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So many of my little epiphanies come on the heels of a conversation with one of my children...most frequently, my younger daughter, Kelly.  She is inquisitive, interested and loves to turn a situation around and look at it from all sides.  Her questions are typically quite thought-provoking and insightful.  Today’s topic...my extended family.

I’ve always considered myself pretty middle of the road, common, not outstanding in any sense.  I am not ugly, not beautiful...i am not poor, not wealthy...i am not stupid, also not a genius.  In identifying with my run-of-the-millness, i realized today that i have applied that status to my entire family as well.  After my conversation with Kelly today, i wonder...

First, my mother’s side of the family.  

I have one aunt who is so consumed with her illness (lupus) that she has allowed it to define who she is.  She also claims to suffer from 28 diagnosed diseases...27 of them self-diagnosed!  She has doctors who do not know about one another and receives Rx’s for controlled substances from each.  I have watched her change from a relatively coherent person to a mono-syllabic zombie in 20 minutes time after taking a few of her “meds“.  It’s disgusting, really...not to mention sad.  She is the single most self-absorbed person i have ever known.  In her younger days, she was stunningly beautiful...now she is hard-looking and harsher acting.

I have an uncle who has been married twice...once to a known prostitute, once to a mean and certifiably crazy woman.  He is unable to take any kind of stand and is the perpetual victim in his own life.  At age 62, he still relies on his mother to pay his bills.  

I have another aunt who is as kind as can be who i love dearly.  She has raised three children...her oldest is a recluse who lives in filth and never contacts her.  Her youngest has been a drug addict/alcoholic since the age of 14 (she is now 47 and 4 years clean with only one known relapse), her middle child entered the military only to find his wife dead one day early in their marriage.  He has since been married and divorced, had a child and, to the best of my knowledge, lives a pretty mainstream life.  This aunt was dx’d with lupus about 5 years ago and is now, in my opinion, under the care of a doctor who does not serve my aunt’s best interests.  My aunt is over-medicated most of the time.  She has aged 20 years in the past 3.

Then there is my father’s side of the family.

Dad’s sister died in 1986 at age 42 of breast cancer.  She knew she was sick and didn’t go to the doctor because she wasn’t eligible for benefits under her health insurance for 90 days.  In the end, the cost of practicality was my aunt’s life for the cancer was too far gone by the time it was dx’d.  She had a rough life...abuse at the hands of the men she loved beginning with her father and repeating itself through her marriages.  He second husband left her after her mastectomy...saying he couldn’t handle that she wasn’t a “real woman” any longer.

Dad’s three younger brothers are as different from one another as three men can be.  The oldest is a God-fearing man who lives his life by the teachings of the Lord.  He raised three daughters...his oldest has been married 3 times and his youngest was married long enough to have 3 children and is now in a long-term lesbian relationship.  This uncle is now retired and spends a lot of his time on self-help missions...i.e. reading, therapy, volunteerism, making “amends” with people.

Next is the brother with whom my father simply could not get along.  He spent time in Viet Nam...i suspect this is much of the reason that he views the world the way he does.  Their approach to everything was as different as night and day.  Because of this, my father had very limited contact with him and so did/do i.  He is difficult to be around for he knows everything about everything.

The youngest of my father’s brothers is one of the sweetest men i’ve ever known.  He is now single after a tumultuous marriage that involved drugs and alcohol.  When he decided that he was no longer interested in that lifestyle, it caused an enormous rift in his marriage because his wife decided that she was still very interested in maintaining that lifestyle.

Collectively, my parents, aunts and uncles have 18 marriages between them.  Among the 8 cousins who have been or presently are married, we amount to 14 marriages.

When i began writing this blog, i thought i was going to share how abnormal my family is...upon completion of this blog, i’ve decided that i hail from an extremely normal family. At first glance, all the information i provided seemed extreme and unusual.  Upon closer observation, i see that what i have is a family who has dealt with a lot of challenges...some have overcome their challenges, others continue to struggle.

I guess it’s all in how you define “normal“.



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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Cynthia Schmidt wrote Mar 7, 2009
    • You‘re in good company! The road of life is certainly not paved with gumdrops and red velvet, is it? Thank you for sharing your family with us. Sometimes I think that in our generation and the generations that preceded us, there was so much that was just not talked about. There are so many families who share similar history but the Ozzie and Harriet world was the one we all thought was everyone else’s normal.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Daphne wrote Mar 7, 2009
    • Exactly, Cynthia!  The Ozzie & Harriet world WAS the one we all thought was everyone’s normal...therefore, the bar was set quite high and, frankly, quite unattainable.  Even now as i am learning a new way to see things, it still comes back to the idyllic views of my childhood that poses the most obstacles.

      This blog was very difficult to publish.  It feels like i’m betraying my family, exposing them even.  I held my finger over the “publish” button for some time before lowering it and allowing the world a glimpse of my “normal“.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Mary Clark wrote Mar 7, 2009
    • I think we all have some type of dysfunction in our family...extended or immediate. And I also think the more liberal our world becomes the more dysfunction we are going to see.  Just look at what we have feeding it to us....the internet, television, books, and already tainted leaders on all levels.  Oh..and lets’ not forget drugs!  

      I think there has always been some level of dysfunction ....we just didn’t talk about it or it was hidden.  

      My great grandmother was mentally ill.  She divorced my great grandfather when my grandmother and her only brother were very young and she committed herself to an insitution until her death.  At that time...divorce was definitely unheard of and especially when the mother left her children.  And this was around the years of 1900-1907.  

      So I think the dysfunction of families has always been there we just didn’t know about it or talk about it like we do today.



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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Vikki Hall wrote Mar 8, 2009
    • Isn’t dysfunction the norm? If not then my family is totally lost!



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