Inevitably in my family if we get together long enough, the dick jokes and dirty innuendo come out. We have a small subgroup among in my family who will declare loudly that everything we say is awful and we should be ashamed, but secretly they are right with us and we usually take a jab they might need to get some.
I don’t know if they feel some parental obligation to fight it, or if they just want brownie points to keep them out of hell.
It was no different with my little cousins. I’m not sure if its due to the fact I recognize them as no longer the darling cherubs of their childhood, but young adults on the adventure of life or not, but I’ve never felt the need to scold them for anything they wanted to say, except perhaps the sibling hate speech to one another. I’d love to carve that out like cancer. They’ve never held back either.
As the evening progressed I kind of wish we’d migrated to someplace involving couches and coffee and/or wine so the chatter didn’t have to ever end. The topic of sex and relationships of course came up. The little sister firmly declared she didn’t care for sex and would rather not do “that” for the most part.
My quick reply was of course that she must be doing it wrong, which seemed to be our eldest aunt’s problem as well.
I might be biased…
No, no… I’m not. Little sister is fucking gorgeous and has suitors from both sides of the fence that would be more than happy to lick the bottom of her boots if she asked them. She has no clue the vast power she possesses. In this, she is much like her half-sister. The difference being is her half-sister does understand her power and has used it quite a lot in her life, often to disaster, and only toning it down in recent years.
Don’t get me wrong, the older sister is beautiful, tall and graceful. But there is just this something some people possess that seems to render those around them completely subjugated. Helen of Troy would have HAD to be one of these people. I have about three cousins (suspect four, but that one keeps it firmly under control so I cannot verify), all female, who have this ability as well.
The older sister seems to be exploring her oats these days. I see a ton of myself in her while she spoke of some of her relationships and alluded to conquests. She wants so much to open her heart to something real, and from the sound of it, to one in particular, but she is equally fearful of being rejected so she keeps this wall up. It bites you in the ass when you cannot be vulnerable, you just come off as ice cold because people eventually get tired of trying to get over that wall.
I had to smile because some of the things were almost verbatim to things I’d declared at the same age, so utterly convinced I’d had this relationship shit all figured out.
I hadn’t a clue.
By the time I could even think of how to respond, it was time to pack it in and leave.
If anything I wish I could tell her that you cannot make your heart tough enough to withstand the hurt of having it broken if you don’t expose it to the possibility of having it loved thoroughly first.
Building walls, only turns what’s inside to mush… useless and unspent. Exposure is what makes it more malleable, adaptable, bendable… not breakable.
You never really regret trying. You regret when you don’t.
I asked my two little cousins if they’d seen their elder sister and the tone just darkened suddenly. The last time I’d seen them all together, things were pretty good, they were even acting much like full siblings, only with less “I hate you”, “I wish you’d die” that I’d seen between the two younger. If anything, their elder half-sister was shutting that stuff down.
On a sidenote, sibling behavior freaks the shit out of only children like Spawn and myself. We would never talk to anyone the way we hear siblings talk to one another. I’ve never understood if this is just normal stuff, or not enough intervention from like huge guys named Guido, floggings, duct tape, etc.
On another sidenote, it freaks the shit out of people with siblings the way only children will talk to themselves. It helps us resolve things going on in our lives, but how in depth we can get really makes people think we’re nuts.
When both girls didn’t say anything, I asked again. Apparently, Knievel had indeed visited recently but it hadn’t gone so well. I cannot help it, the fixer in me pushed for details and I wanted to understand the hurt look on the younger sister’s face.
Then the older one pipes up and says “Apparently, she wanted to blame and punish us for having the father she never did.”
My heart sank. I’m often in awe the perception especially the older sister has about things but this is one of those moments I wish it wasn’t so good and they just thought she was being a bitch.
I did agree that the person their father was before their mom was completely different than the person he became when she was a factor, but it was utterly unfair to take that shit out on them.
I apologized for her, which I know means nothing. I was both angry at her and for her simultaneously. She didn’t deserve the shitty parents she got, and it had to be an epic slap in the face when one of them really bucks up… for his other kids. But at the same time, it is completely out of fucking line to get mad at them for that.
But its hard to take it out on the source of the discourse when the dumbfucker is dead.
We talked a little about their dad after that. The older sister isn’t quite as venomously angry as she used to be, and his pedestal with the younger seems to have whittled down a bit. I went over what little I felt I could without either shitting on him or giving him more credit than he was due. I did talk about his lack of impulse control and how that seemed to play a factor in much of his life, how much of a ghost he was before their mom. How much more focused he was with her…
I looked at the older one when I said it, but I told her she needed to call her sister out on her behavior. Let her know her feelings were justified, but she was unleashing them on the wrong person. Put her foot down that neither of them deserved to be treated that way.
But don’t write her off.
She’d been written off enough.
Other than her mom, they were all she had.
When I was having dinner with my little cousins, we talked about so many things that I believe there were at least 4 conversations running simultaneously the entire evening. The youngest even enlisted us in playing a cellphone game that worked kind of like charades in reverse. You hold your phone to your forehead outward and everyone else is supposed to give you hints without saying the word or phrase on the screen.
The youngest blazed through the music category and wanted me to try.
I love music.
With how many posts I have made that involved a video, or song reference, I’m sure you’ve figured this out. The only group I have joined on any social media has to do with music, mostly indie/alternative. I played three different instruments growing up, I listen to college radio because I think its awesome to listen to dubstep going to work, then spanish rap on the way home, for example.
My hunger for music has only increased with age, contrary to what psychology/sociology doctrine says I should be. When I first interacted with Pandora, I was in heaven… a genome project for music? What the hell? I plugged in a few songs I could think of off the top of my head and it played completely different shit that I totally loved. I plow through my Spotify weekly… well, weekly and add anything I like to a current playlist to get me through work. Any band I like two or more songs of goes on a list of things to purchase an album… or two. I’m the revenue online music sites can’t track.
Spawn and I go to the local music store that still specializes in records and spend an ungodly amount of money and take out stacks of stuff. I am so connected to them via social media, I send them instant messages to request stuff I know they will have to order so it will be there when we get there. They show me stuff when I come in they think I will be interested in. They are my people.
Yes, I still buy CD’s. I figure when I make my first mill, I’ll invest in albums again and the stereo system it would take to make me happy, but I like the liner notes and inserts regardless. We listen to each in the car until we’re tired of it, I burn them all when we’re done so I can access them online or burn them onto mix CD’s for road trips.
I have a system, man.
I love music.
I also sincerely believe that my former spouse only owning two albums, one of them being a soundtrack, should have been sign enough to run the other way and I was just being stupid.
It was the elder of the two who piped up and said “pick a different category, they’re not going to know that crap.”
I asked what kind of music they thought I listened to. I barely see these girls anymore, which kills me, so I made no assumptions of them knowing my musical taste or taste in anything really. Hell, most people who did know me couldn’t tell you what my music tastes are.
The eldest responded immediately with, “eclectic, very eclectic is your taste.”
They really couldn’t be more right. I actually thought that would be to my advantage in a music category, but apparently they only put current music on the Gaga front and any other female singer willing to wear plastic and pasties to cut a record.
The older sister was right, I didn’t know anything about the current stuff they played in that music category. I could only nail it when they played stuff before 2k or the 90’s and earlier. The younger sister knew all of it, from classic rock on, she nailed it all. It’s not that I don’t listen to recent stuff either, I just don’t listen to recent “popular” stuff apparently.
I truly cannot tell the difference between almost any of the female singers that are currently being gushed over these days. It all sounds exactly the same to me.
The older sister and I share a mutual love of books. One of my most favorite gifts ever is when she gave me The Perks of Being a Wallflower. At the time, it was one of her favorites and she was the same age as the protagonist. I loved it as well. Probably not least of which due to it being set in an era I was growing up and experiencing some of the same things. We talked about our current reads and made mental notes of ones to check out from the other’s coffers.
Spawn was mostly silent throughout dinner, looking exhausted and overwhelmed. I often wonder if they might be a little closer to what good relatives we do have if they would just give a little more input into the conversation or reached out just a little more. However, I wasn’t much different at that age, just preferring to listen because I felt nothing I said would be interesting enough to contribute.
I sincerely hope that isn’t the reason for Spawn’s silence.
Little sis loved picking on Spawn on about this, to which the older sister would immediately defend them. I found it amusing. I’d always operated under the assumption that Spawn would talk when they wanted to and not a minute before.
The older sister also went to the school of fine arts that Spawn wishes to also attend, only for the cello, which Spawn has been playing too and loves. I doubt either of them have discussed the commonality at any point ever unless I brought it up.
The younger is putting aside her dreams of being a DJ to become a professional student. I would love this. Get up, learn shit, go home. If I could do that every day, I would be in heaven. I get the sense she is just feeling really directionless whereas her sister was very driven and had solid goals. In this area, I empathize with the younger sister more. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, I just know I’m not doing it.
As much as my antisocial tendencies govern most of my actions, I thoroughly immersed in enjoying the company of my two littles cousins. I even started remembering a me that actually enjoyed going out and spending time with others regularly.
I look at these two grown lovely ladies and their free flowing banter and sharp wit, and with a certain expression or just how they would say something, they would transform to two toddlers fresh and crisp in their Easter Sunday best, spinning in the foyer to make their dresses fly up. Golden ringlets, chubby elbows and a laugh that can never, ever be duplicated by anyone past the age of four, completely full of nothing but sheer joy.
It makes me ache in a nostalgic way. It reminds me how little I see them, how much I missed, moving around and completely focusing on my own shit. It makes me wonder if their half-sister ever has these regrets as well, ever looks at them and feels a pang for the time gone forever.
I ponder the days when their half-sister and I were nothing more than gangly, awkward kids ourselves, then young adults completely convinced of our intellectual superiority and ready to take on the world, bent on making it our bitch or just making it better and being nothing like our parents or any other adult we met while doing it.
It reminds me of a time when the little cousins first met Spawn, fresh from the hospital. They rigged up a laundry basket as a makeshift crib and just cooed over them like the most awesome thing they’d ever seen.
Now Spawn stands between the two in height, and is still growing.
I finally get the need to want to watch films of the past over and over. It’s not that you wish you could go and relive it all, but maybe just visit. Get a little more connected. Slow down and give a few more hugs, listen a little more attentively, be more in the moment. It’s a shame you have to get to a certain age before you fully understand that and so much is already lost.
The older of my little cousins, Knievel‘s half-sisters, texted me while here visiting from New York and asked what we were up to.
I managed to see this text one bright early Monday morning when I had to work (about 18-36 hours after it’d been sent, probably a speed record for me) but Spawn was out of school that day. So I pawned Spawn off as the sacrificial lamb of socializing with the promise I would meet them for dinner.
I know lunch and a movie happened but no clue what the rest involved, as is key with most of my family, we are scatterbrained, disorganized and chronically late. Even the more levelheaded and steadfast older sister is prone to this and lost their keys until about two hours after they were originally destined to arrive.
My aunt, their mom, even jokes that I’m the only one whoever shows up on time, but I’m still usually ten to fifteen minutes behind my goal. My other aunt, my mom’s oldest sister (Grand Jr.) is the worst. My uncle, their dad, used to tell his sister to be somewhere six hours of ahead of schedule just so she’d only be an hour or two late. Dinner is at six, Grand Jr. is told noon, and will probably arrive about 8 or 9 and be offended we started without her.
Spawn said they had fun but then immediately flopped in bed upon arriving home that night and was out in short order. I have no idea what wore them out so much, other than talking. Of course, the stoic and mostly silent Spawn would find that rather tiring, I suppose.
Spawn likes going out almost as much as I do.
I met up with both of my little cousins and my kid after work, at a place I’d never been before but the youngest worked currently, so I forced her to make recommendations. Every time I run into them, the youngest is working a different variety of jobs. But mom is still her financial source. I’m not sure how that works.
I know that the youngest has had to endure a couple intervention programs and some “get tough” camps of some sort while in their teens. I don’t really know why, my aunt is rather private about the details but only lightly covered some of it. The older sister was more forthcoming, but I’m sure a little embellishment might have played a factor, or it seemed to, considering her overall frustration with her sister.
I also know she is on medications. I’m sure ADHD is probably one, we seem to have a mix of that as well in that family. Another cousin was diagnosed with ADD well into his 40’s to which I just responded, “ha! you got caught.”
I’m well aware there is a reason I used to blast my music as loud as I could so I could concentrate on studying and I have trouble staying with a conversation at times and I’m chronically distracted. I just came up with my own methods of coping with it.
What I interpreted from the struggles the youngest has had was their father’s lack of impulse control has affected at least two of his daughters. However, unlike their older half-sister, their mom has been a pretty powerful force in redirecting it to something more constructive.
Their dad died when they were still pretty young. The older one was just old enough to start understanding enough to be pissed at him, while the younger keeps their dad firmly on a pedestal. I often regret, for their own sake, they couldn’t both have him on a pedestal. Even if its more than he deserves, they both deserve it very much.
See, my uncle was a drunk. A very functional, but at times, vile-mouthed drunk. When the older sister was an infant, he could slam down six beers in the fifteen minute drive it took to pick her up from daycare. He’d keep an 18-pack between the seats. It was so much a part of him, that it honestly never dawned on me that normal people don’t do this, so why was he? The amount of alcohol it would take for him to show he was even a little sluggish would have probably put most people in the hospital as a human pickle on a stomach pump.
He died of an accidental overdose. Apparently, over the years he’d started adding pills to the mix. He was too selfish and self-centered to have honestly had any notions of offing himself. It just wasn’t part of his character. But authorities, and insurance, were desperate to record it as such. I’m glad for their own sake, his family got it marked correctly.
Although he was a better man than he’d ever been, he was still the selfish being he’d always been. He loved his family, he did. This I saw in the little ways and he took great care of his girls when he could be bothered, but his own motivations would take precedence over all others often. My aunt wanted her corporate world, and he was to take over the domestic portion, that was their agreement. However, there was still a daycare, several au pairs, housekeepers and a slew of other people who had to cover the domestic portion over the years.
He still floated from one enterprise or another. Often one phased out in the weeks it took to see him again and he was onto something new, the only consistency was now his address. He had great ideas, but no execution and follow-through. When he died, he’d convinced Grand to put another mortgage against their house for about 25 thousand. Ironically, he was Grand’s favorite. Grand often accused their eldest son of owing them money, but it was mostly the youngest son doing the actually borrowing. We only found out a lot of that when Grand died and we had to go through the mountain of paperwork.
When I moved back to my home state, they were in the process of getting a divorce and he was sleeping in a houseboat out back, so he could still take care of the girls. This time, with no help. My aunt was a lot… darker… than she’d ever been. If my aunt had a slogan before then, it would have been “That’s Great!” She seem to have been poisoned with the bitter gloom of the clan. Without a word, I knew it was entirely his fault. All of that above, the pills and such, I found out much later.
Again, I felt guilty for having been related to him and not able to fix it. You’d think we were a Catholic bunch with the amount of times a day I can feel guilty over shit that has nothing to do with me, but that was a feature Grand tried to flourish in all of her brood… guilt. My uncle was immune, even when he should have been. At least, I’d never once seen any sign he’d ever felt bad about anything and even busted him once during this time, browsing personals on Yahoo of all things, while Grand and I were visiting them. I guess he felt guilty enough to shut it down when I came up behind him, but who wants to peruse a potential new partner while their parent is there and their marriage is falling apart? Was he wanting his wife to find it or did he just not care?
The last words I ever heard from this uncle were enough that I was done with him for good. I felt almost nothing when he died, felt guilty because of that too, just a happiness that the divorce hadn’t gone through so anything he might have had was unquestionably his family’s. My aunt wouldn’t deny her stepdaughter anything but it would have been a probate nightmare otherwise. I also worried that he might have left behind a financial disaster as well. But if anyone was skilled at eliminating that, it would also be my aunt.
I remember seeing the gloom fade, and she returned much to her usual self, perhaps a little worn out emotionally, but returned to the person that I’d always known and loved. She was the first adult I’d ever met that asked my opinion not sarcastically and sincerely wanted to know the answer. And listened. She took any obscure off-the-wall things I would throw at her and make me work through them, support them, making me alone solidify or alter my conclusions, without judgement.
I looked at these girls and I see a lot of her in them. I see the elements of my own family. The amusing but charming parts: the chronic distractedness, the sharp wit, the quick humor. I see their mom’s fierce determination, kind spirit, strength, and joy with life as well.
One day after New Year’s, one of my little cousins contacted me out of the blue and asked what we were doing. I say “little,” but she’s in her twenties and quite tall. Her ADHD sister is just into drinking age and as their mom says, “works a million jobs.”
I also say “little” since most of my first cousins are around my age, middle age… the sag-starting era when then there’s almost nothing left that’s perky or buoyant and its all downhill from here. These were the last of the first cousins and they are closer in age to our children than to us.
I babysat the older one when I was still a teenager during the summer while their mom ran around and did her high profile corporate thing. Their dad is the one who is my blood relation and I probably would have traded him for their mom in a second if that were possible. He died a few years after my mom did.
He was a phenomenal cook and really a genius. We have a lot of high IQ’s (his was in the mid-160’s) in our genetic line, but the ability to apply this to something substantial or fulfilling seems to elude most of us. I include myself in that. He especially was mostly a financial drifter. Before he met their mom, I don’t remember him ever having a consistent address, job or phone number.
I do remember the “work camp” gran took us to every Saturday afternoon for a few months to bring him a picnic basket and have lunch with him. He wore a jumpsuit like everyone else, their “uniform,” but wasn’t allowed to leave the premises. I might have been about ten at the time but I do remember the razor-wire fence. I asked a lot of questions and didn’t get a lot of answers. It was the most permanent address I’d ever known him to have and I’m not sure when it finally dawned on me, years later, it was a prison.
He also lacked a lot of impulse control. He was never motivated by greed so much as curiosity. The type who would break into a school and steal shit, just to see if they could, or steal a car and go on a joy ride only to get bored and move on to something else, never remembering where he left it behind. He had a lot of run-ins with the law in his youth, and it ended up haunting him into adulthood.
His eldest kid, half-sister to the two little ones, is three months younger than I am and looks more like my mother than I ever have (I unfortunately got the Grand genes).
Her young mom was about seventeen when she was born, did the best she could, but smoking pot and teaching your kid how as a bonding experience isn’t exactly what I’d call an ideal environment for a child. Combine that with the impulse control of your father, and it was a recipe for disaster.
It’s weird, but I always felt like if I’d not been around, she might have had a better chance because maybe Grand could have taken her in instead. But then, I’m not exactly sure my childhood was better, so much as just different. I was raised by a crazy person, her mom was young and broke. It’s kind of a toss up. Personally, I would have given anything to have had my mom instead. So maybe I have this all wrong.
Her dad, my uncle, wasn’t much a part of the picture. Even when his eldest would come to visit, she stayed with gran and me. She might have lunch or dinner with him once or twice, or have an afternoon, maybe once overnight, but for the most part, he was a ghost.
When my cousin, who I will dub Knievel, was around, I knew we were both going to get in a lot of trouble. I just hoped to the keep out of the law side of trouble, though we brushed against that one too.
For some reason, I could never deny her wishes, I remember arguing logic with her many times, but I also remembering doing whatever it was I didn’t want to do anyway. I have never been prone to any kind of peer pressure, in school or otherwise, but my cousin could make me cave like a souffle during a stampede.
I smoked pot the first time at fourteen from the pressure of said cousin. I remember how terrifying some of the shit we pulled was and sometimes, the rush of it. I could never, ever be like that my entire life, I would have caused myself a heart attack before college, but it broke my safety shell in a ton of other more beneficial ways in my interactions with other people.
Maybe her and her dad were seeking the high of it. Maybe life is just too dull and muffled for some and they don’t know a better way to seek out any kind of sensation. I can’t imagine feeling like life on its own just wasn’t enough or I just wasn’t able to make contact with it as everyone else seemed to. She grew out of it eventually, well mostly, but not before paying a price that will stay with her forever.
I hate to put it this way as well, but she was a terrific liar. She could talk herself out of a speeding ticket in no time, and probably convince them to give her a siren led escort to her destination. She could wile her way into any place with a simple hair toss and a few words. She is the kind of person who could spin and weave a tale that would put you in the midst of an epic adventure. If she was the one recanting the Lord of the Rings, she’d make you believe it all happened in downtown New York ten years prior. Or yesterday.
To this day, I tell her she should write, and keep writing. She laughs, perhaps from lack of self-confidence or she really just finds the idea amusing, but I cannot imagine not being one of her biggest fans if she’d just try.
Her dad… Her dad met what would become the mom of my little cousins and became the dad Knievel always wanted, deserved and never, ever had. He was doting, carted them around, was proud and attending, showed up, bucked up, and grew the fuck up…but by then his eldest was long grown up. He wasn’t picture perfect, but he was a lot more than he had ever been before.
Ever have times when you feel guilty for something that has nothing to do with you?
I felt guilty for being his blood family.
I felt guilty for being born.
I felt guilty even though I had a mom just like him. Absent.
I felt guilty because she didn’t have what she should have had from either of her parents.
My aunt was the exact opposite of what fairy tales lead you to believe. She wanted her new stepdaughter around, often. She tried her best to glue back all the broken bits of what gran had destroyed. If there was a center of gravity by which my familial remnants orbited, my aunt would have been it.
I watched as Knievel tried so hard to both rail against this new element, and simultaneously try to embrace it. She was getting real face time with her dad for the first time in her life, but only by the influence of someone that wasn’t her. My aunt was just impossible to hate, my cousin was truly loved and for the first time in her life, spoiled by her. This didn’t change when my little cousins came along, perhaps the demands for her presence were even more. It’s got to be a turmoil of mixed emotions. That feeling of being an outsider, of feeling like you’re intruding, even if you’re being emphatically welcomed.
You weren’t wanted by the ones you wanted before, why is it different now? Why wasn’t she enough to at least be around some?
Now that he has passed, my aunt has still not changed, still tries so hard to stay connected to her stepdaughter, sometimes she’s successful, sometimes not.
I wonder how much things might have been different had my uncle said he was sorry about anything, even once.