Friday, February 16, 2007

More about my cousin...

It's time to post some more about my cousin, Little Man. I've found out some things in the last few days, and I have to write about it before I blow up.

Little Man is the youngest of 6 children. His Dad (Uncle) is my mom's older brother. Uncle married my Aunt and adopted her daughter when she was just a couple years old. Then they had 5 more children (there's 14 years between the oldest and the youngest). Somewhere in there the whole family moved to Iowa, Uncle and Aunt got divorced, one of them moved back to CA with all the kids, then the other moved back to CA, and they got back together. I'm still not sure if they ever remarried.

When the oldest, Nelly, was about 19, Uncle and Aunt decided to move back to Iowa. Nelly was old enough to be on her own, and she didn't want to move back to Iowa. She had practically raised all the other kids anyway, and Uncle and Aunt didn't know what to do without her, but they couldn't make her go with them. Uncle and Aunt worked in the oil refineries, so they worked lots of hours, a lot of them at night, and Nelly had to watch over all the kids. She didn't have a normal childhood. She cooked and cleaned and raised kids from about the age of 10. I don't blame her for staying in CA when the family moved to Iowa.

The rest of the kids did pretty well in IA...they had an old farm house out in the country and they learned how to raise animals and take care of some land. Nelly and I stayed in touch because I only lived about an hour away from her. I would drive over and hang out with her when I could. She was working as a checker at a grocery store, but she wasn't getting enough hours to make a good living. She asked our grandparents for help, and they gave her money and helped her get her car fixed...but she never made an effort to pay them back, and the wouldn't show up for family meals when they asked her to. So, Grandma and Grandpa stopped giving her money. Nelly lived in her own apartment until she couldn't afford it anymore, and then she got some roommates. She had boyfriend after boyfriend, and all she talked about was clothes and partying and how she wanted a boob job.

One day Nelly called me in tears...she thought she had herpes. She had been dating a guy who she had just broken up with, and then she ended up with herpes. She had just found out that he had it. I drove over, not sure what I would be able to do, but she needed someone. I tried to talk her into moving to my town, where it was cheaper to live and she could start over. By the time I got to her apartment, she had calmed down and decided that she could make it on her own. We talked several more times after that, but then she stopped calling as much. When she did call she would promise to come for family dinners, but she never showed.

A couple years after that, the next oldest, Reyna, started arguing with her dad. He was being very strict on her and she wanted more freedom. Reyna ended up moving out to live on her own. She worked at Hooters to make enough money to live on…and she started partying a lot. Then she decided she wanted to move to CA and live near her older sister, who was partying it up in CA.

The next sister is Suki. She’s such a smart girl! She is now in CA, too, engaged to be married, and working on her college degree. Are you starting to see a trend here? These kids are all following the same path…of course I don’t know all the details, but I know that my Aunt and Uncle yelled a lot, they didn’t give the kids very much freedom, and they treated them like slaves a lot of the time. Now, I love my Aunt and Uncle a lot, but I would have parented these kids differently. Of course, they have their own problems. Aunt was diagnosed with MS years ago, and she has a very hard time getting around anymore. Uncle has epilepsy and terrible back pains. They both appear to be much older than they are.

There are still 3 more kids to tell you about. Matty is the next oldest. He’s still in IA. When he graduated from high school he started working full time and met the love of his life, who he is marrying this fall. He stayed living at home for a couple years to save money, but he’s now moved out on his own. The next kid is Rita. Rita lives in a foster home. I don’t know exactly what happened, but she accused her parents of being abusive…it might be halfway true, but I also think she added quite a bit to the story. She lives with a family in a town close to her parents, but doesn’t see them very often any more. When my Grandad died, she had to come to the funeral with an escort from social services. She’ll be 18 soon and will have to figure out what she wants to do from there.

That brings us to Little Man. For the last couple years he was in IA, he was there with just Matty who was working a lot and home as little as possible. The summer before he went to live with my parents he started fighting with his parents, getting physical at times, and Uncle and Aunt called my parents to see if they could take him for the year. I think they were trying to avoid a situation like they got into with Rita. It’s worked out great for him with my parents. He’s started working out, he’s getting good grades, he’s made lots of friends, and he’s turned into a “Little Man”.

That’s the history, and I’m sorry it’s so long, but this post is more for me to work things out in my mind that to be eloquent in my writing.

So, now we’re at present time. Little Man is living with mom and dad, and his 3 oldest sisters are living 4 hours away in NorCal. He sees them occasionally, but only when M&D drive him up there to see them. Other than those times, his sisters (Nelly, Reyna, and Suki) are living their own lives in NorCal. Nelly is a bartender, and I think she’s going to beauty school also. Reyna works the cosmetics counter at a swanky department store in SF, and Suki is finishing up college. All of them brag about how they like to drink until they can’t remember things, they post provocative pictures on their myspace sites, and they have almost NO contact with other family members in their part of the state.

A few weeks ago, my grandma had surgery, and M&D and Little Man planned to drive up on Friday to visit her. On Monday of that week, Little Man found out, on accident, that his parents who he hasn’t seen since last August were in CA, at Nelly’s place. They had flown out for an awards ceremony at the refinery where they used to work. Little Man called them on the phone and asked them to come to his band concert a couple days later (it would mean a 4 hour drive). They said NO because that was the night they were supposed to receive the award. LM asked again, saying it was his biggest concert, and he really wanted them to come see it…they still said NO. Then he asked if they would at least drive down and visit him while they were in town. They said they would see. When it became apparent that they weren’t going to come visit, he called again and asked them to delay their trip home because he would be there Friday night (they were leaving on Friday morning). They said NO, that would be too expensive. Poor kid never got to see his parents!

And Little Man wants to go back and live with THEM for high school??? I don’t get it. He been ignored by his family, pushed away, and he wants to go back for more! Don’t get me wrong, I love his family – his parents and his siblings. I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of the choices that they have made, but I still love them. And I love LM, too, and I want him to have all kinds of opportunities and choices, and I want him to have a family who loves him and makes him a priority. He’s stuck in the middle. He’s had to grow up too fast.

M&D aren’t going to force him to stay with our family, so I hope he really thinks about his future and makes his decision based on all the facts.

All right, this is long enough…and I’ve probably scared everyone with my wacky family…but I needed to get it out. Now I’m going to go to bed. Good night


shell said...

wow. i don't think i ever knew about that side of your family. i'm sorry things have turned out they way they have, especially with little man. families are so tough. we always think we can make it work 'next time'. i have gone thru that myself. i'm always thinking i can make things better if i try just a little harder or do something different. it takes so long and a lot of personal strength to realize that people are the way they are and they won't change unless they want to. at least little man has your family to love and cherish him, even if his parents don't....

Terry said...

What a story... I myself was faced with difficult choices as a child and hope he makes a wise decision... Sounds like he is definitely better off where he is at, but no amount of talking will convince him of that!! I hope everything works out, I know it must be hard watching this all play out!

Terry said...

Okay, so i figured out how to do this...

TAG, your it!!