Sunday, May 25, 2014

The one cousin

I'm an only child. Most of the time, I've been cool with this. Actually, 99% of the time I haven't minded. I always had my own room and my own bathroom growing up. No one was ever going through my stuff. I'm an introvert, I like quiet, and the house was usually quiet. There was no guarantee that just because a sibling and I shared a same womb at some point that this would make us BFFs. Yeah, maybe we'd tolerate each other, or even better--LIKE each other, but that wasn't anywhere close to a guarantee.

My mom actually got pregnant right after she remarried (when I was 15 and she was 42 and my stepdad was 56), but she miscarried. Old eggs, old sperm - the odds weren't in their favor. I didn't relish being a 16 year old who would have been forced to babysit all the time and probably being thought of as a teen mom even thought it wouldn't have been my kid. So, anyway, my one chance at being a sister didn't pan out. Not that I was really disappointed.

But what I did always want was a cousin. It was someone to play with that was closer to my age, but I didn't have to deal with the day-to-day fights/struggles/obnoxiousness. It seemed like a perfect situation. Unfortunately, both sides of my family don't reproduce that much (no fertility issues, just by choice). Not only was I an only child, but I was also an only GRANDchild until I was 20 years old. My grandmother on my mom's side died before I was born; my grandfather on my mom's side died when I was five years old. I remember him some, but not a whole lot because I was so young. My dad's parents had a bit more longevity in them. My grandmother on my dad's side lived until I was 15, and my grandfather lived until I was 26. I wasn't spoiled in the traditional sense because both sets of grandparents were really poor, but my dad's parents were a bit more indulgent when I visited them for a few weeks each summer.

My mom has a sister, and she and my uncle chose not to have children. My aunt didn't really want to deal with kids. I have absolutely NO problem with it; that's their choice. And she wouldn't have been the best mom in the world, and my uncle would have been a "fun" dad but I can't see him doing the day-to-day parenting. I just always knew I wouldn't get cousins from them. Like I never even ASKED them because I knew kids just weren't their thing. (All that being said, they have been an excellent aunt and uncle.)

My dad, who is deceased (not only does my family have a low birth rate, but we also die quickly...what would Darwin say about that), had one brother. My uncle was raised by the same fiscally poor but indulgent parents as my dad. My uncle ended up "better" than my dad (not even counting that he's alive while my dad isn't), but he's not without some issues. He got married to his first wife when I was 3 years old. They divorced when I was 14-ish. He was single for a few years, and then he married his second wife when I was 18-ish.

I still remember the call when I was in college when my uncle told me that his wife was pregnant. I was going to be a COUSIN! Finally! I was so excited. I told all my friends that I was going to be a COUSIN! They all looked at me like I was nuts because they all had 10 cousins, and it was no big deal to them. But for an only child getting my first cousin was a big deal.

So I have one cousin. It's probably appropriate that I've met him only once. He lives on the East Coast. I've flown back to the East Coast three times since I've gotten out of college, and I've seen my uncle two of those times and my cousin once. He was three years old at the time.

Today my cousin turned 16! Happy Birthday! I would call him, but he wouldn't have much idea who I am...he has lots of cousins from his mother's side who he sees all the time. I'm the person he met once when he was three years old.

Can you also tell that we're not a close family? I feel bad for my uncle because both his parents are dead and so is his only brother. I'm really his only living relative, and I try to call him once a year. We talk for half an hour, summarizing our lives, he promises to call the next week, and then he doesn't--I have to call him the next year.

But I'm still happy to have a cousin.

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