Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Family and Children => Topic started by: lilblu on April 03, 2013, 01:09:54 PM

Title: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: lilblu on April 03, 2013, 01:09:54 PM
This is such a long story that I'm going to shorten it as much as possible, but I can provide more details if necessary. And for those who've been following my babysitting problems with my grandma and cousin, this question is about relatives on the other side of my family. Just thought I should point that out to avoid possible confusion.


Several years ago my uncle, his wife and two kids did not make any efforts to visit or call at Christmas. Several months later, my uncle tells his parents (my grandparents) that something is going on with his daughter and that she stopped talking, had to be taken out of school, and is seeing a therapist, but no one knows what's going on. This information was meant only for my grandparents, who are usually good at keeping secrets. Worried, my grandparents called them back several weeks later and no one ever answered or called back. They had their youngest daughter write a letter to their son which had threats that if he didn't call back, they would come visit him (idle threats, but he didn't know that). Shortly after that he had their phone disconnected. A few years pass with no contact at all until he sends them a greeting card from the county they previously lived in. The family assumed he packed up the wife and kids and moved back to that county (on the other side of the state). A few other family members attempted to contact him with no luck. He has not contacted anyone else since then. My grandparents are very upset as their health is declining and they would like to see their son and grandchildren, and are of course concerned about their granddaugher.

I have spent the last several years discreetly looking into this situation because my grandparents have been so upset. I have found several disturbing things but don't know what to make of them because of the timeline and lack of information.

Here's what I know: my uncle's daughter stopped talking and had to be taken out of school (he told that to his parents). I found out that around the time she stopped talking, she had gone missing for about 24 hrs, but that no foul play was suspected. It was thought that she simply got lost (there was an online article about it). It sounds like she was already being homeschooled by then but I'm not sure. So it's unclear whether this incident is what caused her to stop talking or if it's unrelated and came after.

I found out that my uncle still lives in the same place, but the wife and kids moved back to the county where they previously lived. I checked court records and they appear to still be married. Considering they are living hundreds of miles and several hours away from each other, it leaves me wondering what's going on. That seems awfully expensive for a couple who isn't divorced when my uncle is the only one working. His job pays well, but it can't pay THAT well. It leaves me wondering if my uncle did something to his daughter, because he should be able to work anywhere with his qualifications, so why not live closer to the kids?

To top it all off, I found something that indicates that my uncle's daughter may have a very particular anxiety disorder. I have no way of knowing exactly how accurate the information is, but I'm certain she does have some sort of anxiety disorder. Depending on which disorder she has, it could be caused from a traumatic event. The disorder she is listed as having is something anyone could get, but it actually runs in our family, which is something no one else but me realizes. Even if she has the hereditary disorder, that's no reason to cut them off from the rest of the family. And if something happened to her, my uncle doesn't have to tell us. He shouldn't have said anything in the first place. All he needs to say is that she suffers from an anxiety disorder, she's getting treatment, and they don't wish to discuss that matter any further. There is no reason to cut themselves off from ALL of us.

So I'm left unsure of what to do with this knowledge, besides keeping it a secret from the family. Do I contact my uncle and let him know that I know about the anxiety disorder and that I support them? I also have the hereditary anxiety disorder (no one in the family knows) and know exactly how debilitating it is so I am genuinely concerned. If my cousin doesn't try to fight this, she's going to end up in a bad place (figuratively speaking) like me with no way out. So I want to make sure she doesn't follow in my footsteps.

I realize it's not my business, but I'm concerned for my cousin and my grandparents are upset and concerned that their son has cut himself off from them for unknown reasons. They're concerned for their granddaughter because they don't know what's going on with her. Remember, no one else knows what I know.

So I don't know what to do. My grandmother's health is going downhill and I feel like something needs to be done.

My other thought was that I could simply just play dumb and "friend" my cousins on their Facebook page. I could put info in my profile about me having the disorder and see if anyone "bites." And then if there's no contact, I could maybe email my uncle.

Thoughts? I just don't know what the proper thing to do is. I don't want to stick my nose where it doesn't belong, but I don't know the boundaries. I need help figuring them out. The last thing I want to do is make things worse.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: TootsNYC on April 03, 2013, 01:18:12 PM
None of this is your business.

Not the tiniest bit of it.

However, I think you *can* do this, which is to write to the uncle or to the wife and say, "I've recently been diagnosed with XYZ disorder, which is hereditary. I'm letting everyone in the family know so that they can consider whether they want to share this info with their own doctors, or be able to recognize symptoms, should they develop."

And that's it. No follow-up, nothing.

You'll have to give up some privacy to do this. But that is all you can do--you cannot ask to see if they need to know this info. You just drop the info off on their doorstep, so to speak.

(My aunt, with whom there is no estrangement, was diagnosed w/ something that is hereditary in the female line. She made a point to give this info to every woman that she is related to. She'd give a baby girl up for adoption many years before, so she forwarded this info to the adoption agency she had worked with. That's about the equivalent of what you're doing.)
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: squeakers on April 03, 2013, 01:21:14 PM
This is not really an etiquette thing other than, yes, mind your own business. In this day and age if someone wants to find someone else it is relatively easy to do.  It's not always the right thing to do, though.  Your Aunt could have at any time reached out.  She has chosen not to do so.  It's best to follow her lead. Your cousin may contact you on her own when she is older.

It's always better to let an injured party decide when to do the contacting.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: LeveeWoman on April 03, 2013, 01:25:18 PM
Please don't insert yourself into this situation.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: bopper on April 03, 2013, 01:25:37 PM
I agree with Toots.  Let your Uncle/Aunt know that you have the disorder, but leave the ball in their court.  As  long as you feel everyone is safe, it is their lives.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: Judah on April 03, 2013, 02:32:11 PM
I your uncle wanted you or your grandparents to know what was going on they would have told you.  They obviously want privacy, so give it to them.  This not in any way any of your business.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: Hmmmmm on April 03, 2013, 02:38:12 PM
None of this is your business.

Not the tiniest bit of it.

However, I think you *can* do this, which is to write to the uncle or to the wife and say, "I've recently been diagnosed with XYZ disorder, which is hereditary. I'm letting everyone in the family know so that they can consider whether they want to share this info with their own doctors, or be able to recognize symptoms, should they develop."

And that's it. No follow-up, nothing.

You'll have to give up some privacy to do this. But that is all you can do--you cannot ask to see if they need to know this info. You just drop the info off on their doorstep, so to speak.

(My aunt, with whom there is no estrangement, was diagnosed w/ something that is hereditary in the female line. She made a point to give this info to every woman that she is related to. She'd give a baby girl up for adoption many years before, so she forwarded this info to the adoption agency she had worked with. That's about the equivalent of what you're doing.)

This.

Also, it seems like you are speculating. 
"It leaves me wondering if my uncle did something to his daughter, because he should be able to work anywhere with his qualifications, so why not live closer to the kids?"

I obviously have less information than you. But I think it is very premature to jump to this type of theory without more than shared here.

A couple could decide to separate without a legal divorce.
The mother could have moved to a different location to be closer to a school that better meets the daughter's needs.
Though your uncle has skills that make him employable anywhere, his tenure at his existing company could mean he is paid much higher than he might at a different company.
The couple could have a home in the original location they are having a hard time selling and the mother is living with a family member.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: NyaChan on April 03, 2013, 03:07:16 PM
I agree with Toots.  Let your Uncle/Aunt know that you have the disorder, but leave the ball in their court.  As  long as you feel everyone is safe, it is their lives.

POD.  Do your due diligence in informing them of the medical issue which may have an effect on them, but otherwise, MYOB.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: kitchcat on April 03, 2013, 05:01:24 PM
POD to the people saying MYOB.

Even if the worst case scenario happens to be true and your uncle did harm your cousin, consider this: you are still his niece and his wife may be the one who does not want contact with her husband's side of the family because they want to be left alone. If your uncle was abusive (and there is no direct evidence of that), I doubt his wife would want to maintain contact with his family.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: reflection5 on April 03, 2013, 05:18:08 PM
OP, you said yoorself in your post:

Quote
I realize it's not my business,

I agree with another member:

Quote
None of this is your business.

Not the tiniest bit of it.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: WillyNilly on April 03, 2013, 05:29:07 PM
So I have an aunt, a hip, fun, attractive aunt of about 50. She married when she was 19 or 20 and had a daughter about 2-3 years later. At some point she and her husband separated. They have been separated for over 20 years now. They have never divorced. They live perfectly happy separate lives. They just don't believe in divorce. Other family members are divorced, so its not like it would be some big scandal if they did, they just don't. Its really not a big deal or even all that interesting.

That same aunt, was very close to her parents. My mother (her sister) was not. For various reason that are very real, but that only affected my mother's relationship with her parents and that were no longer relevant for her sister who is 7 years younger. As a result my cousin grew up in contact with and in fact very close to (emotionally, but also physical proximity) our grandparents, whereas I did not. And due to estrangement with her parents and no internet decades ago, my mom grew apart from many extended family as well, and then my parents divorced and i lived with my dad, so I had no contact with my grandparents. I think one is still alive but I' not even 100% sure. Again, its not a big deal or all that interesting.

These do not sound like big 'oh my gosh' super important revelations you have discovered, but rather mundane "oh so your family is pretty normal in that they are a bit dysfunctional in a few minor ways" information.

If you want to share your medical history for the sake of helping family, that's cool. If you want to send friend requests to your cousins because you found them on FB, that's cool. But please don't make this more then it is. And what it is, is not really your business. Very few people want to open up to estranged cousins about their anxieties and the state of their parent's marriage, please don't ask them to.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: cicero on April 03, 2013, 11:46:01 PM
I agree with PPs. You should stay out/away. Your line of reasoning may be correct but it also may be very far off the wall. In fact, there is something stalker-esqe about gathering this info about your relatives. Yes, I understand thast the info is out there, in the public domain, but most of us, beyond a lazy surface glance, in a 'oh cousin Bob is living in Wyoming, that's cool' kinda way, don't dig that far.

If your grandparents are really sad, maybe suggest that they hire an arbitrator or someone who can find and facilitate a meeting. But otherwise, back out and accept that in most families there are relatives who, for whatever reasons, are distanced/estranged from the rest of the family
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: sweetonsno on April 04, 2013, 06:32:28 AM
It's not your business why this family unit decided they didn't want to continue to have a relationship with the rest of the family. It is not your place to try and force them to come back into the family, either by showing up/initiating contact or passing on their information to someone else who will. The fact that they have not reached out in the past several years should indicate that they do not wish to do so. Painful? Yes. However, something pretty painful must have happened to make them decide it was worth sacrificing a relationship with the family.

Aside from perhaps manipulating someone into responding to you, what purpose would informing them of your condition serve? Remember, they don't know that you've been digging into their personal lives online. Assuming that someone had no knowledge whatsoever of your disorder, would it make any sense for them to inform you that they had it? With some genetic diseases and disorder, there are clear benefits of disclosing: learning that you need to get screened for a potentially life-threatening illness or that you should consider undergoing genetic testing should you become pregnant come to mind. However, with anxiety disorders, it seems that there would be very little benefit to an out-of-left-field declaration. If this girl has the anxiety disorder, chances are that she and her family have figured out that she has a problem and they've already looked for a diagnosis (and/or treatment).

If you have informed all of the relatives that you are in contact with because you feel that they need to have this particular health information for themselves, then yes, you can send a quick letter to your uncle. As PPs have suggested, leave it short and don't go fishing for a response, even under the guise of wanting to "confirm delivery."

It's unfortunate, but I think you and your family might need to let this go. Cicero had a great idea about suggesting that your grandparents find someone to help. Maybe a mediator?
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: *inviteseller on April 04, 2013, 07:52:07 AM
I have read and re read your story and thought about this.  I truly believe that, while you have some information, they are not concrete answers to any questions, in fact it would seem your search has given you more questions than answers.  To say anything to your grandparents, no matter that you feel they have a right to know, is to be saying innuendo and suppositions.  While you hate to see your Uncle's behavior hurting your grandparents, it is only you aunt and uncles story to tell and until they are ready to tell it, I would not say anything. 
2 years ago, my own DD started to have some serious issues.  I played everything close to the vest, especially with my dad because of his health issues and my not wanting him to get upset.  Some people thought that I should be forthcoming (they knew something was up, just not what) and decided to start digging.  They ended up embarrassing themselves when they 'confronted' me with their 'evidence' of the issues, and they weren't remotely close and it was unreal at how sure they were in basically trashing my DD, who was having a medical issues but they had her pregnant and addicted to drugs.  They decided to share this 'evidence' with others and while trying to focus on my DD's serious problems I also had to do damage control.  My DD shares her story now, but it was always up to her who and when to tell people that she was ill, and all the misinformation did was hurt her in a very bad time.  I would not even try to smoke them out by revealing on FB that you have a disorder that your cousin may also have.  While some may feel a kinship with someone who is suffering as themselves, some people do not care to have their medical issues discussed.  It is not fair to friend someone you suspect of having an illness just to satisfy the families need for knowledge. 
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: wolfie on April 04, 2013, 10:15:00 AM
Does knowing this could be a genetic problem change the treatment options? If the problem is from trauma then X, Y or Z are proper, but if it is known to run in the family then A, B or C is also an option? If that is the case I would tell them you have this issue too and it can run in the family and you want them to know, just in case. Then stop back and let them contact you if they want to. If not then I would really consider what you (not your grandparents, but you) want out of a possible relationship and work from there.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: EllenS on April 04, 2013, 12:08:34 PM
I would ask, what is your goal?  Do you miss your relatives and want to re-establish a relationship with them because you love them, or want to make sure they know you are thinking of them?  Then send them birthday and Christmas cards.

I think your suggested letter about letting the whole family know your hereditary condition is OK - *as long as you actually DO send it to the whole family*.  Otherwise it is a manipulative game.

Honestly, if the level of snooping and manipulation you describe (threatening letters? lying?) is common in your extended family,  I think that your aunt's reason for living far away may not be about your uncle.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: LeveeWoman on April 04, 2013, 12:16:37 PM
I would ask, what is your goal?  Do you miss your relatives and want to re-establish a relationship with them because you love them, or want to make sure they know you are thinking of them?  Then send them birthday and Christmas cards.

I think your suggested letter about letting the whole family know your hereditary condition is OK - *as long as you actually DO send it to the whole family*.  Otherwise it is a manipulative game.

Honestly, if the level of snooping and manipulation you describe (threatening letters? lying?) is common in your extended family,  I think that your aunt's reason for living far away may not be about your uncle.

I agree. Lilblu has done a great deal of checking on this situation over the years, and making some extremely judgmental assumptions, going so far as to dictate that her uncle needs to tell  him if his daughter is suffering from some supposed medical issue.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: TootsNYC on April 04, 2013, 12:20:35 PM
I'm kind of on the other side of this.  Years ago, our youngest brother dropped off the face of the earth.  Emails went unanswered.  Snail mail to his address went unanswered.  We heard and saw nothing from this guy until the day that a detective tracked us down to inform us that he was found dead in his room.  He was 39 years old and apparently died from massive self-neglect.   He lived less than 30 miles from me.

Apparently he was depressed.  I will spend the rest of my life wishing that I'd tried harder to reach out to him.  He had nothing in his room to lead them to his family, and none of his friends at work or anywhere else knew he had family.  That's how depressed he was - we didn't exist anymore. 

I say, track them down and find out what's going on.

I think one big difference here is that this was your brother.

Not your uncle.
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: bah12 on April 04, 2013, 12:25:51 PM
I agree that it's none of your business and in no way is it appropriate to tell your grandmother anything that you found out doing your internet searches.

I do think that if you wish to reestablish contact with your uncle and cousin, then you can do that.  You can email your uncle about your disorder "for his knowledge" and try to friend your cousin on FB (I'd even send her a PM letting her know about the hereditary disorder "for her knowledge".)  If they bite, they bite.  If they don't, drop it.

If they do decide to reopen contact with you, I don't think there's anything wrong with saying "grandma's been really worried."  But it's really up to them to decide what, if anything, to do with that. 
Title: Re: Not sure if I should get involved or MMOB - long story
Post by: cicero on April 04, 2013, 12:27:23 PM
I'm kind of on the other side of this.  Years ago, our youngest brother dropped off the face of the earth.  Emails went unanswered.  Snail mail to his address went unanswered.  We heard and saw nothing from this guy until the day that a detective tracked us down to inform us that he was found dead in his room.  He was 39 years old and apparently died from massive self-neglect.   He lived less than 30 miles from me.

Apparently he was depressed.  I will spend the rest of my life wishing that I'd tried harder to reach out to him.  He had nothing in his room to lead them to his family, and none of his friends at work or anywhere else knew he had family.  That's how depressed he was - we didn't exist anymore. 

I say, track them down and find out what's going on.

I think one big difference here is that this was your brother.

Not your uncle.

Another difference is that OP KNOWS that they are alive.

I am sorry for your pain, LadyJaneinMD, that must be something extremely painful and difficult to live with.