when okay is not okay

I don’t have your typical family.  I don’t think anyone does.  Not really.  There are always things hiding in crevices when people get together because of complicated things they may not understand.

In any case, my family is more unusual and dysfunctional than most.  I’ve talked about that stuff for a long time.  And mostly, I’ve moved on.  Mostly, because I have to.  There isn’t any point in getting upset or moving Heaven/Earth to get them to be what I need them to be.  They just aren’t who I need them to be, and I can’t change that.  It’s been a hard pill to swallow–one that made me angry for a long time (probably still does).  But I’m finally (mostly) alright with it.  I just don’t have family.  I will, one day, but–right now–I don’t.

That doesn’t mean they don’t affect me.  There aren’t a lot of them around anymore, and most of them are silent–so I usually don’t have to interact with them.  I had some hope last year that one of my cousins and I would forge some new alliance.  She seemed different from the rest of them.  And then she got married and disappeared.  We had plans to meet up at times, but they never really materialized.  I was always expected to be the one to come to them–to find time and money to see them.  The same dance my grandparents pulled on Mama–and why I mostly only knew them because Mama wanted them to know me.  And I just didn’t have it.  And–honestly–I couldn’t justify it to myself.

After you’ve been so disappointed by people–after you’ve seen and been part of this historical pattern that ruined your mother’s life–you just stop being able to give anymore.

I wish I had family.  I really do.  It hurts me that I don’t–that the picture in my head won’t ever be mine–that maybe I can’t create what I need.  It is what it is.  And what it is sucks.

Tonight, I was talking to my roommate–waiting on dinner to arrive–when my phone rang.  I almost answered because I thought it was the delivery guy, but it wasn’t.  It was a familiar name–my cousin.  The one who disappeared.

My heart immediately dropped into my stomach.  Stabbing pain hit my eye and forehead.  All I could think was, “Someone died.  Someone’s dying.  Someone’s maimed.”  An okay mood instantly went awry.  It felt like PTSD or something.  My roommate asked if I was going to listen to the message.  I couldn’t.  I just…couldn’t.

See–that’s the only reason they call me.  I don’t get called for birthdays.  I don’t get called for Merry Christmas.  I don’t get called to be told anything loving or fun or nice.  Just the have-tos.  The duty-bound bullshit from strangers.

I’ve had so much crap in my life–so much death and suffering–so many calls from people who didn’t love me enough to ever be in my life, but yet thought I needed to be informed of a stranger’s something.  It didn’t matter if there was a death.  It didn’t matter who it was.  It would all be the same.  And then, there’d be more guilt to tie a bow to.  It’s our family secret handshake.

I needed to hold onto me for a minute–before they erased any good from my day.

I felt like throwing up.

After I ate, I listened.  It sounded like a pocket dial.  But it also sounded like someone being hit and someone crying.  I didn’t know what to do.  Should I call back?  Should I call the cops?  But then I remembered I don’t have her address. And she’s in Arizona.

I did nothing.

I am not someone who does nothing.

Twenty minutes later, another call.  Her kid was playing with her phone.  The thuds came from him.  The crying–him.  At least that’s what she said.  I don’t know.  I’m not in a position to know.  So, I accepted it.  Because I guess it doesn’t really matter to me.

I didn’t know she had a kid.

How is it possible to be someone’s cousin and not know they have a child?

I don’t even know what that makes me.

They are who they are.  I can’t change them.  I can change me.  And I can love myself enough for the family I don’t have.  Which is why I’ll keep choosing me and claiming this life–even if they aren’t in it.  It’s not about me.


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