When I began this quest to delve into family history, especially by creating a genealogical website and writing a blog, I knew that there would be three types of people that I’d run into. The “We Are Related!” people are those cousins – distant and close – who want to know what has been found and will share stories and pictures and be open. The “Why Bother?” people are those who do not understand what all the fascination is about dead ancestors or relatives that you’ve never met. Cemeteries bother them. Skeletons in the closet are NOT to be dug out. And don’t ask them any questions because they don’t remember – but (and this is a big but!) – they will respond to here and now topics – just not ones that have anything to do with genealogy. Then there are the “Not Talking To Anyone on THAT Side of the Family” because of real or imagined slights. And yes, this is real – this is current and this happened to me a few days ago. And since I am not one to shy away from controversial family skeletons or issues – although I will keep that person’s anonymity because of their children/grandchildren – who hopefully have nothing to do with their parent’s unbalanced nature!
My father comes from a large family – he is the youngest of seven. As is usual, coming at the end of the children meant that at least one or more of the siblings were already adults. Even though there was eighteen years difference between him and his oldest sibling, they grew close as adults – though the older one did seem to treat him as a “child” – probably because Sibling A took care of him quite a bit when he was an infant. Sibling A married, had children, and stayed somewhat close to their hometown. My dad joined the military, moved away, married, had children, visited often, moved out of the country, moved back to the home state (yet still far from the hometown), attended reunions, stayed closely connected to all the siblings, retired from the military and then had a child at middle age (that child being me!)
So as a child born when my father was 40, and he being the youngest of seven, most of my first cousins on the paternal side were much older – some were already married and Sibling A’s daughter – my oldest first cousin – was even a grandmother by the time I was a few years old. So not only were our ages a couple of generations apart but our interests were different, the times we lived through were different, and we lived a good distance apart. I saw this woman – whom I will call Cousin A – at least twice a year – sometimes three times. I never really had an opinion of her – she was just another adult who told me what to do, how to behave, and to play nice.
Several years down the road, my parents divorced. I didn’t see Cousin A after that due to circumstances that I had nothing to do with. I would hear about Sibling A and Cousin A from my dad but nothing earth shattering.
My dad remarried and after fifteen years plus, his wife passed away. About that time, he’d returned to where he had grown up to visit his few remaining siblings still in that area. Apparently, Cousin A was in the process of building a wall – brick by brick – between her parent – Sibling A and every one of the other Siblings – including my dad. Apparently, there was a lack of communication between my father and his sibling and the next thing anyone knew Cousin A was spreading gossip and rumors that my Dad treated Sibling A horribly. What?! So Dad decided that he was done – done trying to correct the wrong. He stopped speaking to his eldest sibling. Consequently, Sibling A with the help of Cousin A began to build a wall, too. Cousin’s A’s brother wasn’t even allowed to speak to his own mother! My dad’s sister, my Aunt Marie (who I’ve written about and spoken so fondly of), tried time and time again to reach out to Sibling A and even Cousin A but was treated horribly.
When Sibling A passed away in 2003, the obituary didn’t even list my dad or the other siblings still living. It was as if there weren’t anyone on that side of the family – that they were all “dead”. I guarantee that Cousin A’s brother wasn’t allowed to write that obituary because at the end Sibling A told the son, that there were many regrets – especially about cutting my dad out.
In the interim – since 1999 – I’ve mailed letters to other cousins on that side of the family and now enjoy wonderful relationships with first cousins. However, Cousin A has never written me back nor acknowledged my condolences when my dad’s sibling died. So a couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by Cousin A’s cousin on the other side (no relation to me). I explained about the falling out and how I hadn’t had any contact with that person. So the very nice gal said she would contact Cousin A for me – and she did.
Imagine my surprise on Monday when I arrived home from work to find a letter from Cousin A! And guess what that letter basically said? That our side of the family never treated Sibling A right so therefore Cousin A wanted no contact.
And guess what else? I am just as stubborn as Cousin A so I will be sending a follow up letter because for one thing – I always treated Sibling A correctly and another – life is too short for grudges. I really want to build a bridge and tear down that wall!