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.