There’s a bag full of cards downstairs from my graduation party two days ago. Cards written by family and friends who heard from myself or my parents how hard school was for me to get through. They tell me that they know it was difficult for me, and that they are proud, that they can do anything I set my mind to.
I don’t like to dwell on my pain so much, not lately, but I can’t help but think almost bitterly, that they don’t know the half of it. most don’t anyway. of the hospital stays, of the numerous doctors who could never find a medicine that worked, of the countless days, laying in bed listlessly, tossing and turning, crying, and when there was no tears left, doing mindless obsessive tasks, copying whole books word for word in my own writing, trying in vain to bring meaning to anything. wishing, praying, writing in diaries in huge sloppy letters that I prayed to God i would be obliterated like the cockroach I was.
and sure, i’d be very anxious for most people to learn about the darkest days of my struggle with mental illness, even before i knew that there was a name to what was wrong with me.
Maybe i’m old fashioned, but i would like to think that family would be the exception. That even if they didn’t know what to say, i needed to know that they’d be there for me. even if they couldn’t be there, it would have brought me a tiny peace. The fact That they knew. That they cared.
I don’t speak to my dad’s family, except for a couple of cousins, a sister of my dad’s, my grandparents. there are cousins, an aunt and uncle that live barely twenty minutes from where i am sitting. we lead separate lives. I can’t remember the last time i tried to reach out to them. there would always be a meet-up, food, casual, surface-y conversation. nothing real. i would keep my conversation purposefully neutral, not expressing any opinions on anything. i would go home. and nothing. no further plans were made. i would wait, hoping that they would invite me back. invite me out to dinner. i would see pictures of them on social media out doing fun things with their children. i was never contacted back.
i get that things come up but after several tries of this, i was tired of feeling like i was a nuisance, that they visited me with extreme reluctance, coldness, some sort of vague obligation that they couldn’t quite remember.
blood. we are related by blood. i want to scream at them. that is supposed to mean something.
but i guess too many things came up, over a decade, because i was never invited to see them. to be apart of their lives.
maybe i should have extended an invitation to my graduation party. given them a chance, given them the obligation to come and see me. to acknowledge my existence. that maybe if they saw me “all grown up” they would somehow see some worth in me, something to be interested in. but i didn’t.
my pop-o asked me questions for a trivia game we played at my party. things like favorite place to eat, celebrity crush, what animal i would be, what i wanted to be in the first grade. my aunt, my second mother, got ten right. my grandmother, eleven. i chose not to invite them, to have to look at their discarded answer sheets later and see that they knew nothing about me. that we shared a blood line, but that they didn’t know me at all.
one of the cards is from four year old Sophia. She is my cousin’s daughter, but because her mother’s side of the family is Hispanic, she calls me Auntie Sarah. she doodled on a pink piece of paper, attached Sophia the first stickers. her mother wrote down what she wrote, she called me auntie sarah several times. told me she was happy i finished school and was glad i was going on to college. i don’t know how much her mother helped her. but it didn’t matter. she knows me. she asks me to read with her. i pick her up and take pictures with her and hug her and kiss her and tell her i love her. she asks about me when i am not there.
but as for my dad’s side of the family, the contrast is heartbreaking. if i saw my cousin’s children on the street, without their parents, they would not know me. would not recognize me. i’d be just another stranger. no “auntie Sarah, come play with me.” their eyes would not hold any recognition, their faces no happiness. it is enough to make me cry most days. but i do not reach out again. in my mind, some day down the road we eat sunday dinners together, go to the movies, to the mall. in reality though i would worry that they would call me thunder thighs again. criticize my political beleifs. criticize what i plan to study in college. so in my mind, they know me, their kids call me auntie sarah. we are family and blood matters to them, and i know they care.
I prefer to keep them there in my mind.