and the conversation shifts.
“Why is your cousin so needy, Mom?” My daughter asks me on the way home. “He was starting to creep me out.”
“He wanted a party…was looking for someone to drink with.”
“He took me to his house without asking…I felt weirded out.”
“I hear you.”
“Maybe that’s why we just keep to ourselves; some family just isn’t worth it.”
Silently, I sigh with relief. She gets it. It wasn’t just me.
Writer, avid reader, former educator, and proud grandmother, currently experiencing life through the lens of ME/CFS. Words are, and always have been, a lifeline. Some of the best adventures, I'm discovering, take place in the imagination.