Monday, May 31, 2010

In Memory of My "Family"

If you have read back through my blog posts, my tweets on twitter, or met me in person, you'll know that I have an interesting relationship with my family.  I just laughed out loud while typing that because, the truth is, I have no relationship with most of my family.  Memorial Day has a lot to do with it. 

My dad died a few years back, and it was almost a relief in the sense that I could then choose to never have contact with my step-mother again.  We had the typical step relationship you hear about.  She was evil.  I could do no right.  You get the picture.  She and my dad were actually married twice.  The first time they had four kids.  Then the divorce came, and so did I.  When I was about seven, they remarried, and I became her arch nemesis, though I didn't understand why at the time.  Anyway, moving on.

When my dad died, she had him cremated.  I have to take her word that that's what Dad wanted because I wasn't allowed to have anything to do with the funeral.  They had a video made with pictures of the family, and there was one picture of my kids in it.  I cried, not because I missed him, but because I felt like such an outsider there surrounded by my "family."  I wasn't allowed to take one of the plants or floral arrangements home from the service "because you have such a long drive home.  It would never make it."  Yeah.  Five hours.  I'm sure.

Then, out of nowhere, my husband got an opportunity to move to Montana.  We decided to take it, and it landed us smack in the same town as my step-mother, two sisters, a brother, and their families.  As an adult, I decided I would do what I could to build a relationship with my siblings.  We started visiting on holidays, one sister and her kids bought from my son's Cub Scout den and my daughter's Girl Scout Troop, I asked one niece to stay at the house one night while we took the baby to the emergency room...  All things I would come to regret.

Last year on Memorial Day, I was really missing my dad (or the idea of my dad, anyway).  I felt resentful for not having someplace I could go to feel near him.  His ashes had been scattered out in the country somewhere, and I hadn't been there to know where.  Out of hurt and frustration, I wrote two sentences that would change my life.  My facebook status read, "I'm really missing you, Dad.  I guess she finally got her way because I can't even bring you flowers."  Look out! 

Now, I'm not stupid.  I knew my nieces were on facebook.  I knew there was a chance it would come back to bite me.  The crazy thing is, I just didn't care.  I was tired of having to make the effort all the time.  I didn't want to be the one to call, and wonder if they were inviting me over because they felt obligated to.  If I had been worried about anyone reading it, I wouldn't have typed it.  But nothing happened.  Well, not exactly.  Nothing happened for a full month.  That's when things got hairy.

I have one niece who is more like a daughter to me.  She was over one afternoon, which was pretty common, when her mom sent her a text informing her that she should tell me that I needed to be careful what I put on the Internet for all the world to see.  Huh?  She called her mom to find out what was going on, and learned that another of my nieces (or two) had just told my step-mother (their grandmother) about my Memorial Day status.  You know the expression about the stuff and the fan, right?  Yeah.  That happened. 

Things got out of hand quickly, and I finally got so upset that I called my step-mother to get it straightened out.  Now, you have to understand, in 24 years, I had never called my step-mother on purpose.  It was the last thing I ever wanted to do, and when she answered and started chewing my head off, I told her that.  I explained my feelings, my stance, and she tried to make nice like I was the one blowing it out of proportion.

That was the last time I had contact with any of them, other than the one niece who is more like a daughter.  They threw back in my face the time I had been allowed to spend with them, the popcorn they bought from my son, the GS cookies they bought from my daughter, all of it.   They have completely cut me out of their "family."  I was really upset at first.  Why wouldn't my own family, my brothers and sisters just love me because I'm me?  What did I have to do to get them to accept me?  Then one day I was talking to a friend on the phone when it hit me...

I have an amazing family.  God gave me the chance to pick exactly who I wanted to surround myself with.  I have the best husband ever (don't bother arguing with me.), four kids I couldn't live without, and friends like you would not believe!  I have brothers and sisters who love me.  ME!!!  Just the way I am.  We don't share blood, but we share faith.  We share memories.  We share laughs, and dreams, and I don't mind when they call me at 2am crying, and they wouldn't mind if I did the same.  I don't have to wonder how they feel, or what is OK to say around them.  That's because they are my family, and family means more than being related.

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