Family Getting in Touch Years Down the Line

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Post by UristMcBunny on Sat Feb 28, 2015 7:16 pm

My birth father died before I was old enough to be verbal, and I was basically raised by my maternal side of the family. All of them - for my early childhood I lived in the same 3 bedroom house as my mum, grandparents and both my mum's siblings. Growing up I regularly spent time with my maternal grandad's siblings kids and grandkids and saw even my distant cousins pretty frequently. On my paternal side... well, I saw grandpa J once a year until he passed away when I was 19, and I was bridesmaid for one of my paternal uncle's wedding when I was about 6 or 7, but they basically dropped off the face of the Earth from my perspective. The last time I saw them was at Grandpa J's funeral, when one of the uncles waited until I was separated from my mum for a moment, approached to tell me there was "no inheritance, but they'd saved a folder full of photos to give me when I turned 16" (remember I was almost 20 at the time) and promptly turned around and left without even attempting to get contact information off me.

As far as I've been concerned for pretty much my whole life, my entire family IS just the maternal side of it. I go by my mother's maiden name socially, if not yet legally, and I honestly don't think I've even had a passing thought about that branch of my tree since that funeral.

Buuut I do have a spare facebook page in my legal name - it's public, and it's only there so potential employers googling me get something nice and sterile to look at. But today I received a facebook message from the wife of one of my paternal uncles, the one who moved to Australia when I was an infant (and who "borrowed" some of my mum's bereavement money to fund said move, without every paying it back).

I don't really know how to feel about this. Actually, I'm surprised to find I do have feelings about it at all. Mostly, my reaction to the message was anger. Tearful, uncontrolled, anger. At a woman only technically related to me who I have never met. I feel like... why? Why now? I mean, grandpa J was a regular source of potential contact between me and the entire rest of my paternal side for literally all of my childhood and none of them ever attempted it, and even after he died well... facebook has existed for over a decade, and it's only been the last few years I stopped using my legal name on my main account. Prior to that I was on that big family tree tracing site for a while - actually managed to track down some descendants of one of my maternal grandfathers MANY siblings living in another country, much to grandad P's delight. And in all that time, nothing.

So why now? I'm 30 years old. I turn 31 in a few weeks. My entire childhood and young adulthood has been and gone without me knowing a single one of them beyond a couple of grainy old photos. Why do they think they can turn around NOW and try to initiate contact with me as though it was the most natural thing in the world? I mean lets face it, if it was just bad luck that they lost contact with me and my mum during my childhood, that funeral for Grandpa J would've been the perfect opportunity to re-initiate contact. They must have got hold of my mum's or grandparents' address from Grandpa J's records to have contacted us about the funeral in the first place, they all would've been there, and it's a natural time to strengthen and remember family ties that have otherwise fallen by the wayside.

More to the point. Why do I care so much? Why am I so angry about this? I've never considered genetics an important aspect of what makes someone family - I have people who aren't related to me in any way - blood or marriage - who I consider close and important members of my family. I've never thought about these people. I don't even know my uncle's name. Why does this bother me?

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Post by Archetype694 on Sun Mar 01, 2015 3:11 am

Hey Bunny

I can't answer your question, but I do think anger, suspicion and doubt are normal responses to a situation such as this. Particularly from the past interactions you have listed.

There are many reasons why one would initiate contact after such a long period of separation. Some good, many bad. I grew up without any contact from my paternal side of the family. A few years ago I did wind up re uniting with that side of the family and while I was disappointed in some ways (Aunts and Uncles turned out to be somewhat slimy people) I was also happy to have had a chance to meet my father (who turned out to be an awesome human being) and learn I had an kick ass adult sister and younger brother to add to my already large number of younger siblings.  

I just wanted to say I can only imagine the tempest of emotions this subject can arouse and offer what little support I could through this text medium. I hope it all goes well. Sad

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Post by UristMcBunny on Sun Mar 01, 2015 8:34 pm

Yeah, it's... it's confusing.

I did decide to reply, in the end. I figure the worst happens, I just stop replying and/or block them on FB and have done with it. Although trying to figure out WHAT to say in reply was difficult.

I got the impression from the tone and content of the woman's message to me that she expected me to be excited and happy about the contact, so I'm not sure how my reply will be received. The first thing I posted was an admittedly rather curt "Yes, you're through to the right Bunny, I am who you think." followed a couple of hours later by a clumsy attempt to explain that message which I now worry might actually make it worse. But then, if any kind of relationship is going to form out of this, then it'll need to include dealing with the fact that, for me, this isn't quite the innocently happy and exciting tracking down of lost relatives it probably is for them. Certainly it feels very different to when we tracked down my grandad's brothers' descendants.

Comments from my loved ones when I mentioned the contact on facebook were... mixed. Big sis-in-law and my nan couldn't see any reason why I WOULDN'T want to get in touch - more family is always good, after all. My mum, I think, understood why I was feeling conflicted, although she was on the side of giving contact a try if I felt like I wanted to.

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Post by Enail on Sun Mar 01, 2015 8:48 pm

Man, that sounds like a tricky thing to figure out what you want to do, and to do it. I don't have any advice, I'm afraid, and it sounds like you're on top of it anyway, so just many jedi hugs and wishes for it to go in some way that you're happy with, whatever that may turn out to be.
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Post by InkAndComb on Mon Mar 02, 2015 3:50 pm

This sort of happened to me too, but I waffled so long that the main person reaching out passed away Sad I was raised by the maternal side of my family as well. It's something I feel never came up, how to deal with estranged family trying to reconnect.

I can't help but think it's also an age factor; the regret of not making family count, or realizing far too late that you lack a relationship and why (on why they reach out. But people in question for me are all 80+). My dad was basically disowned after his family found out how he behaved towards my mother (but they didn't reach out earlier, partially due to him keeping them away and also living in a different country).

Like you, I don't know how to feel. Like, why now and I'm an adult, and they are all quite old. Reconnecting seems impossible and maybe vapid, possibly painful due to death and them not knowing my past. But, truth be told, I LIKE people and this could be an opportunity for closeness? Maybe? This is what made me hesitate too long.

I hope, regardless of what happens, it gets less awkward for you. I try to apply the concept of "if after a few attempts at taking, I dread or do not look forward to the next talk, maybe it is too much effort" with anyone reaching out from the past.

Also, thanks for sharing this; I know the intention of the post wasn't comfort, but knowing that I am not the only one in this type of situation is...nice. I look forward to an update, if you're comfortable with it
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Post by reboot on Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:06 pm

I wish when relatives did this they would just say why they are reaching out :/

I had it happen with my maternal grandmother's family. It is complicated because my blood grandmother died of TB when my mom was 10 and the grandmother I knew was her stepmother. No bad blood, but she ended up not having much contact with her mother's side after the marriage and then they moved to the US so contact diminished even more. My cousins from that side got in touch with me through LinkedIn which was kind of weird until I realized they wanted to work in the US
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Post by JP McBride on Tue Mar 03, 2015 8:09 pm

UristMcBunny wrote:But today I received a facebook message from the wife of one of my paternal uncles, the one who moved to Australia when I was an infant (and who "borrowed" some of my mum's bereavement money to fund said move, without every paying it back).

You said "they" contacted you, did you get the sense that she was contacting you on their behalf?

Also, hugs. Your uncles sound like assholes.

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Post by Caffeinated on Tue Mar 03, 2015 8:42 pm

JP McBride wrote:
UristMcBunny wrote:But today I received a facebook message from the wife of one of my paternal uncles, the one who moved to Australia when I was an infant (and who "borrowed" some of my mum's bereavement money to fund said move, without every paying it back).

You said "they" contacted you, did you get the sense that she was contacting you on their behalf?

Also, hugs. Your uncles sound like assholes.

This makes me think, if you decide you don't want to be in contact with them, you could start bringing up the "borrowed" money with stronger and stronger suggestions that obviously they're in contact again in order to pay it back after all these years. With interest.
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Post by UristMcBunny on Wed Mar 04, 2015 5:34 am

Heh. Tempting, but I'm not going to argue money that isn't even mine to argue over - especially since my mum was gently positive (although understanding about my feelings) on the subject of me getting back in touch.

So far it's been going okay. It's the wife of Uncle Aussie who's in touch - she's been passing messages between me and the uncle, since he doesn't have FB, and she's not been too pushy about anything - completely understanding that I feel really conflicted about the contact and why. It turns out my UK uncle has somewhat turned everyone away and dropped contact with Uncle Aussie and "all the rest of the family" (I have no idea who "all the rest" is but I suppose I'll find out if I keep contact going). So I guess that goes some way to explaining the interest in reaching out, now.

I did a slightly scary thing today. Gave Aunt Aussie my real FB page - the one that has actual news and photos and stuff on it. Will have to see what happens next.

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Post by UristMcBunny on Fri Mar 06, 2015 9:19 pm

I wonder.

How, exactly, does one politely tell someone "it's nice that you now send me almost-daily messages updating me on family goings-on I've missed over the years. But I wonder if you realise that the people you are talking about are such total strangers to me that I didn't even know I had relatives named Jeff."

And there probably isn't any way at all to nicely say "I'm willing to try and see what happens when I take the time to get to know you a bit, but I feel literally nothing for the family I've never met, and really don't care to keep hearing about relatives who live in the same country as me and could have made their own attempts to get in touch at any time, if they'd actually wanted to".

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Post by UristMcBunny on Fri Mar 06, 2015 9:44 pm

Okay yep, no. Nopeing way the fuck back out of this, at least for a little while.

Apparently, for the uncle who only speaks to me through this aunt, this is "a way of reconnecting with his brother - long gone but never forgotten"

He died before I was a year old. I have no memories of him. I literally never knew the man. This isn't a reconnection with him because there is nothing of him in me, aside from genetics, and seeing as I'm a 5ft 2 blonde fat woman with massive tits and he was an almost 7ft tanned and dark-haired body builder it's not as if I exactly take after him much.

There is way too much invested in this for them and nothing in it for me and I feel like it'd be a cruelty to continue this and get their hopes up.

I mean, I'll still send them the photos. But I seriously feel like I need a week long break from it every single time they message me.

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Post by Enail on Fri Mar 06, 2015 10:07 pm

Ugh, that sounds really over-grabby-feeling and tiring. Sorry it's turning out to be not such a good thing for you.
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Post by Archetype694 on Fri Mar 06, 2015 10:49 pm

Yikes that's rough, and unfair to place such a burden / expectation on you.

Sad

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Post by LadyIkaros on Sat Mar 07, 2015 7:56 am

Yikes. Definitely get out of that one. Sounds extremely uncomfortable and really selfish and pushy on their part.
My biological father took off to a different continent when I was an infant and has never been any good at keeping in touch, but that's all fine because no one really has any expectations. I go visit him and his new family sometimes - it's great to have relatives in exotic location - and it's fine, but this weird, emotional grab from people you don't even know who want you to somehow magically fix decades' worth of regrets? No thanks!
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Post by UristMcBunny on Sat Mar 07, 2015 11:48 am

Man I am so glad you guys get it. I'm actually slightly regretting telling my family about the contact now, although at the time I needed their input to help me decide what to do. They are all rather significantly more enthusiastic about this than I am, and I don't think they really get why this is weird for me.

One problem of having a really close, lovely, supportive family - none of them can understand why I wouldn't want more contact with more family!

One upside though - my nan is sorting out the wedding album of my parents to scan and email me so I can pass the photos onto the uncle. It'll be interesting - the album hasn't been opened since my birth father died because "no one could bear to look at them", so I've never seen these photos before.

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