I need to make a confession. If you are my cousin, except for a few “lucky” ones, I probably wouldn’t recognize you if I passed you on the street or in the market. It isn’t that my eyesight is that bad. It’s because we never see each other – well, except for the weddings and funerals, which are not frequent enough to allow us to keep current on each others lives.
My mother used to keep me updated on your lives. I don’t know how she found out all the information she did. At one time she had been on the phone with your parents or met them (or you) in stores, though that had really tapered off in the past few years. Yet, somehow, she still knew when someone had a baby or had a child married or suffered an illness. Now that she’s gone, it amazes me even more than it did when she was alive. What an intricate web of contacts she had!
These days, I see you mostly at funerals. Our children are grown and having their own children – yes, that means some of us are actually grandparents (though I am not). Although I might recognize you when I see you at the funerals, I would probably not recognize your children. I would definitely not recognize your grandchildren.
I don’t have the same urge to stay connected with family that my mother did. Perhaps that’s because she was an only child and I was not. Or maybe my mother and I simply had different needs and different gifts in this life.
Still, I do wish I knew more about my cousins and my extended family. I learned some while doing family history research. But with my mother’s death, I also lost a wealth of knowledge. Trying to replace it will be a major task.
I also wish that we cousins and our families could come together at a time other than a wedding or a funeral. Weddings are always so busy – there really isn’t time to share. Funerals are so sad and it somehow feels inappropriate to be sharing stories about ourselves instead of remembering the person who has passed on.
I guess it depends which cousins I’m referring to. I have 4 distinct sets – stemming from both maternal and paternal grandmothers and grandfathers. So perhaps I should be more specific.
If you are my cousin through my French-Canadian maternal grandmother (Roberta, Sandra, Ronnie, Denise, Jay), we spent a lot of time together when we were young. We grew apart as we had families and got busy. I know you would come if there was a reunion and you were well enough to get there.
If you are my cousin through my Swedish maternal grandfather, I only know a few of you. If you’re Jim or Bill, I know what’s happening in your families. If you’re any other cousin, I may not know your name, let alone recognize you. We didn’t really visit much and I wish we had. If there were to be a family reunion here, sadly, I would not know who to send invitations to or where to send them, except for cousin Audrey that I met on-line while we were both researching family history. There is a certain serendipity to life. I wish I knew more.
Since my mother was an only child, the cousins I have on my maternal side are actually her cousins. My father, however, was one of nine children. I have so many cousins on my paternal side, it’s hard to remember them all.
My father’s parents were Polish/Russian/Austrian and immigrated to the US in the early 1900’s. They eventually owned a dairy farm and had a large family to help run it, as any good farmer will tell you is necessary. My father was the next to the youngest; the age difference between the oldest and youngest was about 15 years. So to my cousins from the oldest of my father’s sibling, Dolores, Judith, Anita and Arthur, who were about the same age as my mother, I don’t know where you are, though I know we visited when I was small. If your name is Ann, Cecelia, John, Xavier, Thadeus, John, Thomas, SuAnn, William, David, Raymond, Thadeus, William, or Rose Mary, I know where you are but I wish we knew each other better. I wish our children knew each other. I know my children do not know any of their cousins on my father’s side. That makes me very sad.
But I don’t think that, if a reunion were thrown, everyone would come. It’s a family that has never been very close, in spite of my mother’s dream of marrying into a big, happy family.
So, cousins, I’ve confessed that I don’t know you and your families very well. I suspect you could probably say the same. What can we do about it? Does it matter? Or is it better for our kids to grow up without those connections?
Unless we come up with some nifty ideas, I guess I’ll see you all at the next funeral . . .