Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Family secrets

I got the strangest piece of information this weekend (and when I say piece, I mean piece as in 'un-whole'...) and I'm not sure what to do with it- if anything.

What leads up to it is a very, very long complicated story involving my dad's brother (who is now his 'sister'- lets call her Y) and possible mental illness with not only Y (totally separate from the gender stuff) but possibly my grandmother, as well as discontent and senility in my grandfather.

Y recently told my dad and their other brother that she no longer would be attending any family events, holidays, functions, dinners... anything. I am very close with Y's daughter, and she has stopped attending family functions because she is also estranged from Y due to Y's behavior and selfishness. With this new development, I thought this might change for my cousin, so, I asked my dad for more information about Y's reasons for her decision.

It turns out, Y wrote my dad a four page letter expressing why she no longer wanted to associate with the family. (Part of the very long, complicated story.) In the letter, she was expressing to him that clearly she has shown her love for my dad, but he has not shown his to her in return. (Again... to go into this would be too long, but let's just say that this alleged attitude from my dad has been brought on by Y's behavior.)

Anyway... to get to the point, in the email to which the letter was attached, my dad said "this is for you to read and not to share ...Let me know if you have any questions." The letter was lots of accusations and excuses, but one of the sentences in the letter said: "I am the same person who... when (my grandfather), very inappropriately and most offensively questioned your lineage, immediately cut him off in anger and said you were who I grew up with and I would always love you."

Whoa. What?

I read it to III and III had no comment. My family can be a little too crazy for his tastes.

I IMed with my dad after I read the letter, but we only discussed Y and many of the issues surrounding her and her children. I did not bring up that sentence.

What it implies to me is that at some point my grandfather questioned my father's patronage... I do know that before she met my grandfather my grandmother was married to an abusive man. I don't know if that is part of the issue or whether he thought she had an affair. I don't know whether this was an accusation that was made before or after my grandmother's illness and death, or whether it was when my grandfather was lucid or later in his life when he was miserable and possibly senile.

Physically, my dad has always had some differences compared to his brothers. He is significantly taller than both of them. They both have a very stereotypical "Jewish" nose, and he doesn't. They have very narrow frames and slender body types, even as they age, and my dad has aged.... not slender. At all. That said, they have similarities. They all have dark hair, medium complexions, and my dad and his youngest brother have brown eyes. They are all very stubborn with very set opinions. And when it comes down to it... does it matter? To me at least? Not really... but it's very curious.

I told KB about it this morning, and she thinks I should bring it up with my dad. That he "opened the door" on the subject. I'm not sure for a number of reasons. The first is that my mom was the one who suggested that he send me the letter to explain Y's reasoning. (Though, it was a typed letter in word sent through email, so he could have easily edited it and didn't.) So, since I don't know if my dad wants to talk about it, I feel like I don't want to bring it up- what if it's painful for him to talk about? If it isn't, he could bring it up himself. Second, we've only talked about the letter on IM... not exactly the place to discuss whether your father was "illegitimate" or "the product of infidelity" or whatever.

And third... well, I just don't really like to have those conversations with my parents. I'm very open with my close friends. In fact, I crave connection. But for some reason, I've always been very private with my immediate family. I was close mouthed about (non-major) health related things (as well as our IF); I was quiet about boyfriends (when I called and told my sister that I was engaged, she looked at her husband and mouthed "To who???"); I try to moderate my emotions around them. I don't know why. Maybe because my family is so... dramatic. There are quite a few attention seekers in my family. (Y is one of them. My sister is another.) Don't get me wrong, I have my share of drama. But it's all relative. (Hah. No pun intended.) Compared to my husband's family, I'm probably pretty dramatic. But in my family? I'm the "conservative" one. I'm the "prude". So I don't like to add to the drama. And I don't want to draw the drama that would come from others if I did.

So I guess it's a habit. I am not all that interested in discussing this with my family, because ... that's just not what I do. It's such an awkward position too... clearly, my dad doesn't want others to know. He specified he'd only shown my mom... meaning he doesn't want me to share it with Y's daughter, who is one of my very good friends as well as my cousin, nor my sister.

So I don't know if this will go any further. I don't know if my dad will bring it up. I don't know if he's expecting me to bring it up. I don't know if he even wants us to bring it up... I guess only time will tell. I'll be seeing him in person over Thanksgiving, so I guess we'll just see what happens....


Lara (NoodleGirl) said...

Whoa, that's alot of drama! I think, if I were you, I might broach the subject with my dad. It seems like he put it out there, maybe hoping you'd ask. If you ask gently, saying he doesn't need to talk about it if he doesn't want to, I can't see how it would be intrusive.

I had an old boss who always used to say that if you threw your family problems in the middle of a table and were allowed to trade with anyone else, you'd most likely wind up taking your own family back, warts and all, because theirs were the problems you knew how to handle. As much as my family would drives me nuts sometimes, I found that she was almost always correct.

I'm so like you with my family. I consider myself close to them in that I visit alot and I would (and I know they would) do anything to help out, if needed. There is no doubt of the love that is there. However, I just don't discuss personal stuff with them. My parents had a very unhappy marriage as I grew up (divorced now) and I think my sisters and I just learned to shield my mom, and each other, from anything unpleasant. I'll tell my DH or friends anything, but am just not comfortable sharing in that way with my family. I'm hoping to have a more open relationship with my own children, but we'll see...

Jess said...

Family...gotta love them! I agree with Lara, my family drives me nuts but at the end of the day, I wouldn't trade them for any other family.

Since your dad let you see the letter, I would say it is fair to assume that he doesn't mind talking to you about what the letter implied. He may need someone to talk to and that could be why he showed you and he did say let me know if you have any questions. I would bring it up lightly and tell him if he doesn't want to talk about it, it is okay. I feel bad for your dad. I can only imagine how painful it would be to not know if you were fully related to your family. I know it easy for me to say but if you grow up with someone, it shouldn't matter. I wouldn't care one bit if someone told me my brothers were not my dad's children. I grew up with my brothers and love them but I'm also not the one faced with not knowing.

michelle said...

So I know you are probably looking for some thoughts here but to be honest I think I am confused! So the last sentence is implying that your dad *might* be your grandfather's and another woman (not your grandmother's?)

If I am totally missing the boat on the whole story feel free to ignore me! Sometimes family lineage stories just fly over me. I think it might be because my family is relatively small and very straightforward. My small joke is that my family is dysfunctionally functional!