Last week I found out via Facebook post that one of my uncles had passed. The last time I saw him was…over 20 years ago, but I still felt it. I wanted to reach out to my two cousins who just lost their father, but at the same time I felt grossly awkward for wanting to feel so close after being so far for so many years.
A couple months ago, I received an email invitation to a wedding for a cousin I have never actually met. I’ve met her sister (for the first time just two years ago), but not her. I appreciated the gesture of inviting my wife and I, and I felt guilty for not inviting them to my wedding just this past January.
When I was seven, I think, I went to New York with my parents and older brother and we stayed at my (mother’s side) uncle’s place. Aside from him being “really tall” (because who isn’t when you’re a seven year old Filipino?) I don’t remember much else. Not if he had a wife, children, or anything.
1. As a child, I only saw my cousins, aunts, and uncles of our parents coordinated it.
2. My parents’ relationships with their siblings affected my relationships with my cousins, aunts, and uncles.
3. Now that I’m older I’m able to contact my cousins, aunts, and uncles on my own.
4. It’s awkward, but (compared to before) it’s better than nothing. (Or is it?)
5. I have a one year-old biological nephew, which means I have the opportunity to be a cool uncle.
6. My (non-existent) relationship with my biological brother affects my (non-existent) relationship with my nephew.
7. As my wife and I have kids, my decision to not communicate with my biological siblings affects their knowledge/relationship with their biological uncle/aunt/cousins.
8. They will have chosen uncles/aunts/cousins with my chosen family.
9. As our children get older, they may want to reach out to their cousins, aunts, and uncles.
10. It may be awkward.
History does repeat itself, and although the reasons may be different, the result is the same. This feeling does not sit well with me.
My goal as a husband (and eventually, as a father) is for the health, safety, well-being of my family. Right now this is centralized on my wife and myself. My decision to maintain a safe distance from my biological siblings and parents has been made clear. As kids come into the picture, there are new relationships that must be acknowledged: uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents.
There may be some blood-related folks out there that I do not wish to have involved in my child’s life.
I don’t make a lot of wishes, but I wish it could be less complicated.
Rest in Peace, Uncle Art. Arthur Edward Ponce 6/25/54-10/1/13
--Art will never die, and without it there is no heart or earth.