Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Family Ties

My mum and dad divorced when I was very young (this sentence began life with the word "parents" in it but it felt wrong - they are distinctly separate entities) and I have what I consider to be two families:

  • the 'normal' one (mum, sister, grandma, aunt, uncle and cousins)
    we get to laugh, argue, agree to disagree, laugh again, strop, support, love etc.
  • the 'freaky' one (dad, ex stepmum, current step mum, half brother, two stepsiblings, grandma, grandpa, uncle and multitude of cousins and ex aunts - aunt number four or five?... I lost count)
    just plain old dysfunctional really
For many complicated reasons I haven't spoken to my father for over five years. Anyone who has known me through the years understands why I came to this point. And frankly I'm a lot healthier in mind and spirit since I made that decision.

I do choose to keep contact with my ex-stepmum and much younger half brother. (You may note the use of the word "choose" which reflects that I am trying now to actively control my relationship with this family). However, my younger sister still keeps up with the rest of that side of the family. I respect her decision and relationships (as she does mine) plus I have the bonus of hearing the continuing freaky family sagas through her.

The story of my grandfather's funeral is a classic and will keep for a later date. I'm prompted to tell this particular story because my cousin has just got in contact with me after about seven years.

My cousin's father is not someone I especially like (I am the master of understatement here). This dislike was apparent from an early age - I found him selfish and immature. He is my dad's younger brother and has a multitude of children with different wives and mothers that I have to concentrate just to remember them all. His eldest son, my cousin 'Harry', is just a couple of months younger than me. Since my uncle was out cavorting and then leaving women and Harry's mum had in the meantime started her own new family, Harry often came along on holidays with my dad and sister and (then) stepmum. Harry still keeps in close contact with our grandmother and sees my dad and his new family.

Harry and I lost touch seven years ago because, honestly, I was tired of the competitive conversation of 'my dad is worse than yours' that he seemed to need to have. I understand why he felt my dad was a damned sight better than his but that was never a reason for me to feel a need to justify my feelings for my father. We all had our own issues.

But Harry has got back in touch with me this week and wants to catch up. I feel rather heavy hearted since I heard from him. Not because of him but because I feel like I'm potentially opening a door that I went through a lot of energy and emotion to close.

Basically, Harry is a nice guy who's had a rotten family. This tale was relayed to me recently and just summed up everything that goes on in that freaky family:

Last year at Harry's 30th birthday party invitees included his younger half sister from his mum's second marriage and a younger half brother from his dad's second marriage. Neither of these half siblings are actually blood related to each other and infact had never met before. But that wouldn't stop you feeling horrified, or stomach churned when it turns out your half siblings are having a drunken snog in the darkened corner of your birthday celebrations, would it?

I'll reply to Harry's email this week. I can do polite and friendly communications. I just feel bad lumping him in with what I consider the other rotten eggs but am worried about where this is leading.

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