My family is intriguing, to say the least. I have a cousin who may or may not have been conceived in a baptismal. My parents had an affair with one another twenty-four years after their divorce, but the running story is that I made that up to pull apart my Father and my Step-Mother. I have adored my step-mother since I first met her and beheld her sparkling carousel-horse tee-shirt, but I have long been confusing in my expressions affection. I have declared that I want to keep her if they ever divorce. I may, however, be assumed to simply hate my Father enough to want him out of the picture so that we can all live happily ever after with my Step-Mother. That might have actually been a really decent plan if I’d thought of it myself, but I rarely underestimate my Father’s boyish charm. Hell, I fell prey to it for a good twenty-eight years.
According to the rumor, however, I am hopeful that he will eventually re-marry my mother, whom I don’t speak to. Belief is a funny thing. Folks buy into what they need to buy into, and my father is easy to like. I don’t blame my Step-Mother or Step-Sisters for buying into this, really. I’d be willing to bed that, as often happens, they’ll eventually know better. Really, I’d have to be a special brand of crazy to do something like that but, in fairness, considering my upbringing it isn’t inconceivable. Never argue with a Sicilian when death is on the line.
My favorite story of my warped and distorted genealogy, however, is of my sister-cousins.
My Father, by the way, HATES it when I recount this tale. Luckily he alienated me some time ago and few readers are aware of the surname I was born with. There isn’t much cause for me to concern myself.
My Father was a child, and step-child, of many. He carried on his parents’ legacy (do note that my Grandmother was no saint, but she had only one divorce and it was well deserved. My biological Grandfather was not exactly a decent human being.) My mother was his second marriage. His elder brother, whom I’ll call Joe, died of a brain tumor when I was about four, around the time that my parents split. When my Dad left my Mom, he stayed with his brother and his brother’s wife, and helped to nurse my sick Uncle. My Mother tells the tale, which may or may not actually be true, that I came home after one visit and she asked me where my Father was sleeping. I told her (which I may or may not have actually known for sure at the time) that “He sleeps in Aunt Marie’s room.” My Mother fumed. My father was “Scum, dirt, filth, and sliiiiiiiiiiiime.” I didn’t know why, or what scum, filth, or slime actually were. Dirt was familiar. My mother had a way with words.
Some time after this I went for another weekend visit with my Father. I sat at the dinner table, he says, with a furrowed brow and a concerned look, squarely on him. Being the curious and frustrated ex-husband he was well on his way to being, he asked me, “What’s the matter, sweetie?”
“Daddy,” I informed him, “I don’t think you’re scum.”
“Well thank you darling, I don’t think that you’re scum either!” He responded.
Times change, and so have both of our opinions. Strangely, I think that we probably have a mutual respect for one anothers’ talent and instability. Go figure. I air my family’s dirty laundry on the internet. He flirts with my mother. *shudder*
My Uncle and my Aunt had two daughters, Melissa and Jonelle. In due course, my Uncle died. My Aunt, bereaved, but having dealt with his long-running affair and alcoholism, decided that his brother would be a good follow-up. I would hope that she’s learned something since then. I can’t say that I’m without that kind of moronic behavior, though. Looking over my past relationships, I sympathize. We all get love-goggles. Still.
So my cousins became my Step-Sisters.
My Father left my Aunt many years ago, but my eldest brother Lee still calls her “Aunt-Mom”. I can remember the looks we’d get when they’d sit at a table at a restaurant holding hands and I’d call him “Dad” and her “Aunt Marie”.
Years later, long after my Father had married his fourth wife (are you keeping up?) and my Mother her third husband, my Step-Grandfather died. Like many large and disjointed families (we are not a tree. We are a vine), my relatives see one another mostly at funerals. We all showed up for Grandpa’s. At fourteen, I was angsty, dark, and brutally honest. Hm. Some things DON’T really change.
My Father proudly introduced me to several family members. Most of them hadn’t seen me since I was “this tall”. I still had those gorgeous big brown eyes. My Father had been told when he was a child that he’d make a beautiful little girl, and he had. And so on. My older brothers laughed at me. I soaked up the attention and equally spurned it and rolled my eyes when they weren’t looking. And then two friendly, down-to-earth looking women approached us.
“Crystal,” my grandmother said, smiling, “These are your cousins, Melissa and Jonelle. Do you remember them?”
“I’m pretty sure I do,” I said, smiling and shaking hands. And then I was struck with realization. I got what was probably the same quizzical look that I’d given my Father so many years ago across the dinner table. And, before anyone (including me) could stop the words from coming out of my mouth, I asked:
“Weren’t we Step-Sisters once?”
My Aunt, who was nearby, broke into a coughing fit. My cousins grinned wide and told me, “Yes, yes we were.” Lee’s smile twinkled. His next younger brother face-palmed, and their younger brother crossed his arms over his chest and looked sternly at my Father. My Step-Mother patted my Father on the back and I cannot describe my Father’s face. I think that he may have been re-thinking that “scum” comment even then.
But the best part was my Grandmother. She loved all of her children deeply, but she also knew them. She looked at my Father, crossed her arms over her chest, and declared,
“You had that comin’.”
I miss you, Gramma.