Posts Tagged ‘cousins’

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.

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Gordy was my cousin. His real name was Manuel but, because of his physical characteristics, he was known as “Gordo” then he became Gordy. I think a lot of his friends didn’t even know what his real name was; only that he was Gordy.

Although he was my cousin, I didn’t meet him until shortly before my parents moved us to southern California. I was about seventeen and Gordy was about twelve. We shared a birthday. That was pretty special because our birthday was/is Christmas day. We used to have that as a bond. We both knew what it was like to have to share our special day with everyone, making it not so special for us. We both knew what it was like to never get a birthday card or a birthday cake or a birthday party. For us, our special day was sort of skipped as everyone celebrated Christmas.

Although Gordy was my aunt and uncle’s second child, he was the oldest son so he grew up quickly and took on a lot of extra responsibility. My uncle was gone a lot. He worked the overnight shift so he was basically gone from about 9 pm and didn’t come home until 7 am then he slept until mid afternoon. Gordy learned to do a lot of things around the house. My aunt had him repair things and build things and even discipline his younger siblings.

Once, when Gordy was about fifteen, my aunt asked him to turn on the pilot for the hot water heater. It had been very windy and the pilot had blown out. When Gordy went to light it, it sort of exploded in his face. He sustained third degree burns from his upper lip down to his neck and his chest. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The doctors treated the burns and the extreme pain but they told my aunt that he would have the physical scars for the rest of his life. My aunt was stubborn, thankfully, and would not hear of her son being physically scarred like that. She began a treatment on her own. Every day, several times a day, she would apply aloe vera gel (from a huge plant she had in the yard) all over the burned areas. When the burns healed, there was no scarring! The doctors couldn’t believe it because they were sure he’d have much scarring.

Later on, Gordy got involved in a gang. He lived in Long Beach and there were/are a lot of gangs there. I went on to college and married right after graduation. My parents split up. We sort of lost touch with that part of the family. Eventually, I did hear that Gordy had settled down and married and was no longer involved in gangs. He had a well paying job and had bought a house. Many years later, after my divorce, I sought out that part of my family and my kids and I visited them a few times. It was tough to always be the one going out there, a drive of over an hour in each direction. We tried but the effort was one way so we lost touch again.

One day, my aunt called me to ask about lawyers. She knew my ex-husband was a lawyer and she needed information. She wanted to sue Gordy’s doctors. Gordy had died. He was about 32 when he died. It seems that he had a growth of some sort on his tongue. It was removed and the biopsy showed it was malignant. Part of his tongue was removed. Over a period of months, more and more of his tongue was taken until in the end, he had none left. The cancer spread through his throat and eventually took his life. It was sad to hear my aunt’s pain at losing her son and I could sympathize with her as I have three kids of my own. I couldn’t give her answers, or at least not the answers she wanted. It didn’t really sound that there was much she could legally do but I did understand her need to lash out and blame someone; make someone pay; make sure it didn’t happen to another. But there really wasn’t much to be done.

I’ve been thinking about Gordy a lot recently. I don’t know why but I decided that maybe I needed to share him with my readers.

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