Friday, July 11, 2008

The Last of Her Family

I got an email today from my father's cousin letting me know that his mother (my father's aunt) is dying. They are moving her from the hospital to their home and will have hospice care in her final days.

I dutifully called my dad. I followed up with a call to my mom.

That is where my filial piety ends.

In my pre-child days, I was the family go-to girl for genealogy. We have an unusual last name. So unusual that my family is the only family with this name in the US. No joke. I was even published in a computer journal for the work I had done on my family tree. It was a hobby that I was passionate about.

All of this is necessarily on the back burner now, but at one point in my early twenties I reached out to my great-aunt. My grandfather had been dead for nearly ten years. She is my grandfather's sister, and the last of the siblings living. It felt special to me to possibly have some connection with her. That through her, maybe I would know my grandfather in a way I hadn't as a child.

The one and only time I called her, she was so horrible to me on the phone. So nasty. She talked about burning all our family pictures, and I could feel her smug smirk behind the receiver as the tears rolled down my cheeks.

What a heartless, evil bitch.

One might not think a great aunt to be so important, but my grandmother's sisters and I had a fabulous relationship. I always felt so loved. So included. They loved me, and I loved them fiercely in return.

My grandfather had three sisters. What did I learn about them in my wanderings? They were mean. Spiteful. They were drunks. They held grudges just because they could, and they locked their children in basements because children should be seen and not heard.

It is not much of a legacy for me. To be one of the few women in the family that share this name. I was always so proud of it. Granted, they changed their names when they married and I didn't, but somehow it casts a pall over what could have been something really special.

I have come to the depressing realization over the years that nearly all the women in my family are heartless, horrible women. They are mean. They are bitter. They revel in the misery of others. Even my MIL gives me no reprieve. The only source of open affection were my grandmother and her sisters. Her sisters are all but gone, and so is she.

Am I glad my great-aunt is dying? No. Do I feel badly that she is having a long, drawn-out death? On the human level, yes. Personally, no. I hope my grandfather kicks the shit out of her once she crosses over. I imagine him saying Who the fuck are you to speak to my granddaughter that way?

It probably won't happen that way, but it makes me feel better to picture it.

10 comments:

Mermaid said...

Sounds like these relative bullies should have learned better a long time ago on the playground and left the behavior behind when they left middle school. Your grandpa will give her a piece of his mind, don't you worry!

Momma said...

Wow.

That is heavy stuff, NATUI. I figure that there are deep-seated reasons we'll never know about that make people that way. I imagine she was abused, especially if all the girls are that way. Think about it. I'm not saying it excuses her behavior, but she is of the generation in which they didn't talk about their problems. They buried them deep inside and then took things out on others.

My father's family has a terrible history. I'm not sure I want to dig very deeply there. Lots of physical and sexual abuse. Horrible.

Anyway, I'm sorry she's dying, but as you say, once they cross over, they reap what they've sown on earth.

Peace - D

buddha_girl said...

What a bitch. There's something about bearing witness to justice in this world that sometimes softens the hatred heaped on you.

Justice is the fact that this woman's horrid nature has come full circle. I'm sure she knows she's dying, essentially alone, due to her own handiwork. She's never going to admit it. But she knows.

Too many people use past abuse as an excuse for being abusive themselves. People can either rise above or allow themselves to continue being victims. While I don't think all people are capable of such strength, I do have the expectation that people TRY to rise above.

I speak from experience on this.

K-Mom said...

When I come across nasty people, I can't help but wander what confluence of events caused them to be that way? Nature or nurture, I guess. Are some people just born mean?

Well, I have my own little horror story about digging too deep into the family tree. I have an aunt on my father's side who was really in to and when she finished her research, she sent everyone in the family a copy of her findings. I was going over it with Hubby and told him that I was distantly related to Daniel Boone and Hubby looked at me and said, "So am I!!!"

So, Hubby and I are distantly related. EWWWW!

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@Mermaid: I really hope he does.

@Momma: I never thought of it that way. I know one of the stories from the family is that the kids used to hide out in the corn fields at night when the father was drunk to avoid getting beaten. That was the legacy of her father's childhood. Though I have heard he was a gentle, kind-hearted man who knows how he raised his children. Either way, once you become an adult you can choose to do better. I know it is not simple, but I have to live with the hope that we evolve, ya know?

@Buddha_girl: I agree with you. All I ask is that you try. Make the attempt. And maybe she did. But what the hell did I ever do to her?

@K-Mom: My family tree is so twisted in certain spots. Cousins marrying cousins marrying cousins. It' a wonder I don't have three heads.

aithne said...

Wow! I don't blame you one bit for feeling the way you do. You can't help but feel that way.

My grandmother can get like that and it still hurts my mom on a regular basis. Unbelievable.

Amazing how things have changed and not changed these days with family history.

b said...

Aw, hon. Sometimes being the tie that binds the family is more of a noose.

And sometimes asking seemingly innocent questions, or just merely being present seems to provoke for no apparent reason whatsoever. It is the puzzlement over the caustic reaction that burns us to the core.

Almost always hatred and vitriol are rooted in fear. Fear of discovery, of blame, of disclosure.

I hope that you can lie down your burden over this, and - as you say - let your grandfather take over. I'm sure he will have a way.

And as someone who's had a weathered past, I can see that you are intuitive and intelligent enough and observant enough not to let history repeat itself. You are a fine person - one your grandpa and grandma (& her clan) can be very proud of.

Krysta said...

ugh...i'm sorry you have to deal with that. maybe she'll get what's coming to her.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

She sounds like my grandfather's sisters. They're hateful shrews who want nothing to do with our family AND they insist on putting fake plastic flower arrangements on the grave of my grandmother and grandfather. I could hate a person just for that last reason alone.

Gypsy said...

It's funny how a family changes, what is inherited and what isn't, what we learn and pass on and what we leave behind.