Two months after A was born, my cousins who live out-of-state gave birth to a son. They also have a toddler daughter at home. My aunt recently spent a few weeks with them; meeting her grandson for the first time. She returned home this past week, just in time for my grandmother’s 81st birthday dinner. I happened to sit next to this particular aunt. She brought out an envelope of snapshots from their recent visit and asked if we’d like to see them. Rather than taking them to the other side of the table, or beginning with someone else, she handed them directly to me. *sigh*
I love my cousins and hold nothing against them personally, but I was already worn down by the big gathering. After flipping through them, I passed ‘em along, took a deep breath and regrouped…until I noticed a large foam board sitting next to Grandma’s chair at the head of the table. On the board were two huge, blown-up photos of the out-of-town 2-year-old and newborn boy. My gut wretched, my eyes burned, I felt dizzy. Because her grandchildren could not physically be here for the celebration, my aunt brought this poster of their images. What about A?! He can’t be here. He’s missing! Why doesn’t anyone acknowledge that he’s not here and should be? How strange would they look at me if I brought a giant, blown-up photo of A to all the family gatherings?
One of my fears when this newborn baby was coming so soon after A died was that this baby too would be a boy. You see, on this side of the family we have 4 great-granddaughters…until A. He was the first great-grandson and I was immensely proud of that. I was afraid that if out-of-town baby was also a boy, he would eclipse A and A’s place in the family.
On top of all this, another set of cousins just announced they’re expecting (gender unknown as of yet). They were also at Grandma’s dinner. These cousins live locally and I won’t be able to avoid them or their children as easily as I can the out-of-towners. Plus I know they feel guilty and uncomfortable around E and I, which only feeds my anxiety and insecurity. How effing cruel that this wonderfully huge extended family that I’ve always found supportive is suddenly such horrible company to be in.
I held it together until we hit the door of the restaurant, then the tears flowed. I didn’t want to damper the celebration, I didn’t want attention on Grandma’s day and I didn’t want to make anyone feel bad.
My entire extended family has been supportive since the day A was born. I know my aunt did not do these things maliciously. She just didn’t think about how they’d affect me. How I can expect everyone to stop and put me first before making any decisions or saying anything out loud? I can’t. I don’t like resenting my loved ones or their children. It’s a dreadful feeling.
It’s days later and I’m still upset by it. Surely this won’t be the last insensitive thing someone does or says to me. I just didn’t expect it from my own family.