This one is purely personal.
So this morning, home because of the weather, I watched last night’s This is Us.
And I found out my second cousin who I went to high school with had died. I hadn’t seen him in over 30 years.
And I thought that I couldn’t say much because he was one of my sister’s Facebook friends as is his sister.
And my sister and I haven’t said a word to each other in five years. And it’s probably going to stay that way until one of us dies. And we won’t go to each other’s funerals.
We’re not the Pearsons.
I don’t know what the Hell we are or were.
And I hate it that the only memory that keeps coming through about my cousin Matt was the time we were walking down the hall at Lake Catholic and he mentioned to a couple of girls in our class that we were cousins.
I think I know who those girls were but I’m not saying. Let’s just say they were very popular.
And one of them said “how did that happen?”
And they laughed.
And I felt, for a moment, some of the deepest shame I have ever felt in my life.
It wasn’t Matt’s fault. It just happened. And it seared its way into my memory for almost 40 years the ways memories do to those of us who are overly-sensitive.
And I think it’s a shame that I can’t approach the family.
Because of my sister.
Because they believe the things she has said about me. And they’re not the only ones.
I could say some things back about my sister, but I can’t go there. If I go back there, I’ll never get out.
To this day, I wonder why she hated and detested me. I honestly have wondered about that and only that.
Was it because I was born first? That’s the best reason I can come up with. I got in the way.
Was it because my mother, in an unforgivable moment, told her I was the favored child?
Oh yeah, had to be that too. Like I had anything to do with that. I have never forgiven my mother for doing that.
And was it also because there was something about me that embarrassed her? Yes, I think so. Just one thing I remember from one of the last times we were together with my mom before mom died. She had to ridicule me for being a fan of Roxy Music. To this day I have no idea why.
Why she hated me so much – with a visceral hate that I can’t even put into words. Why she behaved the way she did to my mom and dad and now puts on a show about how much she misses them both.
I’ll stop there.
I had a family once. It wasn’t perfect; no family is.
But we were together – the four of us, our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. . .
And it’s been gone for years. I have three cousins still alive who I haven’t spoken to in many years. A few of them because of my sister. My God, what they must think of me.
But in reality, they’re all gone, gone, gone. All I have is photographs and memories.
And I have a second cousin whose funeral I will be too afraid to go to.
And I wish I could say something, anything, that could ‘fix’ things but as long as either myself or my sister is alive, nothing can be fixed. In the end, I can’t change her. All I can do, for the sake of my own mental health, is avoid her completely until one of us dies.
And I know how sad that is. Especially when I see Kevin and Randall and Kate Pearson and how they had to reconcile the issues between them after Jack died so they could form a bond that would never break.
But some things that are broken in real life can’t be fixed. I watch the show and all I can think about is how my family were the anti-Pearsons. And I wonder what cosmic sins our family could have committed to cast us in that role. My mother was big on generational sins. Maybe we paid for the sins of our dead relatives. It’s all so disgustingly sad.
And, as an aside, the fact that Jack bought tickets to his family for Bruce Springsteen (yes, the tickets had ‘The Benedum Center’ as the venue) a few days before he died wrecked me.
The last time I saw Springsteen last year I just sat and numbly watched. Something was missing. Something has been missing – for years. And there’s no way to get it back. I avoid Springsteen music in the car and all the music I used to love because of the memories they bring back and I can’t stand it.
Maybe I should listen to some Roxy Music.
I had another cousin, a first cousin named Phil. He was my mother’s sister’s son. He died in 2005 at the age of 46 of liver disease, which I have. We grew up together, went to each other’s weddings. I didn’t go to his funeral and I don’t remember why but I have felt tremendous guilt ever since. It’s probably why his sisters don’t speak to me. Their father, my Uncle George, died in 2013, a few months after my mother died. No one told me. I found out by accident googling him.
Isn’t that the way they say it goes. . .
Well let’s forget all that
And give me the number if you can find it
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine, and to show
I’ve overcome the blow
I’ve learned to take it well
I only wish my words
Could just convince myself
That it just wasn’t real
But that’s not the way it feels
— Jim Croce