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March 30, 2006


I'm an only child. At least that's what my sister told me when I was little.

My parents met when they were in their thirties. They had both been married before, they both had kids from those marriages. Dad had 1, a girl. Mom had 3, two boys and a girl. So when they decided to get married, they probably should have taken a look around them and realized that they didn't NEED another mouth to feed.

Having me, though, was probably part of a larger plan. I was my father's last chance to have a boy that would carry on the family name. My grandfather's last chance to ensure that the family business and the family property would stay in the family. Guess I screwed that up, hunh?

Actually, my dad screwed up the property thing by marrying the stepmonster, but that's another story ...

So it would usually go like this. Dad would come home from work after his daily stop at the bar and call me out to the garage to work on his car. Or a birdhouse. Or to take the dog for a walk. Or anything that would keep him out of the house and away from my mother. Unfortunately, he never invited my mom's kids to do anything with him. He doted on me and ignored them and let me tell you, this made for some awfully nasty games of tag when I was left alone with one of them babysitting.

It became the 'joke' amongst them that I was an only child. I could have been for all the attention he paid to them. This made my mother protect them even more while I, as unaware as I could be, just thought I was a Daddy's girl. As time went by, though, I began to see that my dad was taking me places he should have been taking my mom, or even any of the other kids ... long Sunday drives, antique car shows, to the camp to go fishing. Thus I became the only child ... the only child my father could tolerate.

Then came the divorce. I was left in a house where everyone hated my father and everything to do with him. He picked me up on Sundays and holidays without as much as a hello to the other kids. Maybe he felt he didn't have to put any time or effort into them because he wasn't their biological father but, damn, it really would have taken the pressure off of me if he had been a little nicer to them.

He never thought that way, though. He was all about what was convenient for him. As I grew older, me and my pre-teen angst became less convenient for him and, eventually, my father left me behind for his new family. No big. At least my brothers and my sister couldn't throw him in my face any more.

Only problem was, they were long gone. My sister is 8 years older than me and my brothers are 10 and 12 years older than me. My other sister (dad's other daughter) was 13 years older than me and long forgotten by then. They all went through their teenage years with all the inherent drama and drugs and drinking and love and war and here I was, just entering puberty. The only thing I had in common with them was half of my genetic material and some very turbulent childhood memories.

Fast forward to freshman year in college: my mom's 50th birthday. I went to my sister's apartment, first time I had been invited on my own, where we were going to have a big party for mom. They all spent the better half of the night getting drunk and the other half of the night shutting themselves up in the bedroom doing drugs together. I watched the party going on around me, the party full of my everyone else's friends and family. I remember thinking I was getting buzzed off of a glass of wine (it was probably a contact high or 'special' brownies, this WAS the 70's after all), and I distinctly remember overhearing my sister say nasty things about me going to college and who was paying for it. And how I thought I was better than all of them, that I always had. And it kind of hit me, the reason for all that anger, all at once.

You see, I was lucky my father was a functioning alcoholic. He had a family business to run and he did it well, he just reserved his nasty alcoholic side for us. Their father, however, was an abusive alcoholic that couldn't keep a job (non-functioning), so our mom ran away from him when the kids were little. They were homeless for a while and had to start over. Why my mom married another alcoholic Irishman is beyond me. It seems that when you are in the throes of a disease, you don't want to recognize the symptoms in other people or you may find yourself looking in a mirror.

When my dad came along, he was the great white hope ... he gave them a roof over their heads and a future. He rescued them, which is just what my mom needed. He gave me more, however, when he divorced my mother, by saying that he would pay for me to go to college. They never had a chance to go and, apparently, at least one of my siblings held a grudge.

They shouldn't have worried, though. I went to a state college and majored in Theater Arts. It's not like I went and got a degree that would actually be WORTH anything. They all went on to make something of themselves, starting their own businesses, having families, making money and owning property. I'm the one that ended up destitute with two kids after a failed marriage, 800 miles away from home. And when I was hurting, I didn't get one call, one helping hand. I might as well have been an only child.

Our family troubles weren't only my dad's doing, though. He laid the groundwork but my x had a big part in my adult estrangement. He continually fought with my mom, putting me squarely in the middle. He stayed away from any socialization with my siblings (except to brag about picking up women in truck stops while he was on the road and I was home raising babies ... and WHY my loving family all knew about this but didn't tell me until after the divorce is beyond me!) so there, too, I ended up defending him stupidly against an increasingly hostile situation, one which we eventually moved away from. Yes, I married my father minus the alcoholism.

Needless to say, when my mom wanted to go back up north to visit my brother and my sister last summer, I didn't want to go. I'm just starting to make something of myself and, to make matters worse, I'm back in college again, something that they think is ridiculous. They don't get the whole "sacrifice years of your life to make your future better" mentality. I made excuses but she guilted me and put the pressure on until I finally said that my son could go. I don't have a right to keep my kids away from their family but I, honestly, didn't want to put myself back there. Any get together with my family always ends up like Mom's 50th birthday ... lots of alcohol and lots of misplaced anger. When the fighting starts, anyone and everyone near it gets hit with shrapnel.

Well, it's that time again. I dodged the bullet of one wedding last December and here comes another. My brother's gorgeous daughter (who I've always had a very soft spot for) is getting married in June. Because of my schedule, I can't go, but that didn't stop my mom from wanting one of the kids to go with her and this time it's my daughter. My very introverted, insecure daughter who totally didn't want to go to a huge party to meet half of her family for the first time. Between making me feel guilty for not being able to go and insinuating that I made the girl not want to go (and I swear, I had NOTHING to do with that ... she told her nonnie on her own once she got the guts up), mom has decided on a different tactic. Now she's trying to get me 'involved' in the whole wedding, so I won't 'miss out' totally on the 'fun'.

Apparently, my brother (father of the bride) does not want my sister (aunt of the bride) to come to the wedding. Just a continuation of the feud. This puts my mother in a touchy situation because she will be staying with my sister AND going to the wedding. And this puts me in an even touchier situation ... I get to listen to all sides of the story without letting myself take sides at all.

It's really an interesting balancing act but, never fear, I've had lots of practice. My strategy is to just not care about any of them all and then I can't help but stay neutral. It's not that I don't want to care, I just can't invest myself emotionally in people that don't have my best interests at heart. I'm the reluctant Switzerland of the family, using my black sheepishness as my excuse.

I'm having a hard time understanding this mentality, though. My siblings' inability to just grow the hell up and get along for the wedding is unfathomable to me. They are both in their 50s and I would think that they would one day just sit back, take stock, and realize that family is too important to let petty differences tear it apart.

My mom wants me to email them. I didn't say no but I won't. I'm not getting into the middle of this. Switzerland, remember?

The worst thing about this whole thing is that I would love to see Kelly get married. I would love to go to the wedding ... just not that wedding, with those people. Going 800 miles away from home with my two kids and without T is NOT how I want to spend a week. Anyway, I just can't. I'll still be working. Yeah, I actually have a legitimate excuse to miss this reunion.

Because that's what it really is. A family reunion back home. My brother from California will be there as well as his two kids (who I haven't seen for 14 years - I won't know them!), two of my uncles, my mom, and my arguing New Hampshire siblings. And I can't help but feel that I don't really belong there, in that state, with that family.

My family is here. My home is here. During the flood, all I had to hold onto was my kids. Through the divorce, the depression, the breakdown, the recovery, they have been there for me. Not that they had a choice, really, but they have cared for and loved me through it all. Everyone else? No where to be found.

It's too bad, too. All I've wanted, my whole life, was to have a family. A family that loved each other unconditionally, that forgave weaknesses and protected each other. A family that gathered together on holidays, not because they had to but because they WANTED to. A family that enjoyed taking time together and enjoyed hanging out and just talking, just being a family. Since I wasn't born with it, I've realized I'll have to build that for myself.

It's really not so bad being an only child. If I could just get my mother and my siblings to understand that I'm fine with it, maybe they will leave me alone.

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This page contains a single entry by Prosemonkey published on March 30, 2006 11:27 PM.

Research paper woes... was the previous entry in this blog.

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