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Bizarre Funeral Request

When I was a little girl, my aunt (#5 out of six siblings – 4 girls, 2 boys) died, just before Christmas. This was my first experience with death, and I was only six years old, and much confused about a lot of things, including the varying moods of people crying for a lost loved one, in between jolly Christmas carols. I noticed that my father was not only devastated to lose his sister, but was also very angry with my grandparents. It was not until many years later that I would understand the whole story.

My grandparents were weird, to say the least. One of their weirdnesses was that they insisted on keeping one of my aunts (Let’s call her J) home, apparently to take care of them, although they were still fairly spry, themselves. She was about 21, and had an irrepressible desire to go on singles’ cruises. J went on them as often as possible, to get away, and possibly find a husband. I just thought she liked the water. Meanwhile, her younger sister (K) was desperately trying to get married to anyone, just to get out of the house. I thought she was just very romantically inclined and liked to date a lot. How little I knew! It seems that every one of my father’s siblings escaped home as soon as possible, by various means.

Well, when my aunt J was killed, my grandparents approached my father and asked him to let them have my SISTER! Yes, they asked my father to hand over his daughter to them, and even intended to change my sister’s name to the name of my dead aunt and adopt her as their own daughter. That would make my sister T into my aunt J the second, and my father’s daughter into his sister, and eyurrrrrgh!

I don’t need to watch TV to get a soap opera. I just need to ask my parents about family history. But I must admit that with all the stories I have about my family, including the stealing from each other at a funeral, storing explosives in the garage, and bringing a pregnant mistress into the house to “help” the pregnant wife, I do believe this story is the weirdest.

My father’s response to my grandparents’ request was not very polite, but I am forever grateful that he had a spine! And now I see why he was so eager to take that long post overseas so soon afterwards. Having an ocean between him and his parents was a good thing at the time.

At the same time, I am so proud of my father, because he kept this from us children, and taught us to love our grandparents, despite their foibles, even as we learned to stand up for ourselves. He did not share the truly weird stories until we were old enough to deal with them. Now, we just look back and laugh. 0522-13

{ 83 comments… add one }
  • Another Sarah May 31, 2013, 4:28 am

    @ hakayama – apparently you missed the bit where the father made them leave the country. He did everything to prevent his children being “exposed to unsavoury individuals”. They were not a threat in a different country, so what he didn’t do is poison his children’s minds with a load of toxic gossip and nasty attitude, which is also detrimental to young children. By the sounds of it he brought his kids up to make their own minds up instead.

    And that’s where the presumptuous part comes in. You didn’t actually read the story properly and come to a conclusion, you scanned it, decided what happened for yourself, passed judgement on the imaginary behaviour of the father.
    Perhaps you didn’t mean it to sound that way, but it did. It’s got nothing to do with disagreeing with anyone and everything to do with the way you put your point across.

  • Niamh84 May 31, 2013, 6:14 am

    “@bansidhe: Your friend’s story is like a breath of fresh air after the preceding miasma. It’s all about love, compassion and transparency. It reminds me of a family where two children, one natural, the other adopted, would sometimes introduce themselves by name and say “one of us is adopted”.”

    @Hakayama – I don’t really understand the story above – when they introduced themselves to people, they’d tell the person one of them is adopted? Why? I don’t know if I’m misunderstanding it.

  • The Elf May 31, 2013, 6:36 am

    I do, L.J. The practice of having a healthy sibling for the express purpose of taking care of the disabled one when the parents are gone is wrong, wrong, wrong. No one likes it if their life is decided for them before birth. If they choose to take care of siblings/parents, that is something else altogether.

  • Lo May 31, 2013, 6:36 am

    @ L.J.

    People do that??

    That’s awful.

  • Rap May 31, 2013, 7:55 am

    NostalgiaGal – Not diminishing your friend’s experience at all, just pointing out that not only does it still happen but it’s glorified. The show I am refering to is 19 Kids and Counting. The mom and dad consider having children their path to heaven. There’s currently 6 adult children living in the home and the mom explains repeatedly on tv how she weans the baby and hands it to a “buddy” sibling and resumes trying to get pregnant. Its similar to your friend in that the parents see nothing wrong in expecting the older children to raise the younger and the older now adult children are very much not allowed to leave the home unless they’re given permission.

    People shouldn’t have kids they don’t plan to take care of. Your friend was right to get out, particularly if her mom was essentially planning for her to stay as the maid mom.

  • Library Diva May 31, 2013, 9:19 am

    Shocking story. I am not surprised that the mentality is still around. My uncle’s parents had a bit of it. His father asked one of his daughters to quit her job and take care of him when he became ill, and he gave her quite the guilt trip when she told him she couldn’t. She didn’t mean “don’t want to,” she really meant “couldn’t…” she has a home, a husband and college-aged children of her own, and makes a decent living that she couldn’t just sacrifice when home health aides were doing the job for her father just fine. I am shocked that anyone would take it to this extent, though. I thought this sort of thing only happened in novels.

  • Rachel May 31, 2013, 9:22 am

    Just chiming in that the grandparents are sick, abusive people.

  • NostalgicGal May 31, 2013, 9:48 am

    Comments on ‘pregnant mistress’… one place I worked at had a very high (not Hispanic) immigrant percentage. It was not uncommon for a man to want his wife to have lots of kids .. so she would get ‘old’ and he could dump her for a newer model. One gal was pregnant with her third, and her husband brought home the girlfriend, and thought that the two women would and could live in peace and harmony, oh yeah, she’s about 3 months preggers behind the wife. He got the shock of his when wife went to US style divorce court and was going to be taking everything including the three kids and a ton of child support. She quit a few weeks before she was due… so I didn’t get the last chapter for awhile. Oh yeah, since he lost pretty much everything, the girlfriend gave him a punt too, and moved out and sued him for what he had left for child support. Totally rocked their ‘community’.

  • Daquiri40 May 31, 2013, 9:55 am

    A friend comes from a family of 8 girls. The mother wanted one or all of them to stay with her and their father to care for them and to keep her company. The mother made sure the youngest daughter would stay home by feeding her a lot until the girl weighed 200 lbs by age 12. The girl continued to gain weight until she reached 300 lbs by 20. The mother convinced her daughter that the mother was her only friend and food was her good friend too. The mother is still alive but the daughter got enough confidence to move out and met a nice man. She is kind of happy now, no thanks to her mother.

  • Dear! May 31, 2013, 10:23 am

    I’m sorry – what? This isn’t even a situation for a polite spine. This is a situation to question the mental stability of your father’s parents. Their request was not only disrespectful to your sister, and the memory of your aunt who they would have just “replaced” but it is deeply disturbing to have asked your father to hand over his child as a servant, name change and all. This story angers me, actually, for some reason. They wanted a slave! They literally asked for your father to sacrifice his child’s identity, happiness, childhood, parents, and freedom so that they could have someone take care of them.

    My mother was adopted by my aunt, her sister. Her mother (my grandmother) couldn’t care for her, and my eldest aunt began treating her like a slave to take care of her own children- not feeding her properly and taking whatever presents and clothes my adopted grandmother would send for my mother and giving it to her children. His parents sound like wretched people and thankfully your dad did not inherit their crazy.

  • MissieMaam May 31, 2013, 10:31 am

    How very sad, and how great that your father had some backbone. I’ve heard a number of similar stories. An aunt of mine married in to a restaurant family, and one of the other wives had four children, the oldest being a daughter, who was expected to raised the younger three, while her mother spent all her time hanging around the restaurant in jewels and a fur coat. Their idea of Christmas presents for this girl were home appliances, like washing machines. The moment the poor kid could, she joined the Air Force, never to return.

    My mother knew of another family, similar — although worse — set up. There were three children: a girl and two boys with profound mental retardation. It was the girl’s full-time job to take care of her brothers.

  • yokozbornak May 31, 2013, 10:35 am

    President Andrew Jackson and wife Rachel adopted a nephew (Rachel’s brother’s son) since they couldn’t have children and named him Andrew Jackson, Jr. I wonder if this was common at one time.

  • JGM1764 May 31, 2013, 11:27 am

    Wow. Very little actually makes my jaw drop anymore, but my mouth hung so agape at this story I’m lucky a bird didn’t fly in there and start nesting.

  • Lisa May 31, 2013, 12:14 pm

    I can not BELIEVE how many posters have similar stories. I had no idea this was (still) happening! I find it absolutely chilling. No words on the etiquette, this is just utterly baffling to me. ‘Selfish’ doesn’t even begin to describe it.

  • JWH May 31, 2013, 12:53 pm

    Is it wrong that I think stories like this move beyond etiquette and “polite spine” territory and into “restraining order” territory?

  • NostalgicGal May 31, 2013, 9:21 pm

    @ Rap, I’ve not watched the show. In that case I sure hope the mom hits early menopause then.
    With the world population at 7 billion and climbing, and at least in some places the standard of living IS high enough you don’t need a large family to survive, 19 is excessive…

    As for the friend that escaped… the two older brothers (still younger than sis) were too PRECIOUS to change diapers and despite their faith saying otherwise Mom had her tubes tied when she had the one right after the daughter escaped. I did not hear how #5 brother fared either, with all those entitled special boys that couldn’t stoop to doing anything ‘girl’.

  • hakayama May 31, 2013, 10:08 pm

    @Another Sarah: I did not miss the part about the overseas post. However, I also noted with a degree of, shall we say, surprise, to put it mildly, that …”/the father/ taught us to LOVE our grandparents… ”

    In my “mother tiger” tendency to protect children from ANY possible harm, whether from outside of the net of relatives, or from INSIDE of it, I would have expected a total cut off from the toxic (again, I’m trying for mild descriptions) grandparents.
    The so far unspoken question I have is “If the father was not raising the children by himself, where was the mother in all this?” Was she perhaps the “traditional” humble and obedient wife, for whom her husband’s wish was law?
    I know that if it had been me, there’d be no way in Hades that I’d endorse the paternal desire for my children to love people without a soul.
    But again, there are women who not only suffer abuse themselves, but also allow their spouses to abuse the children emotionally, physically, sexually.

    @Niamh84: Please visualize informal situations where people speak to children (often in high pitched voices ;-/) inquiring about their names, ages, school, etc. The children’s response could be something along the lines of “I’m Tom and that’s my brother Dickie. I’m five and he is five and half. One of us is adopted.”
    It shows an open, loving and honest attitude similar to the story told by ” bansidhe”.
    This anecdote came to mind in association with the horror story about the demonic grandparents. My imagination ran to the details of their proposed transaction, down to name change, etc. Possibly also entailing absolute secrecy….

  • EchoGirl May 31, 2013, 10:35 pm

    yokozbornak: Depends on the situation, I think. I have no problem with inter-family adoptions so long as all parties are willing (had a friend who was adopted by his great-aunt and considered the woman his mom even after he found out the truth). The issue in this story is that the grandparents tried to demand this adoption against the will of the father, that they intended to make her into a servant, and the whole name-change thing.

  • MichelleP June 1, 2013, 10:11 am

    @hakayama, the first sentence of your post in reply to mine is poorly worded, so I’m not clear on what you’re saying there. In your response to @AnotherSara, you are again presumptous with the assumption that the mother of the OP was abused, she is the “humble wife”, etc. Where did you get that??

    On what planet do you live that you can protect your children from “any possible harm”??

    You were “surprised” that a parent encouraged his children to “love their grandparents”? And the grandparents “don’t have souls”??

    Um, what?

  • Aje June 1, 2013, 2:25 pm

    It’s bone chilling how often this topic of human trafficing has appeared recently, which many people think only happens in far away places. But the stories people have written IS absolutely HT, No questions asked… it’s horrifying. And it also seems like most of the stories are about girls or women being used… which is also depressing.

  • Rap June 1, 2013, 10:17 pm

    MichelleP, I am not the poster you’re addressing but… I am a little surprised that the OP’s Dad taught his children to love people who:

    1. Asked him to hand over one of his own children to replace their presumably adult child, complete with a name change and an adoption.

    2. Asked this primarily so that they could continue to have a “child” of their own in their home to act as their personal servant.

    They wanted their son to hand over one of his own children to use as their servant/slave and irradicate that child’s identity. Frankly I am surprised he ever exposed his children to these people again… let alone encouraged a relationship with people who see his children as potential housegirls.

  • Michelle C Young June 2, 2013, 6:49 am

    In answer to a few questions:

    My father DID protect us from our grandparents (who all died before I hit high school, btw), while also teaching us to love them, and respect them for what was good about them. He taught us compassion, and not to judge people too harshly, based on only one facet of their character. He also taught us to stick together and take care of each other. He further taught us that we can love someone, even if we don’t really like them. For all his flaws, he is my example of a good Christian.

    Also – my grandparents did treat us kids well, and I never noticed any bad treatment or favoritism. Of course, that could be because our parents made SURE they did not. I did notice weirdness, but never to this extent. I certainly have my share of weird stories that I personally experienced, and I was sure my paternal grandmother, at the least, was certifiable. Not, however, certified, and sometimes I really wonder why. The real doozies were kept secret until after the grandparents were safely dead, and could not be hurt by exposure. That’s when I heard the lot. But by then, I had already grown to love them, so it was more like, “Oh! More fun stories! WOW!” I still love my grandparents, while at the same time I am forever grateful that my parents broke the cycle of abuse and craziness. I am in awe of my parents for being able to do that, actually.

    Polite spine? I know he yelled, and I do believe he might even have sworn. But I cannot confirm one way or the other.

    The pregnant mistress story – That was my maternal grandfather. When my grandmother was pregnant, with 3 young children, and struggling to keep house and garden, raise the children and feed the farmhands, he brought his pregnant mistress to live there and feed the farmhands. According to my aunt, the woman “could not make a peanut butter sandwich.” So, the roles were reversed, and my grandmother, who was an excellent cook, fed the farmhands, while the mistress raised the children. Yeah, it was twisted. The two women gave birth approximately 3 months apart. They were divorced not long after that, and Granddaddy married his mistress, and of course cheated on her all over the county. My aunt told me she was convinced that a boy from the next town was really her half-brother, because he was the spitting image of my uncle, and the boy’s mother just ADORED her electrician (Granddaddy). Mmmhmmmm. Later, Grandmother married a good man who did not (as far as I know) cheat on her. And there we go again with the FUN stories!

    As for Aunt J’s death – she was killed by a drunk driver. There was no doubt about it. It was all very public.

    I don’t know how many people in my extended family have considered suicide, but all the deaths in the family have been from either natural causes or human stupidity. Does suicide by stupidity count? My uncle… Well, he was intelligent in many ways and very articulate. He just believed the laws of physics did not apply to him. He crashed his plane, because he thought he could fly his little plane (not cleared for instrument-only flight) blind through a massive storm. While filing a false flight plan. With passengers. Yeah, I loved him, but I learned early not to trust him. Uncle J was to be taken with an entire shaker of salt.

    NostalgicGal – I am both shocked and not at all surprised about the story. I too knew a woman who was told by her father that her job was to stay home and take care of the family. She was forbidden to do schoolwork, and would have been kept out of school completely, had it not been the law that she attend. She told me she used to do her schoolwork under the blankets, with a flashlight. Boy, was she glad when she graduated and could get out of there!

    Hakayama – my mother stands up to my father when he steps out of line, don’t you worry. My parents taught us how to argue respectfully, and how to apologize when we are wrong, by actually modeling the behavior, themselves. His mother used to chide him for apologizing to us kids, because “Adults are NEVER wrong! Only children should apologize.” He continued to apologize to us when he is wrong, and does to this day. As for the grandparents, my parents made sure there was sufficient distance that we would not be hurt. However, he kept the lines of communication open, and we would visit from time to time. He told us the good things about our grandparents. Yes, they had flaws, but they had good points, too, and we had reason to be proud of them. They were not demons. They were human beings. Human beings, ALL human beings, have flaws. They also have wonderful characteristics, as well. He taught us to look at them as whole beings, not just single-faceted creatures of horror and despair. And thank goodness he did, because now I can look at OTHER people as whole beings, and not just single-faceted creatures.

    And you know what? When you set up your boundaries, and defend your boundaries, people can and will learn to respect those boundaries. By maintaining a spine in his relationship with his parents, he was able to forge a much better relationship with them. They learned NOT to push him and try that kind of junk with him. After all, he could go overseas again, right? But he did not HAVE to, because while the weirdness did continue (they were mental, for real) the abuse did not. We children never felt abused by them. We felt loved, by our parents AND our grandparents.

    Please do not make assumptions or aspersions about my mother. She’s wonderful.

    And my grandparents do have souls. They were mentally ill, not demonic. Thank you for your support, and being so angry on my sister’s behalf. I know you mean it well.

    Thanks, Michelle P!

    Wow. I’m almost sorry I sent this in. Seeing all these other similar stories makes me sad, and I certainly did not want to get people all up in arms. I just thought it was a doozy of a story, as well as uplifting knowing that someone who was raised in that environment could do a 180 flip and turn into such a great protector. See, to me, this is a positive. I guess it’s just in how you look at it.

    No, I’m not sorry I submitted it, after all. It’s good to get these stories out there. For one thing, it raises awareness to help those who may still today find themselves sucked into such a situation, and people actually believe them, instead of saying, “You must be lying. No one would do that.” I’m really quite heartened by the support I got from this. Thanks, all!

  • Maureen June 2, 2013, 9:01 am

    MichelleP – please give it up, ”hakayama” is making good points and opinions; they just happen to differ from yours. Enough, please!

    My brother and I were the property of our parents. They dictated our every move and played the martyr card if we dared disobey. My brother was cut out of the will for marrying a women that our parents did not like. 40 years later and they still remarked, ”if only he had not married that whore” (”whore” equated to divorced, by the way). I was threatened that they would haunt me to my dying day if I gave my brother so much as a coffee cup after they passed.

    I was expected to take care of the parents in their golden years. I managed to marry and live nearby, so I did both. When my mother was brought home to die with cancer I was expected to quit my job (I did medical research) and was screamed and made to feel guilty when I said, ”no”. It was HELL. My father just passed at the age of 94 and I don’t really know how to feel. My brother refused to come to either funeral.

    I mailed him a coffee cup and split the inheritance with him anyway.

  • Dira June 2, 2013, 9:44 am

    @Green123 – Sorry to be picky, but you’ve hit one of my buttons… apposite though it unquestionably is, that phrase hails from the north of *England*. The north of Britain is Scotland.

  • Bee June 2, 2013, 4:26 pm

    I disagree with a couple of earlier posters who insisted that children need to have relationships with the grandparents, so long as there’s no abuse towards the grandchildren.

    My mother’s parents were awful to my mother and most of her siblings — I’ve been sheltered from most of the specifics, but I do know that they were extremely toxic, overbearing individuals. (For instance, they tried to keep my aunt home well into her twenties; I never considered that they wanted their youngest to stay there and take care of them, but in retrospect …)

    I was forced to have a relationship with them by my Mother, who thought it would be important. Though they had never been anything but loving to me, personally, even as a child, being around them made me tense, anxious, and uncomfortable. Being in the house with them felt like a punishment. There were never any terrible arguments or anything while I was there — in fact, outwardly, I’m sure everyone would say that my Mother had a fine relationship with her parents.

    When I was in my teens, I cut contact with them, and have felt much better ever since. I wish my Mother would have done it for me much earlier, when she was having problems with her parents. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, and as far as I’m concerned, some people just aren’t worth risking it.

  • NostalgicGal June 2, 2013, 5:32 pm

    I told my mom about this one and some of the responses, and she filled me in on one that almost happened in our family. My father wanted a boy and after two losses, they got me, preemie. I survived despite several things… Shortly after I turned five, my father’s brother died, and left a wife with 8 kids, including the last two, boys, ages 2 and 3.

    I remember my uncle dying, and being told I was going to be getting two brothers. I was excited, that much I remember. Then the next day, we were going to go to BIG TOWN to shop and to Smaller Town to go get them. Then there was a phone call, Dad was screaming and Mom took me for a long walk. And she didn’t talk to him for a few weeks, he rated the silent treatment when she got really mad at him. This was one of those times.

    I’d figured out by my teens (from how that one friend was treated, the one raising her brothers) that I would have been second had they adopted my cousins….

    The rest of the story… yes the family had converged and offered to help out the aunt. Dad hadn’t told Mom that he’d TOLD his SIL that *he was coming to pick the boys up the next day* And made the plans to do so. He’d told Mom that SIL had agreed, that she was overwhelmed, and it was indeed what she wanted. I was going to have to trade bedrooms for the smaller guest bedroom as mine was bigger and the two were going to go into that one. And they needed to buy bunkbeds and some other stuff. I hadn’t been told or asked about the room swap; when we got to BIG TOWN to shop, I was going to be offered a new bed, bedspread, curtains and paint and a few toys. to swap, as the boys needed the bigger room. (at that age I might have agreed). He’d gone to get an advance to take care of the shopping we’d have to do on way home; and borrowed a pickup. Then SIL called back that morning and told him apparently that she’d have him arrested for trespassing, then kidnapping. Aka go to h*ll. He was mad for days about that one. I remember the mood and Mom telling me to be good, and quiet and stay out of his way because of that. And from what I remember, she did a darned good job raising them all as a single mom…

  • Michelle C Young June 2, 2013, 7:42 pm

    OP here.

    Wow, NostalgicGal! Good for your aunt for sticking up for herself and her children.

    I would like to point out, for those who say parents should never force their children to have a relationship with toxic and abusive grandparents, that I agree. Children should not be forced, and toxic and abusive relationships should not be encouraged or endured.

    However, my father did not FORCE us. He supervised, so that we could have the relationship, and feel safe and loved at the same time. The only problem I had when visiting Grandma was that she had very little fun stuff for me to do. Also, I did not like her dogs, who were bigger than me and frightened me. They were well-enough behaved, but when she asked me to take them for a walk, I wound up being dragged. Also, she was a horrible cook, and I dreaded eating at her house. But I never dreaded HER.

    You see, after he stood up to Grandma and Grampa, they learned to respect the boundaries. It’s called personal growth and redemption, and yes, it can happen. That is why I find these stories so incredibly awesome! They remind me that even from the lowest depths, people can crawl out of those pits and create healthy relationships, after all. Now, if they don’t want to put forth the effort, and continue to disregard boundaries, then cutting them off is the wise course of action. If they repent, then the cut-off can end.

    Bear in mind, the saying “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” is certainly in effect. Until they have really EARNED your renewed trust, you must take proper precautions. But I truly believe that people can be redeemed, if they want to. My grandparents apparently wanted to. Sure, they were still mental until their dying day, but the mental was more of the non-harmful variety. The youngest aunt got married and they wound up with an empty nest, and were able to manage all right. They learned.

    Also, I found out after Grandma had died that her sister was the “Cinderella” of her generation, so I guess that is where she came up with that idea. After my father’s confrontation with her, though, she gave up the plan to have a cinderella in the house. Aunt K was able to marry and move out. She stayed close, and as far as I could tell she had a good relationship with Grandma. And no other attempt was made to get a grandchild to live with her. Yay, personal growth and redemption!

    Also, many people will claim that they abuse their families because they were abused themselves, as children, and that was all they knew. But my parents proved that a person CAN overcome such a bad background, and refuse to perpetuate the cycle. This thought fills me with joy! Yes! Miracles can happen, and people can change! It also makes me rather angry at those people who use prior abuse as an excuse for their own bad behavior. My parents taught me to take responsibility for my OWN mistakes, and not blame it on theirs or their parents’.

    Of course, if you’ve had an abusive childhood, and you feel that you are not strong enough to break those patterns and raise your children with love, and so decide not to have children, at all, I fully endorse that as a loving and wise decision. Being a good parent takes a lot more strength than many people have, and it is good to know your limitations. Just please don’t use “I had a lousy childhood” as an excuse to inflict a lousy childhood on another generation.

    So you see, this is why I am glad my father taught us to love his parents, and not to demonize them. Take precautions, protect those who cannot protect themselves, stand up for yourself and don’t let people bulldoze your boundaries, and hope for people to continue to learn and grow and become better. These are the lessons I take away from this story.

  • NostalgicGal June 3, 2013, 2:32 pm

    @ Michelle

    Kudos that it sorted out, and you were able to have a relationship with your grandparents after all that. And salute, you had a father that cared and did something about it all. More Kudos.

    My Dad wasn’t the only offender. The family was 2 boys, 2 girls, a boy, a girl, and 2 more boys. Aunt Witchina wanted the two oldest girls, to ‘work’ with my Cinderella cousin; another uncle wanted the youngest girl as they had two boys at the time and wanted a girl badly (she later had a girl and gods that was the most spoiled child on the planet)… and my father wanted the two youngest boys. Which would have left her with three. I will always salute my aunt for telling everyone where to go. And yes, she managed a pretty good job at raising them.

  • MichelleP June 3, 2013, 3:13 pm

    Thanks so much Michelle C Young, for your update. You are welcome for my defense of your obviously loving mother and father.

    @Maureen, hakayama did have valid points, but several of the statements she has posted are presumptous and incorrect, as clarified by the OP herself. I will give up, however, as you suggested, since it doesn’t seem to be getting through.

    I stand by my opinion that children should have relationships with family members that treat them well, as the OP herself has stated so eloquently.

  • MsDani313 June 3, 2013, 4:10 pm

    Though not as bad my family too has a bit of relational issues…

    My mom’s oldest sister Ana was born out of wedlock to my maternal grandmother. As was the “tradition” in the 1950s Ana was sent to live with relatives out of state.

    Fast forward to 2004 when a younger cousin, Jane and I decided to create a giant family tree made of post it notes. Since this cousin and I had just learned of our familial ties (8 months earlier after attending the same school for 3 years) we were thrilled to hang out and put our creative minds to use. We bought the post it notes and headed to the reunion hall. As we constructed it Jane pointed out that Anna was raised by family in another state I said that biologically she was my grandmother’s child and her name should go under that branch. We worked for hours and decided to grab some lunch before the unveiling. When we returned another Aunt berated me for placing Anna’s name under my grandmother. She had already moved the note. When I pointed out that Anna is biologically my aunt and not my cousin she seemed shock that I knew the story. My solution was to place Anna’s name both under my grandmother and under the out of state cousins. I again left to do something and returned to find all of the post it notes on the floor.

    I asked my mom what happened and she said our older aunt ripped it off the wall and was very upset that I had been told about Anna’s true parentage. She continued to get upset that weekend when I referred to Anna as Auntie and because I refused to call her daughter Auntie (even though she is my cousin.) Both Jane and I were continuously told that we were not supposed to know about Anna and a few other things. Turns out Jane is my mother’s cousin as well but because of the big age gap she calls her Auntie.

  • Michelle C Young June 3, 2013, 6:33 pm

    MsDani313 – thank you for that.

    I believe that family should all be aware of the various “skeletons,” simply because there may very well come a time when that knowledge is vital (medical histories, perhaps, or inheritance law), and somebody needs to know. Moreover, from a human interest standpoint, we cannot improve as a species if we paint over all our flaws. It is much better to reveal them, at least to the ones who have a stake it in, i.e. family, and let them use it as a learning experience. For example, your family could learn to accept Anna for the person she IS (her characteristics, accomplishments, and such), rather than putting so much emphasis on hiding the biological truth. If they can do that, then they are more likely to be able to treat adopted and step-children with the same sort of love. Such lessons in humanity are far-reaching. And anyway, this many years after the fact, how can it hurt to put up a post-it note according to biology, as opposed to fiction?

    You know, I cannot count how many dramas, both literary and acting, are based off of the idea of keeping some family secret, which in the end turns out to be not that earth-shattering, after all. Even in the cases of the secret being some horrific act of abuse, once it comes out, the healing actually begins. So, yeah, I’m all for telling those family stories to all the family members.

    The truth shall set you free.

  • crella June 3, 2013, 9:45 pm

    Wow. My mother told me that when her older sister was planning her wedding, her mother said ‘Now, you’re not getting married, you’re going to stay here with me and take care of me when I get old’. My mother was shocked, but made it very clear that it wasn’t going to happen. My grandmother wasn’t happy, but the final blow was when my mother refused to buy a house next door to her. Grandma wanted her two daughters to live on the same street as her. For that she cut my mother off for years and years. The relationship spluttered to life years down the road but was extinguished pretty much by my marrying a foreigner. That side of the family was forbidden to attend my wedding, and well, that was that. I have contact with cousins now though.

  • spyderqueen June 4, 2013, 1:30 pm

    Stories like these are why my mother gets so pissed off when people trying to get volunteers for the local nursing facilities decry the selfish relatives of these poor elderly people. They even live nearby and can’t find even a moment to say hi to their grammy. Never mind that they have no idea what these relatives suffered under the tyranny of these elders.

    My grammy (great grandmother) was an evil, racist, NASTY woman who hated that my grandfather had married a brunette, let alone that she was a divorcee and never stopped hoping my grandmother would leave or die. She was manipulative, passive-aggressive, and a snoop always digging for something she could use against someone else. I barely knew her, but even as a 5 year old, she terrified me. When my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and my grandmother *finally* got the opportunity to ship this bat up to the rest of her family in Boston, the Boston side of the family wasted no time in making sure she went straight into a home.

    She is why both my grandmother did not even for a second ask my mother or her sisters if she could live with them, but picked out a home herself. My mother has made my sister and I promise that if she ever asks to come live with us, to put her in a home immediately because she has clearly lost her mind.

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