Today is my cousin Lydia’s birthday. She’s the daughter of my mom’s brother. She has always lived in Texas and I have seen her in person less than twenty times in my entire life yet she is family and I try to keep in touch with her, at least by reading her Face Book posts. I feel both close and distant from her (and my other Texas cousins). I think, from things she has said, she feels the same way.
Why the distant feelings? My mom is the oldest of the three siblings so my brothers and sisters and I were all born before my uncle’s kids. In fact, my youngest sister is the same age as Lydia. We always lived in California (I’m the only one of my siblings to live outside of California and that happened in 2008). My grandmother also lived in Texas all of her life. She used to take the Greyhound bus from Corpus Christi to San Jose every summer to stay with my family. She loved us and bragged about us all the time, which as a grandmother myself I understand. This bragging continued after my uncle’s kids were born. My grandmother raised two of my three cousins after my uncle’s divorce so she was very close to them, yet when the subject of my family came up, she showed her love for us by talking about us in glowing terms. When she came to see us in California she would tell us all about our cousins in Texas. She bragged about them and had a lot of pictures of them that she showed us constantly.
What did this cause? I think that my grandmother inadvertently created a spirit of competition and jealousy. My Texas cousins were jealous of us because she talked about us constantly when she wasn’t with us. She had our pictures all over her walls. Every time one of us did something she was proud of, from school work to a new tooth or winning a contest or a race, she bragged about it. So they were jealous of us. When she came to stay with us, she constantly spoke of our cousins and the day to day things they did together. They got to grow up with her and spend so much more time with her than we did. They got to hear the family stories and learn from her. I won’t speak for my siblings but I will say that I felt cheated. Not my cousins’ fault and not quite jealousy but I did feel like they were so lucky to spend so much more time with her than we did. In a way, my grandmother created a feeling within each of us that made us feel as if we were “less than” the Texas cousins and also made them feel that they were “less than” me and my sibings. Yet, I know I love my cousins and I am pretty sure there are some strong feelings on their side.
I think this has caused us to be even more distant than the physical miles between us. l wish I could fix it. I wish I could spend time with Lydia and my other cousins. I wish I could get to know her better. This has bothered me for so long. I guess it’s upon me to do something about it. Aside from wishing her a happy birthday on her FB wall, I think I’ll make it a point to check in on her at least once a week and start some sort of dialog. The miles are great but I am hoping that the family ties are much stronger than the miles.