Family gatherings. I don’t know whether or not to dread them or look forward to them.
It’s always a mix bag for myself. I spend every holiday season with my mother’s family, and split it with my boyfriend’s family. Running back and forth between the holidays can be exhausting, and I always dread the future me doing this with children (it hurts my brain just thinking about it!). I always make something for every dinner we attend, and hope that it gets eaten so I don’t have to eat it all by myself later on.
This year will be especially interesting since my long-lost cousins are possibly attending Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents home. Possibly. They have a tendency to flake because they haven’t been comfortable around the family since before their father passed away 3 years ago. My Tio (BTW: Tio is Spanish for Uncle) Joaquin, their father, died of a drug induced heart attack while making love to his girlfriend. It was a spectacular way to go out, and the preferred method of an old high school health teacher, minus the drugs of course. He had informed the family he was dying of brain cancer, and even after his death this was never confirmed. What was confirmed was that he was evading child support payments, doing some heavy drugs, and his possessions were in a state of chaos splitting his belongings between our grandparents home and his girlfriends apartment. Tio Joaquin wasn’t the best father, but he wasn’t a horrible person. His marriage was on the rocks for a long time which is why our families were never really close while my cousins were still growing up. Before he died his wife was filling for divorce and his children refused to see him.
His relationship with his children was so strained before his death they didn’t even attend his funeral or the wake with the family. This past Dia de los Muertos was the first time in almost 5 years I had seen my cousins, they’re now in their early twenties. My mother and her youngest brother had spoken to and seen my cousins for a short time during the funeral arrangements, and this was when they made their (none) feelings known to the family. They said they would attend the wake, but never showed.
This year my grandparents are inviting them to Thanksgiving dinner. We all realize it will be slightly awkward for everyone. During our last meet up over Halloween it was mostly my brother doing all the talking for us. My Tio Ace, my mom’s youngest brother, stayed home after we visited the cemetery because he couldn’t stand to be in the same room as my cousins due to his own personal grudge against them for not attending their father’s funeral. My Tio Ace spent a lot of time with Joaquin before he died, and they became even closer after bonding about their divorce. As we ate our late lunch/early dinner in Downtown LA my brother went on and on about his work at the Music Institute (MI) in Hollywood and all the work he does for them. My cousin N. (I’d prefer not to use their real names) thought my brother was a student and started asking if he knew any one who was attending MI. When my brother corrected him and said he was an employee of MI not a student my cousin became very embarrassed and shocked. My cousins were the ones who were suppose to grow up and be successful, not us. Growing up our grandparents always blamed my brother and I for anything that was broken or damaged. Regardless of the fact that neither one of us ever did anything destructive. My cousins were the saints who could do not wrong and we just had to grin and bear it. My brother and I don’t look successful, but we are in own small ways now as adults.
I was half excited half terrified when we had dinner the last time. They were very soft-spoken and didn’t ask any questions. Nor did they divulge much about their mother, whom none of us speak to. I managed to not tell them anything about myself, other than I live in Long Beach. Coincidentally my cousin N. lives in North Long Beach with his girlfriend. My cousin C. lives with their mother in Lakewood. They visit my grandparents fairly often, and sometimes they leave with money, whether or not they asked for it. During the dinner I had decided I would wait to mention anything about myself because I wanted to see if they would ask me anything. Half way through the meal I realized they didn’t care to learn anything about us. They were there for my grandparents.
So the same example will be followed during Thanksgiving dinner as well. See if anything is asked. Listen and wait for something to be said. Never divulge information that could be sensitive. Its kind of sad really. To have family, but not a relationship with that family. I’ve always been close to my mother’s family, so it’s hurts to see everyone going through the motions of trying to stay civil and composed when we’re all really just screaming on the inside.
All I hope for this Thanksgiving is to smoke out with my brother and uncle.