When I see pictures of friend’s family functions or read social media posts chock full of love and appreciation for blood connections, I’m often filled with an orphan’s sense of deprivation. I miss the second cousins I never really got to know, the third cousins I’ll probably never get to meet, and the nephew I’ve hardly ever seen. I envy the support shown to other members of the family, especially my children, and the acceptance extended for their lifestyles.
Aside from my mother and occasional communication with my only surviving aunt (the eldest aunt succumbed to cancer a couple years back), I’m largely estranged from my extended family for a variety of reasons. The most prominent of those is never quite being able to shake the unwanted, willful “bad kid” feeling I’ve grown up with. There have been attempts made to sweep all that “bad blood” aside by way of apology and honest dialog but the end result remains the same. I reach out, no one really reaches back and I come away feeling even more desolate and empty.
I have never been fully able to put my finger on why I’ve oftentimes been ostracized, and when I inquired I’ve always been told it was because of me. I never listened, I never did what I was told, I wasn’t like my cousins or brothers or any other child in our family. I talked too much or not enough. I was “smelling myself” or just out and out wanted to be grown. Never once was there an explanation that others misunderstood me and tried to force me into characteristics that weren’t mine. It was always something I did or failed to do that was the catalyst. While I will admit to launching into preemptive strikes as a teen one can only rationalize that it’s was because of the treatment that had been building up to that point. No one understood, no one understands. That’s the way it’s been for as long as I can remember, and the way it always will be it seems.
One of the best bits of advice my mother has ever given me was to offer my children everything I felt I wasn’t given as a child, emotionally speaking. With this in mind, I did everything I could to let my children know they have a voice, a choice, and were accepted as they are, even as I applied parental guidance and discipline. My children knew they were respected, for the most part, and that has been the bedrock of our nuclear family.and the reason for or closeness. It hasn’t been perfect, but it has been family and it’s pretty much made up for the lapses in familial connection.