23 April 2009

Reflections on my family

Jennifer's death on 21 April 2009, after an hour of life, has shattered not only her parents, but the rest of her family. Her father John is the second of my three brothers, all of whom are younger than I am. I also have four sisters, all of whom are, again, younger than I am. (John is the fifth child in birth order, and is a fraternal twin.) Of these women, my four sisters and I, two are married, and three are divorced. (I fall into both categories, as I am currently married to my beloved Geoffrey, but have been previously married and divorced twice, both times before my thirtieth birthday) We have over twenty first cousins on our maternal side, and second and third cousins on our paternal. Of our immediate family, I am the only one who is barren. Fertility issues abound amongst the women in our family. One first cousin underwent a hysterectomy at the age of 28, several years after giving birth to her only child out of wedlock. She is now a grandmother. Another endured either the stillbirth or miscarriage of twins, and she now is the mother of two. The two eldest of my younger sisters each miscarried their second child. The two younger sisters endured endometriosis, one even after having her only child. In 2008, two of my sisters in law, including Jennifer's mother, miscarried. Each of these women again conceived, with one live birth in November, and Jennifer's brief life on the 21st.

I am permanently estranged from all of my siblings, gong back to childhood, for reasons known and which I choose not to disclose, and for even more that are unknown to me. I have an irascible, unlikeable temperament, and have always known this to be the case. It is one of the bigger crosses with which God blessed me. I have always been on the outside looking in with my siblings, and it continues to this day. I suffer from severe PTSD for traumas going back over thirty years, yet when I seek the appropriate help, it is embarrassing to my family and I am told to suck it up. Another family trait is to hold onto perceived and real sins of others, hoarding them like acorns, and never forgiving. I refused to continue this "tradition" when only ten or so, and I pay for it to this very day, as does Geoffrey by extension.

When he and I became engaged in September 2001, right before the attacks on this country, the shock in my family was palpable. Even more so that I attended Jackie's bridal shower on 9 September 2001. (Jackie is John's beloved wife) I was ignored as if I had the plague, after a few well chosen snide remarks by one of my younger sisters, who was acting as the surrogate for the sibling sho has hated me for existing since we were children. She calls the shots in the family, and all willingly follow her lead. I was too stupid to acknowledge this until 1997, when a nightmare began for me that ended up costing me my career and financial security. The shock of it has never receeded either. But, I digress. Geoffrey and I attended John and Jackie's rehearsal dinner, which was the first time that Geoffrey would be meeting my parents and would be introduced to my siblings. For me, it was even worse than expected; Geoffrey wasn't even phased by it, but later said that my siblings acted as he had expected, poorly. While introducing him to my parents, my youngest brother and his wife refused to even acknowldege our presence, and the sister who rules the roost swept down in order to protect them from my presence. The wedding was even worse for me- I refused to sit with my family because of how Geoff was treated at the rehearsal (I expected to be maligned and was, even worse than I had forseen) Only John and Jackie were gracious to us and acknowledged us. This did not last long either, suffice it to say, I was again banished from sight and sound.

Turning the other cheek is a willful act, one at which I do not excel, but I worked at it for Geoffrey's sake. I would endure whatever the siblings would dish out, in an attempt to remain part of this family. Gifts were sent to the children born into the family after 2001, for both birthdays and Christmas. Cards were sent to all families at Christmas. Few if any cards were sent to me. No sibling attended our wedding, none of my sisters attended my shower. We were never invited to any family function- First Communion, Confirmation, high school graduation- nada.

Fast forward to 2008- the first miscarraige knocked me on my heels and our grief was unbearable. Messages were left, none were returned. My brother and his wife were shocked that we would feel grief for their loss, since they never met Geoff (this was the couple that walked away at the rehearsal dinner) and had never met their first child, nor been invited into their home. Gifts were sent to the elder child- no acknowlegment. When the second baby arrived, same thing. When we learned that Geoff would be working in Ohio, near where this particular branch of the family lived, I excitedly wrote, informing them of his schedule, and received no response. I had had enough. After receiving a snotty email about a Christmas gift from another sibling for her child, I was furious. Geoff and I weren't good enough to be part of this "family" but we were good enough to spend time and money on gifts. I was so furious that I wrote a letter to my brother in Ohio, who is the baby of the family, calling him on his behaviour. I even sent a copy to my parents, because our family always brings them into the tempests in teacups that we inflict upon each other. I even gave a copy to my psychiatrist, who Geoff found for me at I had intended to mail it in March, after we returned from Ohio (we were due to be there for the months of January and February of 2009). At his behest, I mailed it before we left. I did finally receive a call on my cell from James, who told me that he never wanted anything to do with either Geoff or myself while we were in Ohio or after. I even told my mother to never mention anyone of my siblings to me again- If not for her, we would never have known of Jennifer's death.

Anyway, this is not intended to belittle Jennifer's death. We feel her loss as if it she were our own, and because of these circumstances must grieve alone. We know that we would never have met her, or had anything to do with her, as we don't with her elder sister.