Wikileaks: Or, How My Nuclear/Extended Family Fell Apart

It’s been awhile since you’ve been party to an angry rant directed at someone you’re familiar with, so get ready:

Preface: I understand that the airing of “dirty laundry” in the internet is frowned upon. I thought about that for a long time before I did this. It’s all based on the lack of transparency. I don’t want anyone to question where I’m coming from or think that I’m neglecting my duties.

I don’t have a solution to the problem below. I’m just thinking thoughts. I do my thinking when I’m typing. I like to record bouts of emotional turmoil for reflection and later, growth.

I love everyone in this post. I’ve taken out names. I want the same things they want. A husband, a family, a full life.

I have a very full life. I am very loved. Don’t question that for a minute.

So what if I like “alternative” culture? We can’t all live in polo shirts in plaid (it makes my thighs look fat). Black is much more slimming. And the vampire look is all the rage these days. (Ew)

Of course, this is very personal. But it involves me, too. And yes, it’s incredibly self-centered. It’s how I feel. This is my space. I can write about whatever I want, and that’s what I’ve chosen to do.

I’m pissed, so this might lack the eloquence I’d usually try to use to cloak the emotions I’m feeling.

I don’t sleep well; I have dreams about this situation all the time; I’m generally annoyed.

For once, I’m at a loss for words. I’ve let an email reply sit out there on the interwebs for more than two months because I literally cannot think of a suitable reply to that reply. I’m stumped by the inability to respond without losing my dignity by accepting a weak excuse, or without burning a bridge, or grovelling. And if there’s one thing I don’t do, it’s grovel.

It’s been a long time coming.

It started long ago. It’s part of who Dad is. Weird.

I get that, and I understand that sometimes it’s hard to be around him. But my argument against that is thus: You’re his family. You can stand to be around him for four hours at a time, like four times a year. It’s much harder to be his daughter than to be his brother, or his sister, or his mother.

Your counter-argument: But, our children!

I counter like this: He’s not a sexual predator. He’s not on drugs. He’s not a drunk. Yes, he’s a completely degenerate bum, but he’s not (at heart) a bad man. Your kids will have to learn how to interact with people who aren’t as affluent or as socially graceful as you someday, they might as well start now.

I’ve been talking to Mom about this for awhile now, trying to puzzle out why we’re so often excluded from Barry family events.

And then Christmas happened.

The text message came in just before 7pm Christmas Eve. “We now have other plans tomorrow. Hope to see you soon.”

Burn. Well played, Uncle [redacted]. The smoothest dis-invite I’ve ever had, without any admission of the actual invite ever existing. (Actually, the only one. I don’t think I’ve ever been dis-invited from anything.)

Here’s the email I sent:

Hello,
I hope you’re all having a good start to the year.
Now that all the holiday rush has died down, I just wanted to drop you
a note to let you know how incredibly disappointed I was in the way
that Christmas was handled this year, and in the way that many
family/holiday events are often handled.
In the future, if you choose to renege on invitations at 6 o’clock the
night before a major holiday, please just don’t bother inviting me at
all.
I can’t speak for [redacted], so I won’t, but I am incredibly hurt. It’s not
that I minded crying a little bit, but even worse was having to listen
to [redacted] cry on the other end of the phone the day after Christmas.
While I hope that I am correct in assuming that you didn’t want to
have any contact with [redacted], I also hope you understand that [redacted] and I
are both independent adults who are capable of social interaction
without him. We haven’t lived with him on any consistent basis since
we were 16 and have displayed none of his odd social proclivities.
If that’s not the case, and there’s something wrong with the two of us
or with me personally, I’d prefer to address it now rather than be
continually excluded from Barry family events.
Sincerely,
Katie

However, it turns out that I was incorrect. I spent hour agonizing over the text of that email. I consulted. I edited. I won’t post the entire response, because I consider myself to be not that much of an asshole, but here are specific excerpts that relate to my post today. And I don’t consider them privileged.

My text the night before was to make sure nothing was
“assumed” even though we hadn’t discussed anything firm and to get [redacted]’s
number. The only way this was triggered was that [redacted] had begun to leave
several messages indicating he wanted to come over.
Another point that disappoints us is that you make no mention of the
numerous holiday events over the years in which you were included.
Often times those events were adjusted to fit your schedule with your
Mom’s side of the family. We were happy to do this, but to be told that
we’ve “continuously excluded” you confuses us.
You mention [redacted] in your note. Right or wrong, holidays and family
events have certainly been impacted due to [redacted]’s behavior. For all of
his great qualities, it’s no secret that his behavior can often times
add stress, drama, etc. I really hate pointing this out since he is
your Dad, but I want to be fair to you and as an “adult.” I don’t think
you’d find this surprising. Unfortunately, his impact has played a role
in not spending more time with you and [redacted] over the years. For so long
it was always a “package deal.” I’m truly sorry that you’ve been
“caught in the middle” in so many instances. Thanks for pointing out
(right or wrong) that it’s no longer the case.


I cried when I read this email.
But then I got mad. That’s why I haven’t been able to respond. I have nothing to say. I do, but I can’t say it. I don’t know. And now it’s just too late to say anything.

RENEGE! (I’m not going to respond to that bit. I’m biting my tongue.)
I don’t talk to Dad. I see him maybe once every couple of months. I’m not a pipeline of Barry family information that goes directly to him. I’m not inviting him to events. 
I was a child when they rearranged all of their schedules. I’m not the one who made up that horrible divorce custody schedule; I’m just the one who got dragged along for the ride.
You do realize I hate Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, etc? The only consolation is that divorce brought double the Thanksgiving dinners and two distinct styles of cranberries. I’m pro-divorce as far as Thanksgiving goes, and very thankful for them.
And I’m also thankful for all the rough rearranging that was done, but I apologize for it. If I had known it was such a problem, I guess I could have….wait a minute, done nothing. I was twelve. I don’t want to hear about it.
Now, of course, complain. If we were demanding change now, you shouldn’t have to acquiese. Don’t rearrange anything for us. We’re autonomous adults (“adults” is a term of debate for another day, but we’re self-sufficient, theoretically productive members of society, which in today’s world, qualifies us as adult). We are capable of handling ourselves in public, in private, wherever. We are capable of managing a schedule. I recently synced my Outlook calendar with my phone calendar and began actually logging dates in there. I’m legit. (Small step for me, large eye-roll for the rest of you.)
I don’t manage Dad! It’s not my fault he calls you!
I would also like to address the part where (you don’t get to read that part) Uncle [redacted] says that he’d like me to list family events that I’ve been excluded from.
Let’s start now.
The day after Christmas I’m housesitting. I get a call from [redacted]. She’s nonchalant. We talk. She asks me how yesterday went, we’re both tip-toeing around what we know is about to come up. She tells me that it was nice, they opened presents, they did this and that and the kids played with this and that. Pretty soon, we’re both crying. I have to hang up because this is bullshit.

[Redacted] and I are both pretty chill people. We don’t expect big dinners. I’ll host! I’ll cook (badly). [Redacted] will cook (better). We’ll put on the dinner, we’ll have a cold cut and cheese platter. I don’t want to see you for your food, I want to see you for you. I love pajamas. I own a bunch, for all occasions, even Christmas.

I cry. That’s when I know everything is really broken.
It’s a Tuesday. I have dinner plans with Mom. I get a call from Aunt [redacted] saying that they’re in town and want to have dinner. I call Mom and cancel.
At dinner, [redacted: cousin] asks me if I’m going to California. I ask, why? She tells me they’re all going to see [redacted: other cousin] graduate from high school. Oh, I say, I’m sorry, I have to work. Inside, I’m thinking, huh, definitely wasn’t invited to that.
Throughout the meal, Aunt [redacted] is constantly saying how nice it is that we’re so flexible, and blathering on about how it’s so nice that we can just be spontaneous. It’s all for Dad’s benefit, because he’s complaining and pressing them for details.
I get that.
Then I find out that they’ve been in town since Friday. Then I find out that we both went to the parade downtown on Saturday. I would have liked to have seen them. I was sober.
I bring that up because I believe that my father’s side of the family has not received the most accurate information about me since I stopped living with my father. He’s got a set of assumptions about my behavior that are entirely incorrect.
Yes, I drink. Yes, I go out.
Yes, I’m 22, and I have a full-time job and I babysit on the side. I have responsibilities and I’m not neglecting any of them. I have a cat-son and a dilapidated car that I love. I get regular oil changes. I vote. I can pretend to be Catholic when necessary. I’m spiritual. I believe in a g-d. I’ve never been arrested. I’m going to stop. This is getting weird.
(I don’t know, what makes a person a good role model?)
Those are two recent examples, but I can dig further if necessary. I’d prefer not to, though.
I would like to have a good relationship with my younger cousins, but it’s very difficult. I was really excited about this summer, when I had the opportunity to drive through the state where some of them live (most awkward attempt to talk around that ever) and stay with them. I had hoped that I was able to leave a positive impression and set a good example for my cousins. I talked with my Aunt and Uncle and was grateful for their hospitality and their generosity.
The base of the problem here is that I wouldn’t be so upset if I didn’t genuinely care. These people are my family, and just because I’m now mostly estranged from my father (for my own personal sanity), I don’t understand why I’ve been shut out as well.
When I was a teenager, and just starting to have problems with my dad, I spent nearly every weekend at [redacted]’s house. She really saved me, and those are some really nice memories. We would go get our toes done, or we’d cook dinner, or we’d run errands together. I cherish those times and am eternally grateful to have had somewhere else to go when things weren’t great. She never said anything about it, but I respect her for understanding that I needed somewhere to go.
When we didn’t have any furniture or good sheets, she took me out and we bought flannel sheets, a comforter, and a rug for Christmas one year. I still have all of that (except the comforter). I still remember how excited I was to decorate my rom.

That same year, in what I now know was an attempt to pull my struggling self-esteem up, she and Aunt [redacted] took me to buy makeup. Oh my g-d, I still have dreams about that stuff. I was so genuinely happy. And I am still genuinely grateful. I love my Mom but she’s not great at super girly stuff that like, and I really looked up to Aunt [redacted] because to me, she was epitome of what a woman should be. She was funny, smart, happy. I wanted all of that, too.
But now I realize that I’m not exactly like them. I have literally been racking my brain for months (years, really) to try and figure out what it is about me that doesn’t jive.
I honestly don’t know.
I think it’s that sometimes I forget to send out thank you notes. I really do write them. Every time I move, I find a bunch of thank you notes that have been addressed, sealed, the whole works, just not sent. I’m sorry about that.
Or maybe it’s that I don’t send enough gifts. I want to blame Dad on this one, but here I am trying to assert my independence, so obviously that’s not going to work. I’ll try harder.
Or maybe it’s that I’m not Catholic. But I went to Catholic grade schools, a Catholic high school, a Catholic university. I graduated. I did what they wanted. I’m not a heathen, I’m just not a Christian. But I don’t tell their kids that. I answer their questions honestly but sometimes I do lie just to protect their upbringings. I know Catholicism in and out. I’m good.
Once, when I was like fifteen, Uncle [redacted] and Aunt [redacted] found a lighter at their house. At that time, I had just become a black-cotton-clad child and was expressing my inner rage, so naturally, they thought it was mine. I denied it, because it wasn’t. I later found out it belonged to [redacted] but he was too scared to say anything. Maybe that was where it all started to go wrong. I’m sorry. I didn’t lie.
I don’t lie. I don’t cheat. I don’t steal.
(That’s my life philosophy. It’s not that hard to do, really. I feel like aiming for those goals is good. From there, you can expand yourself into the best person you can be.)
Anyway, those are my theories. I’m sorry my father is a nut. It’s not all his fault. It’s the [redacted] syndrome. It affects him socially. Granted, even after the mitigating circumstances, he’s still a lot to handle, but a lot of that is also generated when the people who are supposed to love him unconditionally get irritated. (I’m guilty of being the ultimate hypocrite here, I realize that. But seriously, if there’s a group, four hours doesn’t seem so bad, does it? I manage dinners, coffees, whatever. It’s not going to kill you.)
I’m not invited to Easter, go figure.
Let’s just all be estranged and call it good.
I will at least say that my mom’s side of the family is always willing to rearrange things for us as necessary. And sometimes they even go out of their way to see us. It’s nice. I know that if I call Aunt [redacted] for something, a favor, or a plan, or an activity, she’ll respond. In a timely manner. Who’d have thought?
I guess it comes down to this: you can’t choose your family (even when you’re adopted), but you can choose to interact for the better or the worst. Some people love me for who I am, even if I’m not following their idea of the perfect life path. Some don’t, I guess. It hurts. I’m not good at conflict; I’m not good at trying to figure out why I don’t belong. But I guess this is a chance for me to get better at it.
Ugh, Easter. People wonder why I get so agitated around the holiday season. Wouldn’t you?
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