The week of May 9, 2005 I turned 35. For my birthday, I got a notification that my 89-year-old grand-aunt had been in the hospital for nearly a month. And was subsequently alerted that, once my father is gone (which will be sooner rather than later), I have no family.

My grand-aunt helped raise my mother, so she'd been a grandmother-like fixture in my life (I'd been trying to call her every Sunday, and thought I'd merely missed her the previous few weekends when she'd been in the hospital). My email attempts to get more information about my aunt's condition and why my relatives had waited 3 weeks to tell me did not go well. Emails I sent to my cousin Mandy at her work address got tersely answered by her father, Cousin Bob.

Was it incredibly weird and passive-aggressive for a 40-year-old woman to refuse to answer personal emails on her own but instead pass them off to her father to answer? Yes, Virginia, I believe it was.

Apparently, my cousin didn't want to speak to me to the extent that she wouldn't even answer the simple "Hey, how's it going?" type messages I sent. Why? I have no clue. She was all smiles and "Let's keep in touch!" at my mom's funeral.

Her father, Bob, however, made it pretty clear that, now that my mother was dead, I was not considered a part of the family.

So, in essence, I found myself disowned by all my remaining blood relatives except for my father (and even then he and I had a difficult relationship at best)

And I don't know why. Yes, they're all a bunch of small-town Southerners and we're at opposite ends of the political and religious spectrum, but I'd made an effort not to talk politics or God with family. I figured that, them being good Christian churchgoing folk, they'd view blood as being thicker than water and all that. And Bob spent his life working as a chemist, a laboratory manager for a textiles firm, and he traveled all over the world. I figured he was a reasonable, openminded person.

Oh, how wrong I was.

There's an element of irony in all this, too. Bob is (or was) my mother's first cousin; he's about ten years younger than her, and she always really liked him.

When I was about 12, my Uncle Jim died. Jim, I had been told, was my godfather.

"What do godparents do?" I asked my mom.

"Well, they stand in for the parents if something bad happens to them. If I and your father got very sick and couldn't take care of you, you'd go to your godparents' to live," she told me.

"But Uncle Jim's gone now; if something bad happened, would I go stay with Aunt Virginia?"

"No, she's getting pretty old, honey. If something bad happened to us, I'm sure Cousin Bob would take care of you," she said confidently.

Irony. I was soaking in it!

Thank the cold, indifferent, twinkling, distant stars that nothing bad ever happened to my folks when I was a teenager.

Because dear ol' upstanding Cousin Bob would have dumped my teenage self into the nearest mental hospital and told them to throw away the key.

My mom and I visited my Southern relatives every summer. We'd go from Texas to South Carolina with stops in Alabama on the way. I remember interminable rides in Greyhound buses and long sweaty drives in a Toronado with no air conditioning. Why? Because it was important to stay in touch with family, my mother always told me.

In 30 years, Bob visited my mother in Texas once, on his way to someplace else.

My mother deserved to be more than an afterthought. She deserved better than two-faced fake courtesy and lies. The biggest lie the family told my mother was that she didn't deserve better than the scraps they threw her; the sad part was, she believed them.

Her ashes are buried down there, now, in that town full of dry bones and cold blood. I'll have to go back there to bury my father, because my mother reserved a space for him beside her.

Flash forward 18 months. I found a voicemail from Bob. My grand-aunt died and her funeral had been held three days before he called me. Just for family, his message said. Her wishes, he said. He didn't tell me where she was buried. 

I came to suspect (as my husband also suspected) that Bob's giving me the brush-off when my aunt fell seriously ill was an effort to get me written out of her will. (Presumably, it worked.)

Ironically, I didn't give a shit about her will; I just wanted a family.

Flash forward again to this year, early October. It's been 10 years since I got the cold shoulder from Cousin Bob and Cousin Mandy. Bob's grandkids are all grown up now and have graduated from high school and college. They didn't have anything to do with their older relatives' disowning me. So I thought I would try to reach out to them on Facebook with a couple of messages like "Hey, how are you and the family doing?" and "Congrats on {x thing}!" You know, friendly conversation starters. I figured after a decade of silence from my mother's family, I'd try again, right?

It turned into a Gloria Gaynor song: "At first I was ignored, then I was blocked, never got a reply ...."

So, Mom's family still wants nothing to do with me. No clue what Bob and Mandy told their younger relatives about me, but obviously it's not good. Oh well, I guess? 

Meanwhile, my relations with my father have disintegrated such that we barely have a relationship at all. I call him every six months or so, just because. He won't call me, not even on Christmas, not since I told him off for how he treated my mom when she was still alive. We will talk for exactly five minutes about things like the weather and then he wraps up the call. It's like he's watching a clock.

How does it feel, knowing you have blood relatives out there who want nothing to do with you? How does it feel to know that no matter what you achieve or what you do, the people who are supposed to be there for you have entirely opted out of your life? It feels like Antarctica without the penguins. Very fucking cold, indeed.

I was raised agnostic, and so I never thought I had a religion to lose ... but I seem to have lost it, anyhow.

Life is full of suprises.



Chord says re: On Being Disowned: The phrase was originally "The blood of the covenant/battlefield is thicker than the water of the womb." Which is to say, friendships born out of shared experiences should be prioritized over genetic relationships. 

Lucy-S replies: I'd always heard the phrase "blood is thicker than water" as meaning family is most important; I think I heard it first from my mother and just never questioned it. It's good to know the true origins of the phrase. And of course, it's just yet more irony that things are not as my parents said they are.

Taliesin's Muse says Hey, that "blood of the covenant" thing seems to be pretty lightly attested. The earliest appearance in the normal form you used was in the 11th century, and my brief reading of the "blood of the covenant" thing didn't provide any actual *basis* for their assertion that it once meant the opposite. It went around on a stupid buzzfeed type thing though, so now everyone who never does any research thinks it's true...

Lucy-S replies: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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