Recently I had a family reunion with some of my cousins. Yes, I am related to these people by blood. But in reality, I know very little about them. I am open to getting to know them more. Are they willing to do the same?
Now that I am 50 years old, I have a different perspective on things than I did growing up. On my Mom’s side, she had one brother, and he had 4 kids. On my Dad’s side, he had 4 sisters and 1 brother. They had a total of 30 kids between the siblings (not counting the 4 from my Mom and Dad). So you can see the dilemma, with trying to get to know everyone well.
I look at my own nieces and nephews and see that their experiences are so different from my own. They have had plenty of positive experiences with their grandparents, and they seem close to their cousins too. I know things are different today with how you can stay up to date with family matters via Facebook. I didn’t have that advantage.
So why am I not closer to these people that are my blood family? There are several factors at work. I was incredibly shy when I was younger. I kept to myself and didn’t talk much at all, other than when I was spoken to. Then add in the fact that I was hiding my true self too. I thought I was gay, and I was not ready to be open with that fact.
In between those teen years and now, there have been a couple of isolated family reunions, a number of weddings and several funerals. Reality is we are all getting older and people have moved all across the country if not the world. And it is easy to stay in the cocoon of your local neighborhood. Southern California is not the easiest place to get around in — with how far things are from each other, plus you have to add in the traffic too.
So back to the recent reunion. I was happy with the people that showed up. And I know I made an effort to talk to everyone. I came with my fiancé. Some of them probably had no idea that I was gay. Now they know! And I brought along one of my scrapbooks to let them in on my life and all the good times that I have had over the years.
Where do things go from here? Not sure really. I think that I am doing my part. It’s a bit sad to me, that I know my brother’s wife’s family better than I know my own cousins. So I put it out there that we should start planning something big for next year. I can start putting a team together. I am a good organizer, and can help with getting quotes on things. I even thought about how maybe we should do some crowd funding. I hope there are other family members that feel like I do — and want to nurture our relationships with each other. Only time will tell…
I definitely prefer it that the next time I see my extended family, it’s for a party. And not a funeral, because one of them has died. I also have to accept the fact that not everyone likes their families, and that they might not want to be involved.
KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Speedos lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.