I’ve touched on them a little here, and normally I try to avoid them as much as and whenever I can, because I know they’re toxic. I’ve always known that, even when my mother made me talk to them and hang out with them. An aunt lived with us for two years when I was seven. My mother being older clothed and fed her, and always bailed her out of trouble. My aunt was a whore. I don’t mean that she dated a lot of men, which would have been fine. She deliberately went for the ones that were taken, because she got a kick out of driving couples apart. My mother bailed her out in Poland, then started doing the same when we lived in Germany, and then shipped her off to America, when the situation got out of hand. My mother never asked for a single penny. My aunt repaid her by putting the moves on my dad.
Flash forward about twelve years, and I’m depressed at having to be in Germany. My brother, who was my only support system and really kept my sanity then, had to move on account of his job. So my mother, who hadn’t spoken to my aunt in ages, decided to ask her if I could stay with them over the summer. The answer came promptly, “of course. But only if she babysits my daughter.” For free, of course. I would have done it anyway, I love kids. I’d started working in day camps when I was fourteen, and form there it was babysitting jobs, and that morphed into teaching. When I stayed with one of my brother’s best friends, I offered to babysit if she trusted me enough around the kids. It never occurred to me to ask her for money. We all got along, so why shouldn’t I? But my aunt’s attitude bothered me. When she lived with us, she taught me the art of getting ice cream at Shoprite (she also lived with us in Chicago and Jersey), eating it while walking around the store, then hiding the empty cup somewhere so we wouldn’t have to pay. She also kept her figure by never buying food (my mom did all the shopping, or rather she paid for it), but then getting the biggest samples wherever she could while out on the town.
Her daughter was six at the time, and she really loved me. She called me mommy, but once I realized what it implied (that I’d basically had her at thirteen), I told her it made me uncomfortable. So we resorted to “Cousin.” She let me wash her hair, and even though I was really careful, I managed to get water in her eyes. The kid was a trooper, she was blinking like crazy, but never once cried. I made her watch Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Lionheart every day, or rather I was watching it every day, because in one part, if you didn’t blink, where he stands on the boat and looks around, he was the spitting image of someone I’d caught feelings for.
Of course none of this sat overly well with the other relatives, who at one point or another had either been clothed and fed by my mom and dad, or had profited in other ways. When my aunt in Chicago started making her own money again (through jobs my mother got her), they now flocked to her. Having been the runt of the litter previously, she lapped it all up. I told my mom at the age of eighteen that I was keeping contact to the bare minimum, and even when I did have to see them, I was as court as could be. There were plenty of fights, but the main ones were the relatives buying up plots next to my grandparents so my mother couldn’t be buried with her own parents, and adjusting my dementia-afflicted grandmother’s will so that the apartment she had willed my mom and myself in the apartment building she owned went to them. Remorse kicked in at some point though, and they gave us one (they’d each taken three). My uncle being there declared himself caretaker and said he would take care of selling the apartment. I knew he was screwing us over, but just ew ted to get rid of the damn thing, because it was the only link they had. He also wanted a $1,500 commission, even had the temerity to ask me if it was okay. My answer that if he absolutely felt he had to screw over his goddaughter did not go over well. We also had to invite the whole lot to the most expensive restaurant in the city. That was in 2006, and I haven’t spoken to them since. I googled apartments in that area later. They went for much more than my uncle had alleged. In essence, he pocketed over 2/3, plus the commission he demanded. Same uncle had stayed with us as well. The common excuse is, “well, he likes money.” So do some people I love dearly, and they work for it. They wouldn’t steal from a relative, and a godchild at that. When my mom asked him for help his response was, “steer your own ship, sailor.”
My aunt who stayed in Poland lived with her husband and my grandparents. Because this way they could get a bigger apartment with her husband. They had a bedroom and living room. My grandparents had to sleep and live in what was the dining room. When we brought my grandparents chocolates and fruits from Germany during communism, my aunt and her husband hid everything. When my grandmother slipped in the bathroom (fully clothed) and was calling out for help, they didn’t react. My grandfather found her in the morning.
I kept my business, my hopes, dreams, and plans to myself. My mother was under strict instructions to tell them I was working in places that had zero prestige, because this way they wouldn’t try to use me. Aside from the time my “godfather” deposited money into my account from the apartment sale, they didn’t even know which country I was currently in.
Well, long story short. I needed to get in touch with my aunt in Chicago. I was worried about my mom, and she’d asked me about her a million times. When her daughter and I reconnected, her daughter kept asking as well. I told my aunt to send my mom a letter as I don’t do “he said, she said.” Her reply? “You’re right. I should write her.” Never happened. I also knew that every email I wrote to my cousin was being passed around the relatives. She was very close to them, because that was their MO, take the youngest member and feed them stories. So I kept info to a bare minimum. The few times I hinted at something emotional, a doubt I had, or when I needed an emotional boost, I heard crickets chirping. Not this time. I got a very pissy letter from my cousin essentially telling me to eff off and trying to shame me. I later pieced it together. My aunt, in typical Polish fashion, had told my cousin how victimized she felt, getting her to fight her mother’s battles. What my aunt forgot to tell her daughter was that she only got mad at me and wanted no contact once I’d asked her if she’d really made the moves on my dad. But I was accused of always begging for money and only writing when I needed cash. My wording? I need to get to Paris but I don’t have any cash. To me this means, can you help me come up with a plan e.g. see if there are any buses running, if you can drive down with someone? Though I get how it could confuse those who don’t know me. I never asked my aunt for cash, not even when she borrowed my money as a kid and never bothered to return it.
But that’s not even the kicker. The icing on the cake came when I wrote back to clarify some points and got this in return from my cousin, how about when you stayed with us and ate all our food? And when you hit me and treated me like shit? Or is that selective memory?
I’ve heard and seen a lot of things, but this really beats it all. How do you justify doing a thing like that? How do you even come up with something like that? Say that I’m a loser because I’m well over thirty and not yet married (my parents got married late, and I’ve never planned my own wedding. It’s really not a priority for me). Fine, it’s still stupid, but I can understand that. They really put the pressure on my cousin to be married before thirty, so she married a frat boy who gave me abuse vibes in the pictures I saw of him. Say that I’m immoral for the same reason, or a slut who sleeps around. Call me a loser because I displayed weakness by reaching out for help. But accusing me of child abuse just so you can drive a wedge between us? Who does that? And to what purpose?
A friend had the following to say, “those are people who don’t wish you well and who want evil things to happen to you.”
She’s absolutely right.