This Was My Cousin.

I wrote the following weeks ago while I waited for a response to several phone calls and a certified letter. There has been nothing.

I’m not surprised, but it’s common courtesy to give people a chance to redeem themselves before calling them out publicly on their bullshit.

If, by any slim chance, I hear from my relatives with a different story than what I share here, I will apologize, update, and ensure this post contains the corrected information.

I’m not holding my breath.

***

This was my cousin:

Kim-1-crop

She and her little brother didn’t stay in touch with our side of the family after my biological uncle divorced their mother. I am completely unaware of what vitriol lies there; I’ve never been a fan of the “you must choose a side” school of breakup, so I’ve stayed out of it. I’ve got enough baggage with my three divorces without taking on other people’s, you know?

I don’t know why my cousins dropped their own father like a hot rock. I assume, because I know her and I’ve seen it 100 times in other breakups, their reaction was based solely on whatever their mother said about him after they separated.

I was out of state at the time, I stand firmly against a “fer me or agin me” mindset, and therefore never cared who was at fault for what. The decision of whose side I was on was made for me back when my former aunt – remember, who married into our family – sued for conservatorship of our grandmother. In fact, I wasn’t even involved in that until she called our then recently-deceased mother a liar. (You can read all about it here.)

Anyway, two cousins and an aunt we had spent a LOT of our childhood holidays with just … disappeared from our lives. It was weird, but expected, because they never really liked us anyway. We were noisy, lower-middle class rogues with bad manners and worse mouths.

But I think what bothered them most was our supreme lack of envy: they had the big house in the nice suburb while we were in a 3-bedroom apartment in the ‘hood; they knew they were pretty and thin from a young age while we were chunky ugly ducklings who became swans late in life; they had all the latest gadgets and toys while we made due with a lot less.

As an adult, I can see clearly that they were obviously unhappy while we were (if not happy, then) genuinely content. Worse, my parents – and by extension, we kids – didn’t give one useless flying fuck what they thought of us. For people so wrapped up in appearances, that had to be annoying.

Over the years my sister, bless her patient heart, has remained in touch with everyone. She shared the downfall of the marriage and the reasons behind it, what baseball team Kimberly’s husband (whom I have never met) currently plays for or coaches, and the birth of her brother’s kids. Kimberly’s mother/our former aunt even attended our grandmother’s funeral in 1999 and our father’s in 2008.

I write all this to explain the estranged relationships because Kimberly died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in late June.

This cousin of mine, whom I hadn’t seen in person since my aforementioned grandmother’s funeral (where I implored her to stay in touch, but she didn’t – so it goes), made quite a life for herself. You can read about it here. She looks like a perfect image of a kid made by my aunt and uncle, a beautiful amalgamation of genes.

She also looks genuinely happy in her photos. That makes me happy to some degree.

What does not make me happy is neither her mother nor her brother contacted me or any of my siblings to tell us she had died. My sister hasn’t changed her phone number or her address since Dad’s funeral, the last time we saw my former aunt in the flesh, and the remaining three of us are readily searchable online.

When my sister called with the news yesterday, I was miffed. Death in a family, even an estranged one, is a BIG DEAL. Feel free not to invite me to weddings and christenings, even tell me not to attend a funeral, but it’s just unbelievable not to share a death has occurred.

But then the news got MUCH worse: our former aunt (and her son, a presumably grown-ass man) didn’t just neglect to tell us, they had not called our uncle, Kimberly’s own father, until just before HE contacted my sister.

THEY DIDN’T CALL HER DAD.

FOR CLOSE TO TWO WEEKS.

TO TELL HIM HIS DAUGHTER WAS DEAD.

Imagine your child, your flesh and blood whom you love to the moon and back even though she hasn’t spoken to you in years, suddenly dies … and no one calls you. Worse, and I can’t call this anything but a direct and intentional kick to the gut, your name, as her father, is in the printed obituary.

That is some cold-hearted shit. Just frigid.

It’s understandable not telling four (merely) first cousins. BUT HER DAD? Beyond. The. Pale.

It would be unbelievable, except it just happened. His little girl is in the ground and he was not allowed to know, much less show up, send flowers, or offer condolences.

When I shared the news with my love, I felt my psyche being pulled down, down, into the muck, in to an anger I’ve only rarely experienced. I couldn’t speak, so I texted my sister …

Death trumps every issue between parents and children. That’s a lesson we’ve learned TWICE now.

… all the while hearing How dare you? HOW DARE YOU? as a percussive soundtrack in my head.

Problem is, I already know how dare they: These are but the lengths a hateful, petty, spiteful divorced parent will go to gain vengeance. I watch ID channel; some people aren’t above using their own dead child to drive a stake into an ex’s heart. Some parents even kill their kids rather than see them with their ex. Selfishness and narcissism, histrionics and sociopathy, it’s scary what we will do to each other in the name of revenge.

As of this latest affront, though, my siblings and I have agreed to no longer give these terrible people the benefit of the doubt. Even my sister, the keeper of the flame, the bearer of the “it could happen” torch, the only ally our former aunt and remaining cousin on that side had, has finally said, “Enough.”

Congratulations. It took about 20 years, but we’ve all chosen a side now.

This was my cousin:

Kim Facebook 2015

My sincerest condolences go to her husband, who seems nice and well-loved (according to what I read online), and to her friends. She seemed like a wonderful human being, despite her parents.

The letter I’ve written and will send to her mother and brother, in which I express sincere sympathy and question their choice to leave my uncle out of the loop, is the last they will ever hear from us.

Unless, of course, they pick up the phone.

Pick it up.

***

No phone call was answered, no call returned. I mailed the letter, as promised, in early July. I’m not even sure it’s been read, though it was signed for.

Again, if I am in any way wrong about what actually happened here, I will gladly retract, apologize, and explain.

I don’t think I am, though, and that makes me incredibly sad.

One Response to “This Was My Cousin.”

  1. Vix Says:

    It’s amazing how much she looks like her Mom in the 2nd picture….

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