You can’t pick your relatives

12 Aug

I come from a large family. A large Irish Catholic family. On my dad’s side, I am the youngest of 24 grandchildren. Once you add in spouses, kids and grandkids, I think we’re up over 100.The oldest grandchild is about 20 years old than me. My cousins are so much older than me, they still think of me as a four-year-old running around. And I actually introduce myself to most of them when I see them. I mean, there are a few that recognize me, but for the most part, they can’t quite place me. (Yeah, over the years, that hasn’t played into my feeling of being in the background at all. No of course not.) That sounds so weird – having to introduce myself to my cousins. It’s a reality of being in such a big family, but it still seems odd.

We have family reunions about every 10 years, but mainly we see each at funerals. My dad’s sister-in-law passed away this week, and I went to the funeral today. It was great to see my cousins and their families. Every time I see them, I realize that these are really interesting people who have very interesting lives. Plus, we have a shared history. It’s always cool to be with people who have known you your whole life and have the same roots. They’re crazy like me. And the best part is they have the same sense of humor – let the sarcasm fly!

But I wish I had done more when I was younger to build relationships with them. And I get that to expect that isn’t realistic. I just get afraid that once my dad, my mom, his brother and his wife (all that’s left of my dad’s generation) die, I’ll lost touch with my cousins. I really don’t want that to happen. I’d like to keep some sort of bond with them.

So how do I begin to try and build even a small relationship with them? They all have busy established lives. And not many are on Facebook. We all do the obligatory Christmas card, so at least there’s that. (Although I haven’t done cards the last two years. Oops.)  Maybe start by sending a quick email to each one and saying hello it was nice to see you blah blah blah? Hmmm. But maybe it’s OK if they don’t. How much of my desire to be closer to my relatives is me trying to find a place to fit in? Maybe we have the bond/relationship we’re supposed to have already. I think I’m on to something there. I think I just wish I had a super close family so I had a place to fit in automatically. But that’s not my family, that’s not going to happen. And I don’t think I should try to force it. It’s good that we at least exchange Christmas cards, so I can stay in touch with them that way.

I realize this is a very disjointed post and not at all where I thought it was going to go. But I think it ended up at a valuable place. Good lessons learned.

“Families are like fudge…mostly sweet with a few nuts.” -Anonymous

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