Getting an invitation is never a nice thing when it comes to my family. I’ve decided this. It’s either an empty gesture, sometimes received after the fact or it is genuine, but that is even worse. Because then I have to figure out if I should go (never say never, but so far I have not) or more likely, how to say no and what the proper etiquette during and after that “no” is most appropriate. On my mother’s side of the family it is easier, because they’re all nuts. So it is always a “no,” and because of their particular brand of crazy, I don’t have contact with them. So, I don’t have to RSVP or really do anything. Of course, these invitations are rare because the “no contact” is not new and has been accepted or my mother’s side just realizes they can’t convert me to their exhausting (and usually violent) crazy ways, and I guess “sane” isn’t that much fun in a room full of crazy… My father’s side on the other hand, is another story.
My dad’s side of the family has no shortage of its own dysfunction, but it isn’t a disease that affects every single member. And it’s never violent. But depending on who you’re talking about – it’s still pretty fucked up. My dad has three siblings and all of them have one to eight kids. I’m not close with any of my cousins, but I also don’t have anything against them, so I let where I stand with their parents dictate my rules for interacting with them.
My dad has two sisters, one I talk to and like (Kelly), and one I don’t talk to, but I wouldn’t actively avoid (Kitty). I think I’m actually a lot like Kelly, which would horrify me as a teenager – I guess I got all domesticated. Kitty has always been the black sheep, but unlike the black sheep I’m used to there is a reason, and as soon as that reason begins to fade, Kitty will do something else to remind you. The real stinger (and why Kelly refuses to talk to her) is that she stole my grandfather’s identity and took out a bunch of credit cards in his name while he was dying from cancer – like in the hospital, actually going through treatments and getting worse. When he died, Kitty tried to sue the hospital for negligence because she could no longer use his identity to charge stuff. My dad was the hospital administrator, so she was actually pretty much suing him. Hey, I told you it was fucked. I wouldn’t ice Kitty out, even though I am disgusted by what she did. She’s still family, but because I like Kelly and respect Kelly’s feelings and boundaries, I never really see her.
Then my father has one brother, who is my godfather. We used to be close, but now it’s really just him and his wife that I have a rule about – no contact. Of course, there is a good reason for it. When I was sick and on chemo, I rented one my uncle’s properties to live. See, my uncle is a lawyer, and rich – like millions, so rich is not an exaggeration. Even though I was on disability at the time, because I had dialysis, blood transfusions, plasma exchanges and chemo – so I was in the hospital every day for ten months, my aunt charged us rent. No problem. I don’t need or want any “freebies” because with my family nothing is really free – ever. I didn’t even get upset that the property I lived in was their smallest and worst (as in being almost uninhabitable) on the street where they had five properties, and yet we were being charged more than $100 more than anyone else (tenants talk). The badness came from the fact that they took advantage. I never had a bedroom window, even though it was winter in Nebraska. We would go without running water for at least a few days every two weeks because they had pipe or fixture issues and wouldn’t fix them. The heat cut out several times, so it was about twenty below. Our front door wouldn’t latch and it was a bad neighborhood, but it took a week to take care of. The basement flooded… I could go on, but you get the idea. And this was all the time. I was always on them to fix stuff but beyond that I didn’t bitch. I just stressed the importance of heat and water, and maybe a window I never did get. Even though I was on my lowest doses of chemo (it was near the end of that) I had to be hospitalized due to infections and complications – three times. I never got infections until I was living in a cold, run down place that may or may not have running water and a front door that wouldn’t close. Finally, I bailed and stayed with a friend for free, since I was still paying outrageous rent for a place that was uninhabitable (my doctors actually said this was the issue – my living environment).
Still, I was understanding… They were family. I would walk away from the experience wiser and the better person. But when it came time to leave, my aunt refused to do a walk through and told us to just leave our keys. Since we (my bestie and roommate) had been more than understanding I didn’t think much of it. Two weeks later she actually had the nerve to come after me because part of a window frame was missing – as in part of the wall. She accused me of taking it and how it would be thousands of dollars to replace. I don’t know where her sense was – wait, yes I do, she didn’t have any – but I’m 98 pounds, 5 foot 3 and weak from chemo – how the hell am I going to remove part of the wall. And even if I could – why would I do it? Is there a window frame black market I don’t know about where I could make some quick cash? It was absurd. And finally I lost it.
My aunt was the villain technically – she later tried to throw her son under the bus, but she was the one we always called, the one who promised us things would get done, and the one who actively tried to avoid us. She was the one who tried to come after me for the window frame and some other things that were actually documented weren’t us (damages from their previous tenants they evicted – as in went to court, so it was REALLY documented) and all of this other stuff. She can’t blame her actions on being stupid or not understanding – they were deliberate choices and actions that put my health at serious risk when I was at my most vulnerable. I never did get an apology from her. My uncle apologized, but only for the words we exchanged, not for what his wife did. And it isn’t on him, technically I am fine with him – but I am not fine with his wife. I don’t do grudges – they take up time and energy I prefer to use towards productive things, but I don’t want to be around a person like my aunt. It’s not to hurt her because she couldn’t care less; it’s because I love myself and want to surround myself with positive influences and people.
So when it comes to their eight kids, I stay silent. I don’t wish them happy birthday or really talk to them because that’s just safer. And since they all live far away and are super Catholic whereas I’m not, it’s not like they’re really trying so I don’t have to feel bad about not trying either. But now their oldest son is getting married, and they sent me an invitation. I can only think of two reasons to go: 1) I’m a better person and 2) they were thoughtful enough to invite/include me. But I can think of a long list of reasons why I shouldn’t go. Some of them revolve around their slumlord parents and others have to do with my own wedding.
See, none of them came to my wedding, even though I was the bigger person and invited them, because it’s not just about what you do, but what you don’t do. I am the oldest grandchild and was the first to get married… and except for Kelly, no one even acknowledged it. Even though I took great time and effort making their invitations (I’m a very DIY kind of person) only Kelly and this cousin who is getting married even RSVPed to say they couldn’t make it. My aunt and uncle and their other adult children didn’t even bother to send back the reply card. I know that most of my hardcore Catholic family does not view my marriage as legitimate or even real. If anything it’s an affront to God. I don’t know if “hurt” is the right word, because I don’t care enough. Narrow and ignorant views like these… they just grate on my nerves.
I’m used to being on the outs with my blood relatives. I’m used to their ignorant viewpoints and their judgments and how they don’t care to get to know me, because it might threaten their speculative opinions. So why go? And yet, this is going to be the first Whelan wedding besides my own and maybe the distant relatives are better… Maybe I can “show them” how wonderful my life is, my marriage is, I am… but what’s the point? I feel like this is like a person’s, who was bullied and tormented, high school reunion. You’re living the dream and you want to be like, “That’s right bitches!” but why do you care what those haters think in the first place?
This is one more reason not to go. Because I believe that when you go to a wedding all of your focus and energy should be devoted to the couple and their special day… me proving myself or my life or avoiding his parents because they’re (censored) goes against what I believe going to a wedding should be about.
So, I’ll probably just go with my gut here. I’ll RSVP that I won’t be attending and then once they’re actually hitched, I’ll send a card and $20 or something. Because I feel like if you’re invited you should send a card at the very least acknowledging the marriage. It’s way more than I ever got, but then again, I’m trying to be the bigger person. And also, I met my cousin’s fiancé and I really like her. I feel like she is a good influence on him and a wonderful addition to the family. And those are my genuine sentiments, so I do want to send something, even though I think it’s best for everyone if I don’t attend.
This was what I thought when I gave my cousin my address so he could send the invitation and it still seems like the best option. I’m back and forth a little still, wondering if I’ll change my mind or have a change of heart… but I still think it would be a mistake going, no matter how much I wish that it would all work out. God, why is family so complicated?