Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Friday, December 16, 2005

My mother’s side of the family

or: Evildoers, Part III

Hope and my MIL threw a large baby shower for Ebry. We had expected about fifty people, but fewer than that arrived. Brooke’s side of the family—her dad’s family and mom’s friends—made quite a showing, but my side of the family is less reliable, it seems.

Truthfully, I hadn’t expected much out of my mom’s side of the family. My father’s remaining sister (the quiet and unassuming Aunt M) came bearing gifts jointly from herself and her 800-mile-away daughter (mother of the littlest monk), and she brought her local daughter-in-law who only learned of my pregnancy when the shower invitation arrived in her mailbox (she blames her husband, my cousin, for not communicating that or the fact that another cousin moved across the country). My other local cousins on my dad’s side haven’t dealt well with the lesbian thing: one attended our wedding reception but wouldn’t come to the ceremony, and the other refused to have anything to do with it but has always been very kind to Brooke.

My mother’s family, on the other hand, has expressed a great deal of interest in me since my mother’s death and even more so since the announcement of my pregnancy. Aunt O’Mascara brought a lovely gift for Ebry to Brock’s birthday party. Cousin Big Hair was thrilled to hear the news of my pregnancy from our grandmother. My grandmother, aunt, cousin, and cousin’s three daughters were invited to the shower. Despite multiple phone calls, they never responded to the invitation. They live an hour away. My brother has worked hard to keep in contact with that part of the family, so Hope was both frustrated and hurt by their lack of response.

If there’s one thing I learned from my mother about her family, it’s that we must have realistic expectations for their behavior. We cannot count on them to be supportive, even if they occasionally are. We cannot rely on them to communicate consistently or even cordially. We must not assume that they care about the impact of their behavior on other people. These are things I have learned about my mother’s family; I grew up knowing them as truth.

Hope still models her expectations for my mother’s family after what she learned about her own: they’re goofy and in need of some serious therapy and drug or alcohol rehab, but they love you and will be there when you need them. While the former is also true of my mother’s family, the latter is not.

In keeping with this tradition, two days after the shower, I received a $50 check in the mail from my grandmother, and she apologized for not being able to attend the shower. A week later, a Christmas card, edited slightly to be addressed to her “granddaughter’s” (sic) and containing a fat gift check, arrived from her. To my knowledge, neither she nor my aunt nor cousin have returned any of Hope’s phone calls. C’est la famille.


At 7:07 AM, Blogger Jen said...

Ugh. Can't live with 'em; can't shoot 'em. Sorry you have to put up with that.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Shelli said...

So sorry about that.

For the "I SO get you" part of the story - it has taken almost 5 years for my mother to write a holiday card addressed to both of us.

And last year, she wrote the envelope to Shelli Ad***** and Narda Gold.

Narda's last name begins with an A, and sounds exactly like a famous university in the south.

I'm leery to blog about mom, as I'm afraid she might read it, but I'm so tempted to as well....

but then again, I feel weird trying to start my own family, when the closest family relationship Ihave is so dysfunctional.

But that's what therapy's for...


Again, sorry that you had such a hard time with your family. I get it.


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