A child came out to wonder, caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful, when the sky was full of thunder, and tearful at the falling of a star
Wait, no, that's not it.
Yesterday sucked. Yesterday sucked like a sucking chest wound and I don't know where to start.
I suppose I'll start here. This post worries me but I want to get it out. It worries me for the same reason that I get worried whenever I start talking about family on here. This blog is no secret, It's not hidden, it's not anonymous. It's not supposed to be. What I write here isn't anything I'm ashamed of, at the same time, what if they find it? (Some of them already know, some of them because I told them, so far as I know, none of them read it.) The last thing I need is more drama.
So my sister and my Aunt.
My Aunt is my sister's half landlord. My mother is the other half. Because of the exact nature of the half and half situation (there are multiple kinds I guess, I didn't know that until this one came to be) My Aunt can't do anything without my mother's say so and vice versa. One of the the troubles of that is that if something you don't want has already happened, there's nothing you can do to change it without the other party signing off on it.
So when my Aunt had one of her daughters move in without permission, that wasn't legal, but there was nothing my mother could do to get her back out again. Actually, it might have skirted the bounds of legality because what actually happened was my Aunt did the whole, "My family needs a place to stay," thing and then left her daughter there on the claim (made verbally rather than in writing as I recall) that said daughter, let's call her Cousin 1, would be leaving two days after the rest of the family.
Many months had passed and the house was now under surveillance because it had become the Heroin Dealing Capital of the city. Details on what happened next are still being revealed to me because no one tells me anything, but before I get to that I want to address what I consider an important point about it being the Heroin Dealing Capital of the city. It wasn't the using capital. It was the place of dealing. It wasn't some friends over using drugs, it had become a center for drug trafficking.
And then something happened. My mother went over to deliver Christmas presents to Cousin 1 and came back to a dilemma. You see she had never wanted Cousin 1 in there. Cousin 1 had made some of the last of my grandmother's life extremely unpleasant Cousin 1 had "borrowed" not hundreds of dollars but much, much more (how much more we may never know) from my grandmother and, based on several factors, seemed to be using the lion's share for drugs. Her mother, my Aunt, knew about this and took steps to make sure it could continue to go on. Cousin 1 was such a drag on my grandmother's health that doctors and nurses and so forth were saying that she had to go. Cousin 1 was causing structural damage to the house. These things and more were why Cousin 1 finally got out of the house when my Grandmother was still alive and the fact that she moved right back in when my Grandmother was freshly buried never sat well with my mother.
The way she was treating the house didn't either.
So my mother was on record, many times over, as not wanting Cousin 1 in the house.
And after going over to give Christmas presents to Cousin 1 (because she's family and we love her and adoption is thicker than water) my mother had to come home and figure out what to do about an email from Aunt.
You see Aunt wanted to evict Cousin 1, so she was asking my mother to go on record one more time, this time to the police, as saying that she too didn't want Cousin 1 in the house. The reason given in the email made no sense. It said that Cousin 1's boyfriend had punched a door and damaged it with that punching and therefore eviction. First off it wasn't true. One of the doors was damaged almost beyond recognition but it had been that way for ages and the damage wasn't the result of punching. The rest of the doors were pristine. No damage. Not from punching, not from kicking, not from anything. Probably the only pristine part of the house at this point. Second the damage Cousin 1 had done already, much (though by no means all) of which had been well documented, would make damaging a door seem nothing by comparison.
But the reason wasn't the dilemma . If if Aunt had said she wanted to evict Cousin 1 at another time of year for obviously bullshit reasons there wouldn't have been a dilemma. But remember what my mother was doing while Aunt was sending this email? Delivering Christmas presents to Cousin 1. Christmastime is cold in Maine. Freeze to death cold. The time of year that you don't want to be kicked out on the street.
So did she tell the police the truth, "Yes, I want her evicted," or did she suddenly switch positions and say, "I know that she's damaging the house by the day, I know that she's such a bad housekeeper that the place has probably invented more diseases and bacterium than a Soviet bio-warfare lab that had all its seals broken and has been left to fester since the USSR fell, I know that I've been saying that I don't want her in there another day for months upon months BUT I am not letting you kick her out until the weather is warmer."
In the end my mother told the truth to the police, and in so doing learned about the heroin trafficking. Also, at some point, we found out that Cousin 1's boyfriend had non-fatally ODed.
Aunt never really got into her real reasons for the eviction of her own daughter during the cold season, but one thing that did eventually come out was that she was hoping Cousin 1 would come crawling back to her. Not literally because Aunt lives in Texas both now and at the time (the family moved around the globe before settling there) and crawling from Maine to Texas isn't the best idea. But kicking her out at freeze-to-death time was seen as a feature, not a bug. I don't like Aunt. I don't like anyone who would look at things that way.
Cousin 1 didn't come crawling back to Aunt and lives in Maine to this day.
What I didn't learn until recently was that, while Aunt saw throwing her daugher on the street at freeze-to-death time as a much better thing than throwing her out at, sleep-unprotected-'neath-a-canopy-of-stars time, the impetus for eviction didn't originate from her.
The police were sick of expending resources watching the place and they were on the verge of just raiding the property. But they didn't actually want to do any of that, they wanted the problem to go the fuck away. So they looked up who owned the property (or maybe that's just standard procedure when you're about to do a raid, I don't know) saw that one of the owners was the tenant's mother, and called up Aunt. They gave her an ultimatum, you stop the trafficking or we raid the property.
So Aunt decided to evict her daughter at freeze to death time. And that's how Cousin 1 was kicked out.
Thankfully while my Aunt was wrong about Cousin 1 coming crawling back to her, my mother was right about Cousin 1 finding another place to stay rather than freezing. Cousin 1 is fine, I saw her yesterday.
And the property lay empty for a time, taken over by mice and bugs, it languished.
Then my sister was going to buy and apartment building, like you do. The date for the sale was set, there was just one last inspection for my sister to have done with no deal-breakers expected, and the only problem was that the lease for her apartment expired a couple weeks before she'd be able to move into the apartment building as the new owner.
Enter solution. In the time Cousin 1 had been staying in the property my mother had tried to institute rules, she tried to say that rent should be paid, she tried to do all kinds of things, and it was all shot down. Aunt insisted. Cousin 1 is one of the owners daughters and the owner's daughters can stay here with no rules whatsofreakingever. (Yeah, freaking not fucking, Aunt only swears in French.) Thus my sister could move in under the previously established rules because she was one of the owner's daughters.
Enter problem. That final inspection did find a problem. A major one. The apartment building was over a sinkhole. It would seem impossible because there are no sinkholes in that region, except for one thing: it was an artificial sinkhole. Things that should not have been leaking from the building had, due to poor maintenance, been leaking from the building, through the basement, into the ground below for so long that they had managed to unintentionally create an artificial sink hole in a region that doesn't have natural ones. It would have been cheaper to move the building to another location than to repair the damage done. An apartment building over a sink hole, a disaster waiting to happen. Unsurprisingly my sister decided not to make the purchase.
So my sister looked for another apartment building for sale. She found one. She found more than one. But every time, just before they closed on the sale, someone else came in with a better offer and bought it in her place. My sister was pissed off by the way. Because, as I recall, the people she'd been working toward the sale never said, "I just got a better offer, can you match it?" they just said, "I got a better offer, I'm selling to them." She'd go through the whole process and then be snubbed, every single time. This does not make for a happy sister.
So she ended up staying in the house, and repairing the house in the process. The bathroom floor had rotted out and needed to be replaced. The mice and bugs needed to go. (My sister slept in a hammock because if she didn't she'd be kept up all night by the things crawling all over her.) The furnace had to be replaced because it was in danger of exploding, the powerline into the house had to be moved because there was now a tree in the way. That sort of thing.
Even though under Aunt's rules (rules that Aunt got extremely pissed off at when she saw them being applied to my mother's daughter instead of her own) she could have stayed indefinitely paying nothing, repairing nothing, and damaging everything. But my sister drew up a rental agreement, and now Aunt gets paid rent (in theory my mother does too but since my aunt is a crappy landlord, every time something needs to be repaired my Aunt is nowhere to be found and if it's out of my sister's price range my mother chips in which, because of all the damages caused by neglect and Cousin 1, has canceled out any rent that would have been paid to my mother.) Which means that now, officially and legally and so forth, my Aunt and my Mother are co-landlords and my sister is a tenant.
Which brings us to yesterday. My Aunt decided to come by. She'd said she'd come by before and my sister prepared to receive her, but she didn't come. Aunt sent-
Actually, let me put in one other vaguely relevant fact. Cousin 1 robbed my sister twice and, though she denies it now, confessed to the first and larger of the two robberies even though no one ever asked her about it in the first place. Also my sister, who has more experience with people on drugs than me (she's volunteered at various places, as well as worked at a 7-eleven for years) has crossed paths with Cousin 1 various times and many of them my sister saw signs that she took as evidence Cousin 1 was under the influence.
Ok, back to yesterday.
My Aunt sent a message saying that she'd be showing up yesterday along with Cousin 1 and Cousin 2. My sister sent a message back saying that she'd love to see Cousin 2 as she hasn't seen her in what seems like forever, but because of the drugs and the robberies she's really not comfortable inviting Cousin 2 into her home. She did it as politely as she could, given what she was saying. (There are some things it's impossible to say politely.)
Aunt responded with indignation, offense, and accusations of lying.
My sister responded by dropping the politeness, unloading with facts (pretty much all of which Aunt already knew but didn't know my sister knew), and reminding her that when someone confesses to a crime of their own free will (i.e. no coercion) then the person saying they didn't do it is calling them a liar and the person saying they did is assuming they're honest, and so forth.
And of course, there's the issue that whether Cousin 1 was a liar, as her mother claimed, or honest, as my sister claimed, didn't really matter. What mattered was that a landlord was meeting a tenant and the tenant just said that one of the people the landlord was bringing made her uncomfortable.
Aunt respond by saying that she was coming with Cousin 1 and Cousin 2, and backpeddling on the exact time so what had been a fixed time became a range.
Which brings us all the way to yesterday. My sister, as I may have mentioned in another post, is farming the farm. The farm is overgrown from years upon years of neglect, but she has goats, sheep, and at Aunt's suggestion (which surprised the fuck out of me) cows to eat back the overgrown grass. (They're doing a fantastic job) she has pigs to till the land (also doing a fantastic job) and ducks and geese for eggs (two geese, one named Gos the other named Ling) with the exception of some of the goats and sheep, she has raised all of these animals from either infancy, or (in the case of the birds) childhood (i.e. not right out of the egg, but the two geese were goslings when she got them, and the 27 ducks were ducklings.)
Aunt has the power to say, "Screw it, I want to sell the property for money." The rental agreement puts some halt on when she can say it, but not indefinitely. Hell, she's already asked for a "For Sale" sign to be put up on the front lawn. (She tried to do it behind my mother's back which would have been illegal.) That would likely mean court battles because when one owner wants to sell and the other doesn't that's the direction it tends to go, which could leave my sister and all of the animals without a home. Many of these animals would be killed.
The cows, I call them cows, are actually male. But they're from a breed designed to be milk cows. With the exception of a few for studding purposes there's not a lot of call for male milk cows since a male bovine doesn't produce milk. They tend to be put down. One of the sheep caught a disease, a parasite I believe, that would normally lead to it being put down even though rehabilitation is possible. It's just not considered worth it.
One of the reasons that she ended up with so many ducks is that many of them were being used for a school project of some kind or other that involved taking them from the egg to a certain age. After that they have nowhere to go. There's a good chance if she hadn't been there to take them they would have been put down.
Some of these animals might have a future if the farm goes away, but the sheep in the process of being rehabilitated (its back legs are only beginning to show signs of utility) would be killed if put in someone else's hands. And adult male milk cows aren't in demand anymore than the babies. The breed only exists to produce milk, males can't produce milk, most of the world views them as a waste of resources.
So my sister has a lot to lose if something goes wrong with a visit from her half-landlord.
Also, it was clear that the half-landlord was planning on outnumbering my sister 3 to 1. She specifically picked a time and day when she knew the other half-landlord would be working and thus unable to attend the visit.
So my sister decided to invite my father and me over for moral support and to make sure there wasn't much in the way of stuff for Aunt to flip out over.
My sister was completely dishonest with me about how much work she was going to have me do. I understood it was kind of an emergency. Lives and legal proceedings hung in the balance and all that. I would have come if she'd been honest, but she wasn't. She made it sound like she'd want me for a couple of hours in the morning, and then want me to stick around until Aunt came with Cousin 1 and Cousin 2 in the afternoon suggesting that I could use the time in between to do schoolwork. Of which I have a lot to do. So I loaded up my bag with two epics, a bunch of notebooks, and of course my computer on which I'd have to write the 26 to 29 pages worth of essays I have to do by the weekend's end. (Ok, it's not all essays, but 3/4ths of the things I need to do are essays and I don't want to get too bogged down in details.)
I never had a chance to touch my bag until I was in the car heading back home. There's no way she misjudged, and I'm not going to get into how I know that because there's so much other stuff to do.
Not everything went right in the morning, but one thing that stood out beyond the other things that didn't go right was that after my dad made one run taking some trash to the dump he decided he was just going to keep on doing that without asking if the stuff he was taking was actually trash. (My sister and I were inside the house, we didn't even know he'd made it back before he was gone again, and we didn't know he'd made it back the second time until he was coming back from the third.) The most notable result of this was that he threw away the first of the duck eggs. He threw away other stuff that shouldn't have been thrown away too, but the duck eggs are the big deal.
Not only was it going to be my sister's first chance to try duck eggs, it was also something she was going to share with Aunt and Cousins as a kind of a peace offering. I'm not sure if she was aware of this, but they've had duck eggs before and apparently like them a lot. So it would have been a good peace offering, if they hadn't been thrown out.
Ok, so at long last Aunt, Cousin 1, and Cousin 2 come. I get a chance to hug my two cousins who I love and haven't seen in ages. I also finally figured out what it was all about. Because the big question for me was, "Why bring Cousin 1?" Remember, of her two daughters, Cousin 1 is the one that Aunt had evicted from this very house when it was so cold outside that putting her on the street could make her freeze to death. Remember also that this isn't just the person who has robbed the house, it's the one who confessed to it without prompting. (And not in a repentance kind of way.) Aunt breaks the law all the damn time, and Cousin 1 isn't necessarily the sidekick you want when you're planning to have sketchy dealings with someone you hate to a marrow deep level.
Each of us, by the way, can trace the moment Aunt put us on her Hate list. Hate is a word that gets overused a lot, so I want to be clear that I do not use it lightly here. She's got hate. Real, honest to [whatever god or lack there of you prefer] hate. And once you're on the list, you never get off. She's still holding a grudge from a perceived snub in second grade. That means she still hates someone she hasn't seen once in my entire lifetime. For something that may well have been an accident.
And, actually, bringing Cousin 2 should have seemed a bit weird too because Cousin 2 has one of the most fascinating cases of rebellious behavior I've ever seen in her life. Both of her parents follow a strict punishment avoidance philosophy of morality. What is morally acceptable is whatever you can get away with. There are no rules, only the probability of whether or not you'll get caught. Which is why, for example, during my childhood they never obeyed the traffic laws. They knew that if they gave the cops their French licence, and spoke only in French, the cops wouldn't bother giving them a ticket. It was just too much hassle.
I don't know if they still do that, I also don't know if it would still work, but they found a way to make it so they wouldn't be punished for disobeying the traffic laws and suddenly, as far as they were concerned, there were no traffic laws. It's sort of how they roll.
Another example is that there's a certain place where, if you live in the town in question, you can get stuff for free. The only catch is that you're not allowed to sell it. Either use it for yourself, give it as a gift, or leave it the fuck there, but don't you dare sell it. Guess what they do with the stuff they pick up for free there. Go on, guess.
So Cousin 2 has rebelled against this behavior and so she follows every rule. It doesn't matter if no one is looking. It doesn't matter if she'll never get caught. It doesn't matter if it's a silly rule. She. Follows. The. Rules. If she can, she makes sure that everyone else follows the rules too. And in her family, that makes her a rebel.
So there we were, my sister, Aunt, Cousin 1, and Cousin 2. (My dad was outside at this point.) And as we went through the house, and as I saw what they were looking at and how they were talking about it, I finally understood what was going on.
A lot of the property in my grandparents estate still hasn't been divided up. My aunt has been promising my mother that they'd get together and do it, but every one of the dates she's promised to do it on has come and gone. It's just been left there. In some cases rusting, in some cases molding, in some cases staying in pretty good condition.
Cousin 1 is moving into a new place, or she has already moved in and the place is empty. They were looking for stuff to furnish the place with. So the washer and dryer from the estate, for example, jumped out at them as very important. As did the idea that they might have matching chairs. (They wouldn't, the chairs never matched and if they'd bothered to remember to back when my grandparents were alive they'd have remembered when we would all get together for a meal and each of us would make sure we got our favorite chair.) They were looking for things to fill out the house with, some as decorations, some as necessities.
That was the purpose of the visit.
In the basement, the shit finally hit the fan.
You see, a long time ago, my Aunt stole some tools from the household and pretended it was legitimate. My grandmother (the one of my grandparents who lived longer, if you hadn't figured it out yet) had recently died, things hadn't gone through probate yet so even if my mother and Aunt got together to make a decision about who gets what it would be completely and utterly illegal to take anything from the estate. But, for whatever reason, my Aunt decided that she wanted tools. So, one day, when my mother wasn't there, she went through the house and took all the tools she wanted. She left a note saying something along the lines of, "I've taken my half of the tools, what's left is yours."
Doing that without even so much as letting my mother see what my Aunt's half was, was illegal. Doing it without letting my mother see that it was truly half, was illegal. Doing that without sitting down with my mother and deciding who gets what, was illegal. Doing that while the estate was still in probate was very, very illegal.
This is something we have not forgotten. We didn't press the issue because, as much of a criminal as my Aunt may be (and she is, all the damn time) she's family. We don't want to drag her into court.
This is something Aunt thought we had forgotten. And if we had forgotten it then she could make a push for half of what was left, which is exactly what she did.
And that comes with trying to remind her in case she really did forget that she broke the law several time over to steal those tools. And trying to do it gently. Yes, don't you remember, you left a note, it was in your hand writing, the note was in this place... and eventually when she keeps on saying, "I didn't do that," you've got to fill in more details. Like the timing. The fact that it was soon enough after our grandmother's death that the estate was still in probate.
And at that point she knows that we know that she broke the law, and voices get raised.
Cousin 1 was the first to resort to shouting. And what she shouted was a lie. I know why she did it, she was trying to defend her mother, she just wasn't doing it very well.
What she shouted was, "Your Dad Got Tools Too!" Which happens to be entirely false. She shouted it so loudly that my dad, currently outside of the house, could hear her. That was enough to bring him in. But it takes time to get from outside into the basement, and by the time he got there everyone was shouting. I may have been loudest, I've got a good voice for shouting.
You see, not only was it a lie, not only do we know it was a lie, but it brings up way to many questions because if it were true then someone had to make that report. She was adamant that it wasn't her, she didn't see him get tools from the house, it was just something she heard from a completely trustworthy source which she can't remember, but it came from within the family, unless it didn't, but it wasn't gossip it was fact, and she knew, except she didn't know... and did I mention that she wasn't doing this very well.
Once we pointed out that Aunt took the tools during probate, we'd pointed out that she didn't just take them, she stole them. It was illegal, everyone in the room knew it, it was why we tried to leave that part out for as long as possible. It was a powderkeg and we knew it.
So Cousin 1 tried to jump to her mother's defense with a, "Your side did it too," approach. She couldn't accuse our mother because we'd already firmly established that the tools my mother got were the ones that Aunt left behind with a note saying, "All of these are yours, I've taken mine" or something to that effect. I'm pretty sure we have a photo of the handwritten note, but the problem is it was years ago so it's going to take a long time to find the photo. Thus I don't have the direct quote at the moment.
Anyway, her mother took tools illegally, the "I never did that" defense had failed, so Cousin 1 tried to say that the same thing happened from our side of the family, and she couldn't do it with our mother, so she went with our father.
The trouble is, beyond it being false, that ups the level of crime. It's not just not waiting until probate closes, it's not just improperly dividing the estate. My father wasn't entitled to any of the estate. It would be like Cousin 1 saying I took tools from the estate, or me saying Cousin 1 did (pretty sure she didn't). It's not theft because the estate is in probate, it's not theft because it was taken without properly dividing things, it's theft because you went into a house you have no claim on and took things you have no claim to.
If there are levels of robbery, Cousin 1's accusation took it to the next level, but that's not all it did. That's not even the important part.
The important part is that if my dad had taken tools the only way for someone to know it would be for them to be in the house seeing it. And the only people legally allowed to be in the house, other than my mother, were standing right there in that basement. None of us, on either side of the family, claimed to be the one who was there. Cousin 1 didn't just accuse my father of being a criminal, she accused her unnamed informant of being a tresspasser.
Which brought up the question, "Who the fuck was the trespasser?" No, the word "fuck" was not actually used, but there are things that can be communicated through tone of voice that need additional verbiage in text.
And rather than defending her mother, her attempt at, "Your side did it too," suddenly focused all the attention on, "Ok, you just either lied about our father," which is what actually happened, "or you just confessed to knowing about criminal activity going on in this house that you have heretofore not mentioned."
And every time she tried to back out she just got in deeper. Whatever animosity I may have toward my aunt, and I have a lot, I give her credit for knowing when to drop a lie. When my sister let her know that she did have the facts of the case with respect to the theft and the drug dealing, my Aunt just dropped the topic entirely. She knew she couldn't win, she let it go.
I'm not going to get into the details of Cousin 1's evasions here, but I do want to mention some of the contradictions Specifically two sentences, she said over and over, about the exact same thing: "I don't know." "I know." Sometimes these were separated by but a breath. The problem she found herself in was that when talking about the possibility the fictional crime didn't happen she had to say, "I don't know," because otherwise she'd either have to admit it didn't happen, or give a reason she knew it did happen. But whenever it was brought back that her claim was baseless* she had to claim "I know" that the crime she was talking about was really true.
We didn't have this problem because we cited our source. Aunt told us in writing. In her own handwriting.
So by the time my dad made it into the conversation, Cousin 1 had shifted from yelling at us that our dad was a criminal too so let's just forget about the fact her mother is a criminal and use that forgetting to allow her mother to get three fourths of the estate's stuff instead of one half, to saying, "Stop Yelling At Me."
And I'm, for what it's worth, shaking from the adrenaline.
Then Aunt does something that has never been done to me before. She actually calls me, and more directly my sister, a bastard. She doesn't use the world bastard, she uses the original definition. She claims he isn't related to my sister or myself. She claims he isn't a part of our family. She claims that he has no right to be present as the tenant's father because he's not the tenant's father.
I wasn't watching my sister's face. I didn't see when my sister started to cry. But afterwards, my sister said this was the time. It was this moment. The moment we were called bastards in the fullest sense of the word without using the word itself because the word has lost it's meaning.
First off, how the fuck would she know if he weren't our biological father?
Second, she said that in front of her two adopted daughters. What does it say to Cousin 1 and Cousin 2 when their mother, with whom they share no blood, says that if you're not a blood relative you don't count?
We're family, and blood has absolutely nothing to do with it.
My cousins are my cousins and I love them for they are my cousins and the fact that there's no blood tie means absolutely nothing. Their mother should know that better than I do.
For the record, my father is my biological father, but if he weren't that would mean absafuckingolutely nothing. Because being a parent is about a hell of a lot more than what's in the blood. He'd still be my father. Maybe I'd have someone else out there who had claim to the name "father", but that would mean I had two fathers, it wouldn't mean that my current father isn't my father. No genetics can take away a parent-child relationship, the mother of two adopted daughters should know that better than anyone.
All of that said, sometimes I could do with my father taking a step back and leaving me to my own devices. My sister had been driven to tears, my Aunt was still insisting mys sister was a bastard while avoiding the word itself and instead using much more hurtful things to deliver the message at the top of her lungs, and my sister was outnumbered 3 to 1.
I wasn't leaving that fucking basement in that situation.
Maybe part of it is my fault. On the ride over I told my father I was worried that I'd lose my cool and things would go to shit.
On the other side of my family I have some of the most hard core fundamentalists you'll ever meet. They're so far passed the usual King James only crowd that, at least at one point, they believed Jesus walked around ancient Israel speaking English for the bible tells them so. I don't know if this is still true, but at one point one of them denied the existence of birth defects because god wouldn't do that so it must not be true. My fundamentalist relatives don't make me lose my cool.
My drug dealing relatives do.
But I didn't lose my cool and start shouting until I was already being shouted at, and more to the point my sister was.
So my dad tried to get me out of the basement, just me, which would have left my sister in tears being shouted at and outnumbered three to one. He first suggested that Cousin 1 and I leave but Aunt shot that down and my father kept on trying to make me leave my sister in tears and undefended.
He tried by force by the end. Seriously not cool.
I didn't leave until Cousin 1 decided the completely ignore what her mother had said and leave on her own. (Aunt didn't let her know the car was locked and she'd be outside in the cold.) My father probably thinks he forced me because he was still using force, but that wasn't it. Three to one against my sister is odds I don't want to leave her in. Two to one I think she can handle.
Also, Cousin 2 might join in the shouting, but Cousin 2 is no attack dog. Furthermore, Cousin 2 was the one my sister wanted to see, Cousin 1 was the one that made my sister uneasy. If my leaving took Cousin 1 with me, that didn't feel like abandoning my sister, that felt like helping her.
And, afterward, it felt like helping Cousin 1 too. Once she was out of reach of her mother she changed. I'm not saying she became a saint. She still lied about a couple of her past indiscretions, but who really wants to admit to everything they did wrong?
She wasn't shouty, she wasn't hostile, she wasn't going from lie to lie hoping something stung the right way. We talked. One of the things I said to her she didn't want to hear, and honestly I didn't want to say it but then, after having to get my dad out of the way again, I was finally able to say something to her that I've wanted to say for years.
This is not what I said, but it might help you to understand what I did say. From the outside Cousin 1 looks like a bad person who brought bad things on herself. No one made her steal (that we know of) no one made her lie (that we know of) no one made her do drugs (that we know of) and so it's easy to blame everything on her. It's easy to say that she brought her problems on herself and there's no one else responsible and so forth.
She is absolutely responsible for her actions, but to lay it all at her feet misses a larger picture. A larger picture that I have a sliver of insight into because of correspondence from her mother and father that I have had some chance to read (though it wasn't addressed to anyone in my generation.) I know that her father tried to cut her off from anyone who might be nice to her by spewing vitriol at anyone who so much as tried to send her a Christmas card (I thought it was a birthday card, but someone with a better memory said it was a Christmas card) I know that her mother was helping her to con drug money out of my grandmother, whether her mother knew the money was for drugs or not doesn't matter, her mother was setting her up to be a thief. I. obviously, know that her mother kicked her out in freeze to death weather as part of a scheme to make Cousin 1 come crawling back. I get wanting the prodigal daughter to return, but who wants their daughter to come crawling back for fear of death by winter? And that even if the police did force the timing of the eviction her mother thought that it was a good thing her daughter would face the prospect of death by freezing (again, in hopes it would send her crawling back.) And more. Too much more. More than I want to know.
Even though I never stopped loving Cousin 1, it was easier when I thought that she had it great and then threw it all away. It was easier when I didn't know what she had to face.
So what I did tell her was that I know, from emails and such, some of how she's been treated (I didn't give details because I didn't want to bring back bad memories any more than necessary, I just needed to say that to get to the part that mattered) and I thought that she was brave, and strong, and impressive for holding up under it. I couldn't have done the same.
That was what I said, I didn't say this, it didn't occur to me until now but I wouldn't have said it if it had because it would have been a dig and the point was that since I've learned how she's been treated I wanted to say something supportive. Maybe I failed, it's impossible to know, but I wanted to let her know that somebody out there thought good things about her because I do and because I don't think she's getting it from her parents. Anyway, what just occurred to me is this: who am I to judge her for turning to drugs when if my parents treated me the way her parents treated her I would have been crushed under it all? I'd probably be curled up in a ball on the floor crying.
And then I walked away, but not far, and my dad, who was also not far, asked if she had seen the animals yet. I think he might have intended to take her on the tour himself, but ended up leading the tour. We all went to the goats and sheep together, no one led that part because you could see them from there, then I led her passed the duck enclosure to the cows, my dad met us there with bad apples, the bad apples were for the pigs, and Cousin 1 enjoyed feeding them to the pigs, then we went to the old goat enclosure, which had become the pig enclosure before they'd been moved to their present location, and you could really see how the pigs had tilled the land, I hadn't been their since the pigs had moved in and it was impressive indeed.
We separated from my dad and I showed her the rhubarb, which has apparently passed season because it's nowhere near as impressive as it once was, and she asked about the the bees so we went to see them, the were mostly staying in their hives, I would guess because of the cold. And I showed her the most awesome tree in the world, which marks one corner of the property, and we walked down to the edge of the wood and talked about thwarting ATVers and life, and her children and her parents, and her sister, and me, and my sister, and my family, and everything, and we came to the ducks (and the two geese of course) who put up a racket when they heard us coming, before we even saw them, they were swimming in the irrigation pond, and met up with my dad on the way back because he had heard the ducks, and talked about a tree, and sheep, and there would have been more but her mother insisted they go because her father wanted to make it to the place where you can get stuff for free so long as you're not going to sell it (guess what he's going to with it) so they had to meet up with her father to take him there.
And, honestly, walking and talking with Cousin 1 was the best part of my day.
I thought she seemed clean, my sister thought the opposite. I hope my sister is wrong, and if my sister is right then I hope Cousin 1 becomes clean soon. I love Cousin 1. I love Cousin 2. I do not love my Aunt, and based one the conversation I had with Cousin 1 I'm beginning to wonder if my Aunt ever loved Cousin 1.
The lies in the family run deep, and it's clear that Cousin 1 is being kept out of the loop. I didn't tell her about that, on the one hand people have a right to know the truth, on the other hand being betrayed by family hurts, and there's a line between informative and hurtful. Cousin 1 seems to love the property the same as I do, although for her she just wants the whole mess to be over more than anything, and for me I want the property to survive in a recognizable form more than anything. Aunt has been telling Cousin 1 that she's not really interested in selling and developing and such anymore, at the same time she's trying to find a way to set up a sale and actively going through the steps (or at least ordering other people to go through the steps.) So Aunt is lying to Cousin 1.
The conversation was so natural and flowing that I said things I probably shouldn't have. I let things slip when I'm caught up in the flow of the conversation, especially since we were in one of those, "Let me tell you this bad story," kind of places where the telling of the story kind of helps to get over it and you laugh instead of the opposite. I let things slip about her in talking about what was happening between my parents and her parents. Like the fact that Aunt thinks of Cousin 1's children not as precious or joys or people, but as problems Aunt has to deal with. And a couple of other things.
The good news is that this didn't seem to hurt or even faze Cousin 1 in the least. I certainly didn't want to hurt her, I just wasn't thinking. The bad news is that it seemed like the reason Cousin 1 wasn't bothered by this was that she already knew. Telling other people that a newborn baby is in't a person but a problem is one thing (not a good thing, mind you), telling the mother... That's something else, and yet it seems that that's what Cousin 1's mother told her when her son was born or shortly thereafter.
I don't know how to wrap this up. It was the worst Saturday ever, the walk with Cousin 1 was very good, even if I couldn't keep myself from saying things I shouldn't have said.
I suppose I should return to one thing, how Cousin 1 and Cousin 2 came to be my cousins. My aunt wanted children and couldn't have them, this is not unusual and is the cause for a lot of adoptions. But the timing says something that I don't like to think about, but now I am and have before. The adoption of Cousin 1 didn't follow a natural process from "We want children" through "We can't have children" to "I guess we'll adopt."
Instead that last step seems to have had a different immediate cause. My mother, my aunt's younger sister, gave birth to my sister. Aunt rushed out to adopt as soon as she could. Thus Cousin 1. My mother, more than two but less than three years later, gave birth to me. Aunt rushed out to adopt as soon as she could. Thus Cousin 2.
I want to believe that the timing of this is just a coincidence. I want to believe that the only reason for the adoptions was wanting children. I want to believe that my cousins were loved by their parents as I love them. Because they're family and family is supposed to love and it's taken a lot to make me stop loving my aunt and there's no way a child could do that much so they must have been loved, right?
But the more I learn about that family, a family I grew up with but only saw from the kids table and never understood what they said among themselves because it was always in French, the more I feel like love is missing. The way my uncle prepared them for school was as if they were machines, and I sometimes wonder if it was for their benefit or his bragging rights. The way my aunt treats her children, I can see that they love her, but I can't see that she loves them.
And the timing of their adoptions makes it seem like, from the beginning, it was never about the children (now adults) it was about keeping up with younger sister. Which would mean they were seen more as objects to show off than people to love.
And I don't want to believe that, but the more I see of my aunt and uncle, the more plausible it sounds.
But I don't want it to be true because I love my cousins and I want them to have had happy childhoods, I want them to have happy adulthoods. I want them to be loved. And the idea that their family might not be providing that is both disturbing and disturbingly plausible.
Whatever the case, maybe I can provide some of that familial love to Cousin 1, she still lives around her and I've set up to continue the tour of the farm (with her son who I've never had a chance to meet) on Friday.
I don't know if there's such a thing as unconditional love, I don't know if it's possible to have no line that could be crossed to stop loving someone (what if they become a genocidal maniac?) but if there is such a thing then I have to believe that that is what I feel toward my cousins, because I don't ever see myself stopping loving them.
We're family, we grew up together, at least during the summers, and even when I haven't seen them in years I just want to hug them and tell them how much I missed them, even if one of them spent at least some of those years doing dubious things.
[Added] In case anyone was wondering I hadn't seen either of my cousins in years when I wrote a post about loving a jerk, that was so very much not about them.[/added]
* She seriously cited unnamed sources that she claimed to not know who they were or what they said or when or where or anything that might distinguish them from an imaginary friend that tells only lies.