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Be Thankful Your Family Isn’t Like This

I grew up around my Mother’s very large, close, well-adjusted family. My Father was welcomed into this family and was estranged from his own. I had no idea of all the reasons why, thankfully he’d kept his children sheltered from them. The summer I was 13 I got my first experience with his relatives. My paternal grandfather died that summer, and his funeral was where I met them.

Some background:

I learned all of this as an adult from my Mother: Both sides of my father’s family were highly dysfunctional. His mother was so poor growing up that she and her 13 siblings only got one meal a day. When they’d get home from school, they got to have rice with sugar. But there were always ants all over the rice, so they’d spread it on a cookie sheet and bake it to get the ants off. Only then could they cook it. Their mother was a mentally ill prostitute and all the kids had different fathers (none of the children knew who their fathers were). My grandmother was very attractive and her siblings considered her sooooo lucky when she married a sailor (my grandfather) and became a military wife. She escaped from the grinding poverty. However, my grandfather was a violent alcoholic who beat her, and eventually, their three children. His entire family were Arkies—they’d come to California during the depression, from the Arkansas Ozarks. They were actually inbred (my great-grandparents were apparently cousins), pretty much illiterate, and quite violent. This is what my Father came from. No wonder he estranged himself!

My dad was the oldest, and he had two younger sisters. My Father’s earliest memory, according to my Mother, was of being in the car while his parents argued in the front seat. My grandfather stopped the car, dragged my grandmother out on the side of the road, and beat her until she bled. Then shoved her back in the passenger seat and kept on driving. When my father got old enough, he began to protect his mother and two sisters by from the abuse. By the time he was 15, he was big enough to fight with his father and hold his own.

My father was physically forced by his father to join the Navy after he graduated from high school. He was shipped off to sea and my Grandfather started to beat his wife and daughters again. One day my grandmother had finally had enough, she and the two girls got in her car (they were 16 and 18) and drove off, sobbing, through Sacramento. She ran a red light, and they were hit by a semi, killing all three of them instantly. My father was brought back to the states for this, where he had a mental breakdown and was consequently discharged. He had been very close to his mother and sisters, after spending an entire childhood protecting them. He blamed his father, and after several ugly incidents between them, he was shipped off to an aunt’s house in Bakersfield about six months after the accident.

My Mother then met my Father, because she was caring for an elderly family friend, and his aunt lived next door to said elderly family friend. She was invited for Thanksgiving dinner at his aunt’s house after making his acquaintance. My grandfather arrived to this shindig drunk, verbally abused all of his relatives, and then physically attacked his son. Consequently my Dad and his father had a huge knock-down-drag-out fight in front of all of them which culminated with them knocking over an entire table full of food, destroying the turkey and everything else. My Mother was absolutely speechless at this behavior, and walked out. My father cornered her later and apologized. He was fascinated with her because she’d shown no fear of my grandfather (my Mother, to this day, has balls of steel. She fears NOTHING).

There’s lots more, but that should give you a general introduction to my Father’s family, and why he distanced himself from them after marrying my Mother. She taught him how to have backbone, and with her support, he cut off contact with them, except for supervised visits with my grandfather. We were his only grandchildren, so he was allowed to see us, as long as rules were followed. 1)Grandpa couldn’t be drunk. 2) He wasn’t allowed to take us anywhere or be alone with us. and 3) my Father warned him if he ever laid a hand on any of us he wouldn’t be responsible for the fact that my Mother would not hesitate to shoot him. Apparently my Grandfather laughed at this until my Father showed him my Mother’s gun collection. She is an old, tough cowgirl and again, the woman is absolutely fearless. She was raised by men who took her grizzly bear hunting for fun—she wasn’t scared of some old, drunken, bullying sailor. Of course, I knew none of this growing up, we were sheltered from it. (End of background)

So anyway, the only one I had ever met was my grandfather, and he had always been on his best behavior around us. He died the summer I was 13; we had to go to Sacramento to hold his funeral and settle his affairs. Apparently my grandfather had bought a house for his widowed mother some years back; after she had passed away, one of his sisters (Aunt Susie) lived in the house. She was elderly and widowed and lived off social security, so he let her stay. At the funeral, Aunt Susie, whom I had never met, latched on to my arm when she discovered who I was, with this incredibly painful vise grip. You see, the house now belonged to my Father, and she was terrified he was going to sell it from under her and leave her homeless; this was apparently not out of character for the men in my Father’s family. She whined and cried to me the entire time and begged me to appeal to my father not to sell the house and leave her out on the street. My parents were super busy and it took a while for them to realize this woman was hurting me (I was quite timid at the time and didn’t say anything to them, trying to handle it on my own). After my father pried her off of me I had bruises all up and down my arm and bloody nail marks; my father had to promise Aunt Susie he wouldn’t abandon her and tell her to stop harassing me. She kept coming back and eventually I had to stick to my father’s side like glue to keep her at bay (I was quite scared of her by this time). He finally yelled at her and she huffed off and didn’t come to the reception.

At the grave site, my Grandfather was laid to rest next to his wife and daughters, who had died 16 years before. Several of my father’s cousins decided to have a loud conversation right in front of my Father about his mother and sisters, and how awful their deaths were, and how mutilated their remains were; that they knew this because my grandfather insisted—INSISTED!—on having an open casket funeral despite this. In other words, they were gossiping quite rudely and graphically about it, during a graveside service, and in front of my Father. My Mother glared daggers at them but kept her mouth shut.

After the funeral there was a reception at my Grandfather’s house. During this reception I went to the bathroom and discovered a dark stain on my underwear; I’d just had my first period. Oh joy. I told my Mother discreetly; she went to find me a pad and mentioned it to my father. My father’s cousin Ricky, who had been following him around all day and trying to get money out of him, overheard this, and proceeded to loudly announce it to every single relative at the reception. For the rest of the afternoon I had strange women coming up and asking me about it, while I just wanted to die of embarrassment. Ricky’s sister Roberta then started talking to me about how boys were evil, they were going to want to attack me now that I was a ‘woman’ so I’d better watch out, and that sex was bad and evil and such until my I ran for my Mother and she had to intervene and tell Roberta to shut her trap and stop scaring me.

Roberta’s two teenage sons, during all this, had gone out back bored, and decided it would be fun to harass the neighbor’s two German Shepherds by throwing rocks at them. When the neighbors got mad, they responded by yelling and screaming obscenities and threats back, until Ricky and my Father heard them and dragged them back in the house. The neighbors called the cops, who showed up at the reception and asked my Father to control the boys. By this time he had had enough, and he told Roberta to take her kids and go home. She tried to refuse and to this day, I remember her exact words: I want some of Uncle Al’s stuff and I’m not leaving until I go through the house and take what I want. My Father suddenly morphed into a man I’d never seen before; he began bellowing at her, calling her really bad things and telling her to get out of the house before he beat the holy living crap out of her. He made several threatening gestures and she and her boys retreated, fleeing the house.

Ricky tried to stand up for his sister, and was holding his own until he made the mistake of telling my Father he was acting like his Dad, at which point my Father lost all self control and put a fist in his face. Suddenly I and my siblings were shoved into a bedroom by my Mother, as she had witnessed these family brawls before and didn’t want us being collateral damage. We were in there for a good half hour before it finally quieted down and my Mother let us out. Everyone was gone and my Father was out back chain-smoking and trying to calm down.

The whole experience was quite frightening for me, I’d never been around people like that before. The entire family was that way! My Father refused to ever speak to any of them again, except for Aunt Susie. He arranged a place for her in an assisted living center before he sold the house she lived in; to her credit, she wrote him a nice thank you note, although she never apologized for hurting and scaring me at the funeral. When she died a few years later, that was it. He told my Mother as far as he was concerned they didn’t exist. I certainly didn’t blame him.

That was 25 years ago. Recently one of my father’s cousins tracked me down on Facebook. I tentatively communicated with her for a little bit. She talked a little about the family and one of the first things she did was inform me was that her father, my Dad’s uncle, had molested her and her sister, and began to tell me about it in great detail. I had to block her, it was so disturbing and she wouldn’t stop. To this day I cannot believe I actually share DNA with these people. 0609-11


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Marozia November 25, 2014, 5:40 am

    Gee….and I thought my family was crazy!
    As to your FB cousin, good for you for blocking her.. If you want to have an FB relationship with her, you’re going to have to lay down the ground rules about tittle-tattling about family (NOT SAYING that molestation is tittle-tattle, everyone, please understand!!), but not to make the whole relationship about family.
    Perhaps it’s a case of letting bygones be bygones and dissing the lot of dad’s family.

    • The Elf November 25, 2014, 10:33 am

      Honestly, considering the two have never had a relationship before, I see no reason to start one up now even just on Facebook.

      I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to FB cousin, that the statements about molestation might have been a warning (if the man is still alive) or a probe to see if maybe there wasn’t some problematic behavior towards her too. But that said, graphic detail just after friending someone is a little much!

    • Jenny Islander November 29, 2014, 1:50 pm

      The general rule is that family is family and therapists are therapists, and they shouldn’t be confused with each other.

  • LeeLee88 November 25, 2014, 6:28 am

    This sounds eerily like my own father’s family. I’d truly believe it was them, if it wasn’t for the prostitute and Navy part. You have my deepest sympathies, and I’m happy for all of you that your dad cut them out. I was forced to be around my dad’s family far longer than I ever wanted to be, and I can’t tell you how horrid that was. Thank God, they’re no longer in our lives, but I hear they still stalk my parents. It’s totally healthy and sane… sure.

  • JWH November 25, 2014, 6:58 am

    OP’s mother deserves a medal here. OP’s dad’s behavior at the funeral raises an interesting point. How long can you reasonably expect a person, in an already emotionally taut situation (a funeral) to maintain his composure and grace in the face of a dozen-plus horrible people constantly mashing his buttons? Something has to snap eventually, I think.

    • AnaMaria November 25, 2014, 1:11 pm

      I’m surprised the dad got as far as he did without snapping. These relatives were clearly harassing his daughter, and we don’t know if his other children or his wife had dealt with anything similar (or worse). My own dad is a retired high school teacher and he could take the most defiant, uncontrollable student (or crazed, my-kid-can-do-no-wrong parent) with complete grace and patience, but someone hurting me or my mom would put him in ready-to-fight mode. The dad in the story was probably far past that point when Ricky pushed him over the edge.

  • Tracy P November 25, 2014, 7:13 am

    I find myself wishing that the OP’s father hadn’t taken his family to the funeral and subjected them to all of this. I hope it gave the family closure since it sounds like they had something of a relationship with the grandfather while he followed the rules. But I think the father should have given a true cut direct and not even allowed that.

    • Jessica November 25, 2014, 8:12 pm

      He kind of had to I mean the guy was his children’s grandpa and THEY had always seen him as a good person who they loved, it would be very difficult to explain why they all of a sudden werent allowed to say goodbye to their grand dad. Good on the parents for sheltering the kids from this and for the father for maintaining composure as long as he did. Good on them also for at least allowing the kids to know their grandfather despite what he was like while making sure they were not exposed to his bad side.

    • Aleko November 30, 2014, 9:33 am

      I agree with Jessica. He must have reckoned that his children would need to know about his family sooner or later and this was probably the best time, when he was around to deal with them. (Can you imagine what it would have been like for the OP if the first time she had met that tribe was when they all turned up at *his* funeral?)

  • Cat November 25, 2014, 7:23 am

    Whoever said blood is thicker than water did not have relatives like this. These people are toxic.
    One side of my family is like that. I wrote them a note after several nasty cards and emails telling me what a horrible person I was. You are welcome to copy it.
    “Thank you for your sweet note. I am so sorry that our relationship did not work out. I wish you and your family all the best, always. Sincerely, ( Miss) Cat”
    I said “sweet note” because I could think of no way to thank someone for a hateful note. The last email read, ‘You are probably wondering why you have never met any of your sisters. They have agreed there is no need for them to ever see you. They are getting all the “news” about you from a “third party” and are happy just talking about you among themselves.’ Weird people to want to gossip about a total stranger.

    • The Elf November 25, 2014, 10:35 am

      You said it, Cat. Blood does not make someone “family”! I love your solution with the sweet note; it’s just perfect.

    • AnaMaria November 25, 2014, 1:20 pm

      I don’t understand our mindset that blood and blood alone can make a family, anyway. Totally different situation from the OP, but I was adopted a few days after birth (my birth parents were 15 and 16; my mom and dad were unable to have biological children and were thrilled to finally have a daughter). I tracked down my birth mother when I was 22, and it turned out my birth father lived in the same town, so I went to visit them for a weekend. It was great to meet them, answer each other’s questions, and really just express my thanks to them for choosing to give me life and making so many sacrifices for me. However, I was shocked when I returned home and people asked me if I finally felt “complete” now that I had met my “real family.” My mom and dad raised me since I was three days old, how on earth are they not my real family?? As I mentioned, I am forever grateful to my birth parents and I have a good relationship with them to this day, but I would never consider them more family than I do my mom and dad.

      • Cabelcb November 25, 2014, 10:17 pm

        That is rude to say. Your “real” parents are the ones who raised you. Biology does not always determine who are the real parents. I think people focus too much on biology instead of actions.

        • Cat November 26, 2014, 2:04 am

          They are all “real”. No adopted person should have to choose who is “real” and who is not. All these people are a part of what you are; don’t deny any of them.
          Birth parents often find it terribly difficult to give up a child and to tell them they are not “real” parents makes a mockery of the sacrifice they made. Adoptive parents do the hard work of raising a child. They don’t need to be told that, “I found my real parents. I don’t need you.”
          Draw the circles of your life to include them all in, not to shut any of them out without serious cause.

          • Enna November 26, 2014, 5:33 am

            I think both the biological parents and the adoptive parents are real parents. Sometimes being reunited/re-introduced to biological parents doesn’t always work out because there are a lot of painful feelings on both sides. Clearly, AnaMaria’s biological parents had made a very difficult choice, but had her interests at heart and her adoptive parents loved her and looked after her. All four people had her interests at heart.

        • Noodle November 26, 2014, 11:11 pm

          Agreed but you wouldn’t believe how many people make remarks like that (I was adopted under similar circumstances).

          • Cat November 27, 2014, 7:09 pm

            I am adopted too, so I believe it. My favorite is from my first year of teaching. In those days, I was very open about being adopted. My adoptive mother was dying of cancer; and I was upset to be losing her when I was only twenty-two years old.
            Our math teacher said, “I don’t know why you are so upset. It’s not like she is your “real” mother.” She was real to me.
            I did find my biological parents. I met my mother once and we had no connection. I was surprised to find I am very much like my father. I am glad I found them.

      • BellyJean November 26, 2014, 1:48 pm

        Thank you for this. As another person who was adopted, I absolutely hold dear that the definition of
        “real family” is of those who raised me, were there for me through happy/sad/challenging/exciting days of my life. Some may say it’s semantics, but to me, it’s a very important distinction. If someone ever asks me, “So, have you ever met your ‘real parents'”? I say, “Sure! I lived with them for the first 19 years of my life!”

    • Aunt4god November 25, 2014, 2:26 pm

      The actual saying is “the blood of the battlefield is thicker than the water of the womb.” It has been so very mangled that now most people believe it to mean the opposite of what it meant originally.

      • The Elf November 26, 2014, 10:10 am

        Now that saying I like!

      • Ai November 26, 2014, 11:13 am

        …I need to make sure to remember the actual saying.

    • AIP November 25, 2014, 3:15 pm

      I rather think that whomever said that WERE relatives like that! 😉

    • Lanes November 25, 2014, 5:07 pm

      In total agreement – sharing DNA does not mean you owe anything to anybody. You don’t need to have a traumatic life event as an excuse, either. Love and respect is earned and granted, not demanded and extracted.

      I should also add that sharing history also does not mean you owe anything to anybody. I think trying to maintain toxic friendships can be just as damaging as trying to maintain toxic familial relationships.

      • Archie November 26, 2014, 10:44 am

        Someone said during the acrimonious interactions when my sister got married – this is the difference between “family” and “relatives”. That cleared it up for me.

        Relatives are whom I don’t have a choice with, bound by nature, DNA and blood.
        Family is who stands by me and actually treats me like a daughter and becomes a mom/dad/uncle/aunt/brother/sister to me – regardless of whether I might ever donate a kidney to them someday or not.

  • Kate November 25, 2014, 8:21 am

    OP, I’m sorry that you were even made aware of all of this, let alone had to witness some of it. I have a dysfunctional side of the family too, although it was nowhere near as bad as yours. I have not spoken to these people in about 20 years.

    There are so many stories on this website about people with horrible relatives, who keep going back for whatever reason. I am certainly not questioning anyone’s decision to allow certain people to remain in their lives, but I do know thats I, and I’m assuming you as well, live happier, more fulfilling and peaceful lives because we have decided to cut out this cancer. And I call it cancer, because that’s what these people are like. It probably started with one person how many generations ago and all of that hate and violence metastasized until it seems that entire branches of families are filled with it.

  • B November 25, 2014, 9:00 am

    I’m sorry you had to witness all this, and above all, I am so sorry for your poor father. What he went through is just hideous. I hope he has peace and happiness with your mother.

  • Michelle November 25, 2014, 9:09 am

    Wow. Oh my. I’m really sorry you had to go through those things. Smart decision and job well done to your mother & father for shielding you & your siblings as much as possible and limiting the amount of contact you had to have with these people.

    P.S. Your Mom sounds AWESOME. 🙂

    • Library Diva November 26, 2014, 1:15 pm

      I agree. OP, if you are ever in need of a project and you enjoy writing, you should capture her story. I’d read the biography of a former cowgirl who grew up hunting grizzly bears for fun.

  • boz November 25, 2014, 9:34 am

    Wow… and I thought my own father’s family was bad. Similar circumstances. We did not have much of any contact with them because they did not like my mother. I guess my grandmother and his sisters wanted him to marry one of their friends. My mother wasn’t good enough. They would never call her by her correct name, instead always calling her the friends name which was very similar.

    After a few years, my parents did have some contact with one of his brothers and his wife. This aunt and uncle were okay, not hostile like the rest of dad’s family. When my uncle died, they kept some contact with my aunt and then her daughter who ended up taking care of her when aunts health declined. Although cousin had siblings, she was aunt’s sole caregiver. Her siblings were busy with thier lives and cousin wasn’t married at the time (in her fifties) and had no kids. Her siblings, as I said, were busy with their own lives and did not have time to visit aunt, especially as she had alzhimeirs. Cousin had to still work so had to hire daytime help. Spending money on their mother did not go over well with cousin’s siblings. That was their inheritance afterall. Eventually, aunt passed away.

    Aunt’s funeral was the first time my sisters and I had to deal with dad’s family. My dad was wheelchair bound at the time, because of cancer. Mom could not leave him home by himself for any length of time so she asked my sisters and I to go to the funeral.

    Wow. I never saw such theatrics at a funeral. I was expecting Jerry Springer to jump out of a pew somewhere in the church. Every time cousin got near her sister, sister would jump up away with a loud cry like she was trying to get away from an animal that was mauling her. In church. And even though these ‘cousins’ never spoke to us before, since it was obvious we knew cousin, we were treated the same way.

    At the cemetary, there was a quick prayer in the chapel where the casket was to be left and buried after everyone departed. Cousin turns to us and starts telling us that there will be a luncheon we can come to. At this point, her sister turns to her and says that neither she nor we are invited to the luncheon. Another relative, I don’t know who, starts yelling that cousin owes them $35,000 from aunt’s money. They are all standing about 2 feet from aunt’s casket.

    The argument spilled outside of the chapel from there. My sister started telling them they should be ashamed of themselves. They just started yelling obsenities. Luckily my car was close by. We got into it to take off. Although not ettiquette sanctioned, my sister rolled down the window and started humming the theme from “Deliverance” at them. They got even more angry but we just left.

    When we got to parents house, sister was a little angry that they had us go to funeral in their place. We told them what happened. Mom and dad were stunned. I told my mom that she should fall on her knees and thank God that dad’s family would not have anything to do with her.

    • Mags November 25, 2014, 1:04 pm

      If you were on civil terms with the caretaker cousin, I hope you remain in contact with her. I imagine the rest of her family is making her life a living hell. I am related to one family where there was an inheritance fight between someone of good character and someone who was greedy, grasping and unethical, and it made the good person’s life hell until the end, and, quite frankly, I think the stress of that relationship played a part in the health problems that killed him.

  • Sarah November 25, 2014, 9:35 am

    I think you were lucky to be so well protected by your mother. Due to that you really wonder that your aunt would know that what she did was inappropriate; looking from the outside in, this was a woman who was worried about where she would live, thought your dad would act as the rest of the family did. She was terrified. Just let it go and realise that you have been and are safe from this awful fate. Ring your mum today – she did a great job!
    As for the cousin – do not contact her if you do not wish to do so, but also do not turn your scorn upon an abused child who is trying to make sense of what happened to her. The last part showed very little empathy. You say you blocked her but I am curious to know how. Did you tell her that you were not interested in what she suffered? And that should she contiue you would block her? I imagine you know that the abused lose sense of what is appropriate and what is not, she thought maybe that you would be a sympathetic ear because of being related, Maybe you are still very young and my comments are too harsh for your age but for me you came over as very cold – and lacking in understanding.

    • PM November 25, 2014, 10:26 am

      Even if the aunt was terrified, she should have gone to talk to OP’s dad about her concerns instead of choosing a vulnerable target (OP) and bullying her into speaking on the aunt’s behalf.

      • Library Diva November 25, 2014, 10:58 am

        You’re right, that’s what she should have done. However, this sounds like a woman who has never once witnessed appropriate behavior, maybe not even on television.

        • PM November 25, 2014, 11:01 pm

          Good point

    • Tracy P November 25, 2014, 10:41 am

      As regards the FB cousin, I think the OP did the right thing in blocking her. It isn’t the OP’s job to be a therapist, and a therapist is clearly what the FB cousin needs.

    • B November 25, 2014, 11:46 am

      She’s 38. She was 13 at the funeral 25 years ago.

    • Lera99 November 25, 2014, 11:59 am

      Abuse is not a get out of jail free card.

      I know, that sounds harsh, uncaring, and unsympathetic. But it’s true.

      Bad things happen to people. Some people live through truly hellish childhoods. And that will leave emotional and even physical scars. There are a lot of well adjusted, hard working, good people who were raised by monsters.

      But there are also people who wear their abuse openly because of the sympathy it garners them.

      They become the center of a drama tornado. And when they are called on their manipulative or inappropriate behavior, they paint the person calling them on their behavior as the villain.

      Because THEY WERE ABUSED!

      How dare you tell them it’s not appropriate to recite in agonizing detail what they suffered while out to dinner with your friends!

      How DARE you tell them that they have to pay this month’s rent, they were abused as a child and too depressed to keep a job!

      How DARE you tell them that climbing naked into your bed with you and your boyfriend isn’t ok; they were abused and don’t understand acceptable means of showing affection!

      How DARE you tell them that you are uncomfortable with them bringing strange, drunk men into your home, they were abused and you are slut shaming them!

      How DARE you refuse to bail them out of jail after they were caught shoplifting, and after they were caught attacking their ex’s new girlfriend, and after they threw a punch at a cop during a DUI stop – because they were abused and you should have sympathy for how hard that was!

      I am sorry for people who had terrible childhoods. They deserved better.
      But that doesn’t mean I will excuse any and all bad acts they perform as adults.

      • NostalgicGal December 1, 2014, 4:43 pm

        Exactly. This. Exactly.

      • Livvy17 December 11, 2014, 11:21 am

        Yes, absolutely. Especially beware the people who immediately overshare their tales of woe – in my experience, these are people who enjoy the drama, manipulate others, and excuse themselves (while blaming YOU) for their terrible behavior, just as described above.

    • Anonymous November 25, 2014, 12:17 pm

      My first thought was, is the OP’s father’s uncle (so, her great-uncle) still alive? If so, maybe the cousin told the OP what she told her as a “cautionary tale,” but then ended up oversharing, because she never properly dealt with her issues. Given what that family is like, maybe she (Cousin) didn’t feel like she could tell anyone, or maybe if she did, they either didn’t believe her, or blamed her for “bringing it upon herself,” or “bringing shame upon the family,” or some other similar nonsense. But, my point is, maybe the Cousin was really just trying to say, “Stay away from Great-Uncle.”

    • Amber November 25, 2014, 1:27 pm

      Given the timeline, OP is in her late 30s. I think she’s old enough to know the difference between “being cold” and “escaping someone who barely knows you but needs to share all the horrors of their life.” Abuse is horrible, and it does cause serious mental scarring, and people who are abused should certainly be given the chance to vent to someone who is a sympathetic ear. But we are not all required to be that sympathetic ear, nor is it fair for someone experiencing trauma to unleash that trauma on an unsuspecting other.

    • Valki November 25, 2014, 9:05 pm

      OP is not required to be cousin’s sounding board for her life, and I think you are the one who sounds lacking in understanding. “Oh, here is your highly dysfunctional family life! I, a complete stranger on the Internet, think you could have handled it better. Let me tell you how, glowing in my displayed empathy.”

  • Goldie November 25, 2014, 9:43 am

    OK I think we all agree OP’s father comes from a terrible, horrendously dysfunctional family. That said, am I a pushover for thinking OP shouldn’t have blocked her father’s cousin? The woman is obviously still traumatized by what happened to her and her sister, and needs help; and she probably cannot talk about this to her family or friends, but thought OP would be safe to vent to. Blocking someone like that sounds a lot like kicking someone who’s already down. Instead of blocking I would maybe offer a sympathetic ear AND point her towards a place, or places, where she can get help?

    • The Elf November 25, 2014, 10:37 am

      Pointing her towards a place where she can talk to a professional (such as the RAINN hotline), would be fine. But it is not OP’s duty to be a sympathetic ear. I don’t want to kick someone when they are down either, but venting to a near-stranger puts unnecessary burden on that person.

      • Cora November 25, 2014, 11:02 am

        Suggesting professional help isn’t kicking a person when they’re down. It may feel like that, but you can always couch it in its real terms: I’m sorry this happened to you, I want to help you, but I don’t know how because I’m not a professional; so here are people in your area or otherwise available who ARE professionals that you can talk to. I think that’s the most compassionate answer you can give — just prepare yourself that she might not take it that way and stomp off in a huff, but that’s on her.

        • Goldie November 26, 2014, 9:24 am

          I was referring to FB blocking, which a lot of people take as a virtual slap in the face. With this, already unstable, woman, being blocked could’ve made her even more unstable. We do not know if OP suggested professional help. I would’ve told the cousin exactly what you suggest. But we don’t know whether the OP did that, or just asked her to stop talking and then blocked.

      • Cat November 25, 2014, 4:11 pm

        Agreed. It’s a mistake to just find someone willing to listen. Most untrained “ears” just want to tell the victim what to do and that is not what a couselor does. It’s not just expressing the hurt and anger; it is learning how to deal with it and to move on.

        • Enna November 26, 2014, 5:43 am

          I agree with the idea of informing somone that you can’t help but you have found A or B organisation who can help them as they are professionals. This is what I would have done in the OP’s situation. Sexual abuse can haunt someone years, decades even after the incident.

    • B November 25, 2014, 10:41 am

      I don’t think it’s fair to say that the OP ‘shouldn’t’ have blocked the cousin. It is her right and her decision not to be involved. That doesn’t make her uncaring when she exercises that right. She put her emotional well-being first, she was enormously uncomfortable and the woman wouldn’t stop. Given the emotional abuse rampant in her father’s family, I don’t think anyone should blame her for taking steps to stay well away from it, and from people she barely knows, whatever their issues. Others may act differently, but we should respect her choice.

      • Enna November 26, 2014, 5:45 am

        But did she tell the cousin this? If someone is upsetting you and you don’t express your distress that is a bit harsh. It doesn’t take much effect to say “I am really sorry for what has happened to you but this is really upsetting me. Please can you not go into any more deatil or I will have to end the conversation. There are professional organiastions you can go to that can give you the support you need e.g. _____________ organisation.”

        • B November 26, 2014, 7:52 am

          We don’t know,and I don’t think it matters, because she has every right not to explain either. It’s just not fair to say she is being harsh, or lacking understanding when she exercises her right to put herself first in the manner she thinks best. She is the one involved, not us. And saying what you suggest can be very difficult, let alone to someone prepared to share incredibly traumatic detail with you from the start. I would not blame the OP for being too intimidated to do that.

          But she has the right to shut it down without explanation, without being judged or blamed for that, and it is vital to respect that.

          • Ai November 26, 2014, 11:19 am

            I completely agree with you. Not only did her cousin unload on her, they were complete strangers at this point, thus there is no relationship. She did good by blocking her cousin.

        • Anonymous November 26, 2014, 8:49 am

          That’s the thing, though–on Facebook Messenger (or, its predecessors, MSN Instant Messenger, AIM, ICQ, and the like), people just communicate in writing, so there are no facial expressions, no voices, no anything except written words. So, you won’t see the discomfort in someone’s face, or in their voice, and that makes it easy for them to take the “easy” way out, and instead of saying, “That makes me uncomfortable,” they can just say, “I have to go now,” or even nothing at all. Yes, video chat is an option now, and I’m not sure if the OP and her cousin ever did that, but my point is, people aren’t always completely real on text-based instant-messaging programs, because they don’t have to be. “That makes me uncomfortable” can be difficult to say sometimes, but “I have to go, the cat’s on fire” (which is an approved E-Hell phrase) is much easier. People on this board always say, “Don’t J.A.D.E.” (Justify, Apologize, Defend, Explain), but sometimes it’s necessary to do that to get to the real heart of the issue, and solve the problem. I’m not saying that the OP never told her cousin that she was uncomfortable, because she might have; I’m just saying that that’s how a lot of online conversations play out. You (general you) don’t have to put in as much effort when you can leave a difficult conversation without a word (or with just a platitude), and when you can end a friendship with the click of an “Unfriend” or “Block” button.

    • yokozbornak November 25, 2014, 10:46 am

      The OP is a complete stranger to her cousin. Yes, the woman needs help, but it’s not the OP’s responsibility to give it to her. Someone who starts a conversation telling someone they barely know about how they were molested is someone with no concept of boundaries who will eventually turn out to be an emotional vampire or a scammer (or both). I think the OP was wise to cut off contact immediately.

      • Ai November 26, 2014, 11:22 am

        As someone who once, thankfully long ago, had a friend who would do THIS very thing, constantly talking about abuse or neglect and just sucking me dry emotionally (ignoring me wanting to help or my mother pointing her to resources), I completely agree with this. If I ever heard from that ‘friend’ again, I would not hesitate to block her and the OP did good by not getting involved with her cousin and cutting off contact.

    • AIP November 25, 2014, 3:19 pm

      Ordinarily I would agree, but Auntie was drawing blood from the arm of a THIRTEEN year old girl (the OP at the time). You may have been hone from steel and grace at 13, but I know I wasn’t.

      • AIP November 25, 2014, 4:41 pm

        Actually, I’m sorry I misread the comment and hasn’t realised it referred to the Facebook conversation. In this I am in agreement, I’ve done similar in the past and its a thankless task, but a necessary one. I realise it’s a lot to take on, but if the story is accurate (and respecting the tenet that one is innocent until proven guilty, it likely is true), then this poor woman is as Goldie said, traumatised. Let her vent, but be non-committal – don’t directly draw the info out, lest it be used against you out of context – but remind her that you’re really not in a position to help and have websites of relevant charities/NGOs etc ready.

      • NostalgicGal November 26, 2014, 11:56 am

        At 13, if I couldn’t politely pry away from her and she’d done damage to my arm, I would have emptied my lungs with every bit I could muster at the E above high C then added YOU ARE HURTING ME LET GO OF ME NOW! I know that’s not polite but if polite wasn’t cutting it, I agree that OP was of sterner stuff at such a young age.

  • Lera99 November 25, 2014, 9:53 am

    You cannot choose your family, but you can certainly choose how much time you spend with them as an adult.

    It appears your dad did everything in his power to break the cycle of abuse and protect you from his dysfunctional family.

    All you can do is continue that. Distance yourself from the crazy and abusive relations. Simply because your share blood doesn’t mean you have to embrace them and make room in your life for them.

    And if nothing else, they make for entertaining stories to tell friends years later. “Did I ever tell you about my Aunt who barricaded herself in a shopping mall? She thought that President Jimmy Carter was sending CIA agents to kill her. She was in a standoff with police for 8 hours. My uncle spent the entire time shouting ‘Just shoot the crazy b-word and get it over with! I swear the guys at the club will never let me live this down!'”

  • another Laura November 25, 2014, 9:57 am

    OP, I’m sorry that your dad had such a rough life growing up. I’m glad he got out of it. I almost wept for his mother. Her whole life was a never ending cycle of abuse and neglect. I’m glad that for awhile your dad protected her and his sisters. There are some families that only function through disfunction and that is one of them. Cling to your mom’s healthy family, avoid the toxic mess on your dad’s side.

  • Library Diva November 25, 2014, 11:03 am

    What a sad, shocking story. I feel for everyone involved in it, even the nasty, abusive bullies. OP’s father has accomplished a great deal by getting away from that horrible mess and making a loving family when he had no model whatsoever for one. It’s a very difficult thing to do (his own father couldn’t do it), and I have great admiration for the people who manage it.

  • Shyla November 25, 2014, 11:15 am

    These kind of stories are so very sad. A very few people will escape like the father. Those other family members will spend generations perpetuating terrible dysfunction. The children born in those families will have sad lives.

  • just4kicks November 25, 2014, 12:20 pm

    Joining in on the other “wow! I thought MY family was bonkers!” comments.
    God Bless you, Dear, and stay strong. Hope your holidays are HAPPY!!! 🙂

  • MM November 25, 2014, 12:29 pm

    While my dad’s family isn’t quite as horrific as OP’s family, we have seen some pretty upsetting things in the past. My dad’s family in India is very poor and many of his siblings have sadly passed before their time due to illness. Because of that my dad has always felt guilty for his success and moving to America.

    Their situation has not stopped them from using my dad for their own benefit. These people have stolen electronics and other items from us (even though if they had asked for them, my dad would have either given the items to them or bought them for them). they continually emotionally blackmailed and exploited my father’s kindness. Finally after about 20 years, he realized that he should stop enabling them. he hasn’t cut them off completely but he distanced himself considerably. I think he started to think that his focusing on that family in India was costing him his relationships with his own family here in America (my mom, my sisters and myself). I emulated and respected his kindness but I am glad that he is also focusing on our lives in the States.

  • NostalgicGal November 25, 2014, 1:11 pm

    My sympathy to you and your family OP, seriously. This is a new caketopper that I didn’t think could happen here on EHell.

  • Katana November 25, 2014, 1:48 pm

    I’m wondering if this story is real, it seems way too exaggeratedly negative to be true.

    If it is true, what awful people!

    • Victoria November 26, 2014, 8:39 am

      Trust me, family can be this bad, or even worse.

      • Yarnspinner November 26, 2014, 11:56 am

        Agreed. While this story puts my family to shame, we have certainly had some “fun times” complete with academy award winning theatrics that would sound unbelievable were I to tell them.

    • Dee November 26, 2014, 1:40 pm

      That was my first thought, that this story is not true. It just doesn’t seem right, and none of it involves an etiquette issue, so it would seem the sole reason for sending it to Ehell is for producing comments that enhance the drama. It’s not that I don’t think families can be this bad, but I can’t imagine anyone sane continuing to involve themselves knowing how bad it is. The OP’s throwing in the part of the “inbreeding” between people who are clearly only very distantly related leads me to believe that it isn’t just the family that likes unnecessary drama.

  • Callalilly November 25, 2014, 2:06 pm

    I call my family ‘The World’s Longest Running Eugene O’Neill Play’ – we got child abuse, we got spousal abuse, we got addiction, we got mental illness, but thankfully, the kind of violence describe by the OP has never been part of the mix.

    I’m so sorry you had to deal with such awfulness.

    • Yarnspinner November 26, 2014, 11:56 am

      I love that description and may steal it someday when the need arises!

  • AS November 25, 2014, 2:30 pm

    You know what I like the most about this story? That OP’s parents have spines made of steel. Way too often, we hear stories of someone not standing up for themselves or people they are responsible for (especially for children). But it is great that OP has such wonderful parents. You sure do have a lot to be thankful about!

    It incredibly sad that your father lost the only people in his family he was close to – his dear mother and sisters. But isn’t it wonderful that he found your mother? Here is a man who deserved to be happy, and he found happiness. That makes me happy.

  • AIP November 25, 2014, 3:20 pm

    I will never, ever, ever, ever complain about my family again!

  • Julia November 25, 2014, 9:00 pm

    That sounds so much like my family, you have my deepest sympathies.

    My paternal grandfather just died and my sister and I were asked to share memories for the pastor to add to his remarks. Out of respect for our father, we spent all of an evening drinking beer and trying to come up with a way to spin any memory into something kind of positive. I think we sort of succeeded by not actually mentioning him at all.

    And now the rest of the family is just becoming increasingly awful. I have an uncle with whom my only contact for years now has been debt collectors calling me trying to find him.

    It’s hard to explain to those with functional families that they really don’t need to extend their sympathies for the death of someone you just happened to share some genes with.

  • Lady Anne November 25, 2014, 9:07 pm

    Well, I’ve always said sex was one of the best ideas God ever had, but sometimes I wish we divided like amoeba and didn’t have to deal with relatives.

    I always thought The Squire’s family had a lock on dysfunctionality, but obviously OP has won the prize, poor thing. There was a certain amount of inbreeding – must be common in the Blue Ridge area – and some real nuts hanging from the family tree.

    The Squire’s grandmother had died some years before this incident and his grandfather married a lovely woman named A. Unfortunately, she developed leukemia and died about five years after they were married. The Squire’s sister, J, had filed for a divorce from her abusive husband, P, just a few weeks before Granddad’s wife died. P came into the funeral parlor waving a gun, shouting that A had been crazy about him and that J had broken her heart by leaving him. Since J had, to his way of thinking, killed A, he was going to kill her. I grabbed Granddad and spun him around so he had his back to the goings on, but I could watch over his shoulder, and engaged him in some inane conversation.

    As it happened, A’s son from her first marriage was a city cop, and half the police in town were at the funeral home. Several of them grabbed P by the arms, grabbed the gun, and carried him bodily out of the funeral home and into a patrol car.

    As Lera said, you can’t chose your relatives, and sometimes they do make for interesting stories. (I have often accused both my husband and his sister for staging these things, because I am a Yankee – and gullible.)

  • EllenS November 25, 2014, 9:21 pm

    I feel bad for Aunt Susie and the abused cousin, but unfortunately long-term abuse often leaves people with very poor or no boundaries, and seeking a way to exert control (by finding someone weaker to place their emotions on).

    I think OP was right to block someone who could not control her self-disclosure. Sometimes the only thing you can do for people with no boundaries, is to exercise your own.

  • Barbarian November 25, 2014, 11:10 pm

    My heart goes to OP’s Dad for surviving such a traumatic family life and then going on to build a loving family with OP’s Mom. It sounds like OP’s Dad had an unavoidable obligation to be at the funeral and to settle his deceased father’s business. If you have to take your spouse and kids to a toxic family funeral, it is probably best that the kids go only to the services. If the kids are not at open-ended social functions like the reception, they will not have to witness all hell breaking loose. Too bad OP’s Dad couldn’t get a security guard to keep that nutty bunch under control.

    It is perfectly fine for OP to block the oversharing cousin from her FB account. If cousin is already oversharing in cyberspace, then it’s not too hard to imagine what an inperson relationship would be.

  • Enna November 26, 2014, 5:49 am

    I am really sorry to hear the hard time the OP’s dad has had – it is good he found a very supporting woman to marry who could also “lay down the law”. Individuals like the OP’s father can end up being absuers or victims of abuse themselves later on in life but it good that he seems to have broken this cycle.

  • giani November 26, 2014, 10:17 am

    There is a thread running through these comments that OP should have been protected from exposure to her dysfuntional relatives. While I don’t condone her being mauled by the aunt at the funeral, I feel keeping children in total ignorance of what really messed up people are like can put them at a disadvantage. My family kept silent about the substance abusers in the family. The result was when it showed up in my generation it took ages to recognize it, and great material and emotional damage was done in the interim. I chose not to hide this information from my child. I made sure he was safe, but I explained what was wrong with some of his relatives, and circumstances let him get small doses of the crummy behavior that substance abusers can inflict. He, as a teen, was much better at seeing drug and alcohol abuse in his peers, and crossing abusers off his friend list, than I was in my 30s.

    • Asharah November 26, 2014, 7:13 pm

      I concur, it was better OP find out how insane her relatives were while her parents were there to protect her.

  • Mabel November 26, 2014, 8:00 pm


    I am so grateful this isn’t my family, I can’t tell you. It makes me feel very bad for complaining about their annoying habits! I’m glad the OP’s father got away from them finally.

    I agree with giani, as well; it’s not a good idea to shelter kids so much that they don’t know there is bad stuff going on. In addition to helping them learn about it so they can avoid it, it protects them from any manipulation the awful family members may try to perpetrate on them.

  • Hellbound Allee November 27, 2014, 1:13 pm

    I can’t tell you that I know how you feel exactly, but I do know how abuse works its way through the generations. My mom’s dad was a violent psychopath, a sadist and a neighborhood menace. He actually was just like one of those men in the Lifetime Network movies.

    Unlike your family, my grandfather had everyone so cowed that they all pulled that abuse inside themselves. My grandmother, though she received cigarette burns regularly, was steely. She insisted on decorum, manners, proper grammar, the works. The only thing she didn’t insist on, I guess. were children that were not abused and neglected. So funeral misconduct would have never happened.

    While we all (and yes, even the grandchildren are affected by this legacy) had problems with Grandmother, whether it was worship or resentment, we have respect for her. Anyone using bad grammar or misbehaving at the table has visions of Grandmother. It’s just those visions of Grampa I wish my mom and aunties didn’t have to have. (Ooo, there’s Grandma now!)

    Grandma managed to stealthily get a teaching certificate by going when Gramps was off doing farm stuff. No, I don’t know how! She got my mom, 3 aunties and one uncle, and rode off into the night. My grampa kind of stopped thriving, even with his doting mother, and had a heart attack and died. My Grandmother died when my aunts and uncle were young, too. No surprisingly, it’s those people we share holidays with, They need each other.