Sunday, July 22, 2007

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

My family is a compilation of people who aren't speaking to one another. My parents are divorced and have been in the same room on two occasions since their divorce 23 years ago: my brother's wedding and my wedding. So, for one, my parents don't talk, which causes family vacations to be split in thirds: my dad, my mom and my husband's parents. Thank goodness my husband's parents are still married.

Next comes my dad and his brother. Before my wedding, they decided they weren't speaking. It was huge turmoil when I decided to invite my uncle to my wedding. My dad, who I adore and respect, was very hurt and upset that I invited his brother. The reason I did was that he was the only aunt/uncle who didn't stop communicating with me after my parents' divorce. I always appreciated that. Being ex-communicated as a teenager was very, very hard on me. Now that Dad's fighting cancer, I still haven't decided whether or not to tell my uncle - I'll cross that bridge later.

Then comes my mom and her sister. After the divorce, my mom moved out of state to go live near her sister. This sister have four kids, my cousins, who are roughly my age and starting having kids of their own a few years ago. Each year of the last 10 or so, my mom would organize a family gathering during my annual visit to see her that would include my cousins. My husband likes my cousins, and their children are the closest cousins my children have. As such, my husband wants to maintain relationships with my cousins. Here's the wrinkle, my mom and her sister have stopped talking, putting me and my cousins in a rough spot. When I talked about trying to see my cousins while up visiting mom this coming weekend, she got upset and made it clear she didn't want to be there. Last year, she made it clear that she didn't want me seeing her sister. It was a guilt trip about how she only gets to see her grandkids a few days each year and shouldn't have to "share" that time. I respected her wishes.

This is when the pity party starts. I'm so tired of my parents' selfishness when it comes to family relationships. I don't understand why they don't accept or acknowledge their effect on others and how unfair it is. It makes me angry and it embarrasses me that my family seems so dysfunctional. My husband's family seems so normal in comparison. So, now I get to either make my husband happy and my mom mad or my husband disappointed and my mom righteous.

Ugh . . . .

1 comment:

yertle said...

So sorry that you have to deal with this.

When I was young, my aunt and uncle got divorced. I didn't know this at the time -- we just showed up for Thanksgiving one day and he was gone. No one mentioned it or said anything about it or ever told us what happened. It was really weird and as a kid I couldn't understand why nothing was said and started wondering if anyone would care if I disappeared.

Over a decade later, my uncle was in the hospital about a block from where I was living at the time. In my heart, I wanted to go visit him, but my family was still saying I shouldn't. That I might get in the way etc... I didn't listen to them, and I went up there anyway. I paced around outside his room for a while trying to decide if I should go in and then got the courage to. He recognized me immediately and stood up to give his niece a hug. It was a great moment and made me realize that irrespective of everyone else in my family, he was still my uncle (the only one I have), and still the Dad of my cousins, the grandpa to my cousin's son, etc... It finally sunk in that I could choose to include him in my life if I wanted to. Since then I keep in touch with him through Christmas cards and birth announcements for my sons and such. It feels good, and wI am happy to be reacquainted with him and to acknowledge the fact that I still love him.
I would say the best thing to do is to follow your heart, and err on the side of family connection. You can't get it back in the future, and if you parents can't handle it, that is their problem. It sounds mean, but it is mean of them to put you in the middle of their business too.

Your relationship with your relatives is separate from their relationship with the same people. The biggest regrets are about not telling people you love them and appreciate them, and in this case you love and appreciate everyone so you should not be the one feeling bad or wrong.