Recently (and by recently I mean in the last year or so… funny how ones idea of “recently” changes as you get more years under your belt), I got back in contact with my cousins from my dad’s side of the family. It’s one of the gifts of the internet – Facebook and Ancestry.com, in particular – that it’s now so much easier to find and contact people these days. Gifts and curses, I suppose if I were being truly honest about it.
I grew up as the only child of divorced parents. My mother was an only child and my father, a raging alcoholic who was far out of the picture by the time I was a toddler, had one younger sister who had four daughters. I knew of my aunt but only in a sort of mythic way. She was someone who I didn’t know, and had no contact with but I kind of hoped she remembered, or at least, thought of me. My cousins were completely unknown. I knew their first names, but other than that, I was pretty oblivious to them and to our connection.
Recently, 40+ years after my parents divorce, I have been in contact with a couple of my adult cousins through Facebook. They are nice people and I’m glad I’ve met them, but in some ways, I feel like an outsider in my own family. They have history that I’m not a part of. They have pictures of the “cousins” with our shared grandmother that I’m not, and never was, included in. I am grateful that I get to have a tiny piece of a family now, but in some ways, it’s a bit too little, too late. I lived nearby. My mother had not moved so it’s not like no one knew where I was. But I was never contacted or invited for family events when I was a child.
While I’m grateful to have a small piece of my ancestral picture, in some ways it’s more hurtful getting to see what I missed out on. Before I was reconnected with family I had accepted that I was a one person family reunion every day. My family was gone and I had grown some scabs over the wounds that grief creates. But for some reason now, I find myself pining for a family I never actually had. A family with a grandmother who was accepting and kind, and not judgmental and cruel – as I remember our shared matriarch.
Maybe one day I can look at the pictures of my family and not think “why wasn’t I included in that?”. But that day isn’t today, and for today I’m still sad that once again I am an outsider.