A light-hearted look at some family dysfunction
By J. D. Adrian
The question hung in the air, like summer fog over the bay. No one had asked about this for a long time.
Why do you want to know, my dear?
Because he used to talk to me a long time ago, but he doesn’t anymore. Did I do something wrong, the ten-year-old asked.
Let me see now, it was back in 1989. My cousin Mabel had gone to Germany to see the Berlin Wall come down. It was there she met George, who was a student at the time at the International College. As you know, they fell in love and got married – somewhere in Europe – we were never sure where. Mabel’s mother and dad, your Great Aunt Helen and Uncle Matt, were not sure they were actually married at all. This made them very nervous, but they tried to hide their feelings so as not to embarrass anyone. When they got back to the States, Mabel and George were vague regarding the details of their wedding, though they assured Helen and Matt they were really married and not to worry.
Mabel and I were at one time quite close and played together as children. Her brother Dillon, who was born five years after Mabel, was not part of the picture when Mabel and I were young because he was much younger. When Mabel
brought George back from Germany, she was pregnant, which resulted in your second cousin Natalie, who was named for Natalie Wood because Mabel always loved her films.
My mother, your Grandma Lucy, is Great Uncle Matt’s sister. Grandma Lucy and Papa John were in total disagreement on the way Uncle Matt and Aunt Helen handled the marriage question. They thought they should question Mabel and George more thoroughly and even conduct an investigation if necessary to discover the truth of whether the nuptials had actually taken place. After all, they were Catholic, and living together and having a child without the benefit of marriage would put them in a state of sin, and that had never happened before in this family, or not that anyone ever knew anyway.
Meanwhile, Dillon, who was at the university by this time, met Heather, and as soon as they got their degrees, they married in a lavish ceremony on the university campus. Heather was a Jewish girl, and of course her not being Catholic was a problem for Helen, but not so much for Matt. Helen did try to get over this, and finally she did and got to love Heather like her own daughter. At least Heather and Dillon had had a proper ceremony.
Your Grandma Lucy never let up on the question of Mabel and George, to the point that Lucy and Matt stopped talking altogether, because they could just never get around this topic of conversation. Mabel and George never went to church, and of
course that meant that Natalie was never baptized, a situation Grandma Lucy could not condone, even though she thought the child to be one of the most beautiful and well behaved she had ever seen. She was, however, not a Christian in the true sense, according to Grandma Lucy, and that bothered her very much.
Mabel and George did finally divorce, and George went to the west coast for a job in Silicon Valley. Natalie naturally stayed with Mabel. She is your first cousin, and Harold is your first cousin as well, he being the only child of Heather and Dillon, born a few years earlier than you. Dillon and Heather wanted to start a family, you see, and after spending five years as a clinical psychologist, Heather suspended her career temporarily to accomplish this. Harold was a beautiful child, intelligent, studious, and was brought up in the Jewish faith, since the child’s religion follows the mother’s line. Dillon did not object to this. Grandma Lucy did object, so much so, that she forbade Dillon, Heather, and Harold to come to her home on holidays, unless they promised to give up their Jewish faith for the day and be like Catholics, you know, say the prayers and such. Dillon was still a Catholic, wasn’t he? Papa John was furious about this, and he and Grandma Lucy fought about it all the time. After all, Dillon was their nephew, not their son, and they had no control over what he did. Not that anyone has control over anybody else, for that matter. Natalie, bless her heart, is now in New York City dancing in a ballet company, and I’m sure couldn’t care less about this.
Grandma Lucy also fought with Uncle Matt about this. He thought she had gone bonkers, and told her so. Dillon and Heather, therefore, never went to Grandma Lucy’s house on holidays, or on most other days as well, because they refused to be hypocrites. Consequently, a rift the size of the continental divide came right down the middle of the family, and it seemed that you were either on one side or the other. After a few years, no one remembered what had happened or why no one liked each other anymore.
Your cousin Janice on your father’s side – you know, she is Uncle Ben and Aunt Cathy’s girl – jumped into the fray a couple of years back by putting it out on Facebook. She asked what happened in the family that turned one against the other. That turned out to be a disaster, as now poor Janice was drawn into something she did not understand, and she was thrown against the wall, so to speak, in her attempt to get people to talk about it. She was told to mind her own business. I mean, she was on your father’s side of the family, and now people on my side did not speak to her. She was understandably hurt by this, but you know Janice, she just moved on saying that they were all a bunch of nincompoops, and she wanted nothing more to do with them, thank you very much.
Now everyone has email, Facebook, Twitter, and who knows what else to communicate at any time of the day or night. But do they? No, they do not. Real communication has gone out the window. If I send an email to Cousin Helen, she does not answer me, and I know for a fact she reads her email and is even on Facebook. But she won’t friend me either, and I know that for a fact too, because I have tried; my, how I have tried. Your father tells me not to bother; it’s not important anymore. Grandma Lucy and Papa John don’t use email or Facebook, and they don’t even try to help clear things up. Your Grandma Lucy is a stubborn old woman, and I’ll say that even if she is my own mother. And all because Mabel went to see the Berlin Wall in 1989.
And that is why your cousin Harold does not speak to you anymore.