Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mea Culpa

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. He was telling me about something rude his sister did to a friend of his daughter. He had then told his daughter that since it happened at her grandmother's house she should tell her grandmother that she didn't appreciate a guest in her house being treated that way. I told him if my niece went to her grandmother with something like that my mother would say,  "well you know how your aunts are," and that would be that. He was a little taken aback by that and explained that it was rude and inappropriate. I told him that in my house that wouldn't have mattered.  Right, wrong or indifferent the response would be you know how they are. And then I said, but I am sure she did it with the misguided thought that she was being helpful. He didn't buy that, but I know from which I speak on that one as well.

I don't drink a lot. My mother was very clear with all of us growing up that alcoholism was a disease and that we all carried the gene for it. She's right. But it's more than just alcohol, it's addictive personalities in general. I had my first cigarette at age 12.  I can tell you what I was wearing, where I was sitting and how it tasted. I didn't stop smoking until I was 20 and only then because I realized that a 20 year old woman shouldn't be huffing and puffing while trying to do aerobics. In my dreams I am still a smoker.  If they came up with a safe way to smoke I would start again tomorrow. It's been 23 years since I quit and at times I still think to myself..."I need a cigarette." So it's addictions in general that get us in my family.

Now that's not to say that I don't drink because I realized the grand truth that I could get addicted very easily and heeded my mother's warnings to stay away. I don't drink now because I did a lot then. Then being high school and my first few years out of school. I don't drink a lot now because during that stretch I learned two things, the first being I like drinking a little too much and the second being I am a mean drunk. So now when I feel like I want a drink the most is when I will be least likely to have one.  Or if I do have one, that's it. One. It's very rare for anyone to see me have more than two. It happens, but it's rare. And I always try to make sure I stop while I am buzzed and never let myself get drunk. Because nobody needs to be around me when I am drunk.

Now you are wondering how these things tie together aren't you? Okay, here goes. When I was in New Mexico this summer my oldest nephew, my niece and I were talking about drinking. He doesn't drink for his own reasons and I don't drink for mine. I mentioned that one of them is that I am a mean drunk, I will say the most horrible things to people and just eviscerate them with my words. My niece said that I should drink with her husband, I guess he is the same way, and I said that no, I shouldn't because I would have a lot to say to him. My niece, naturally, asked what those things were and I told her. No nice way, no easing in to it, no couching it, just flat out told her what I would say. Which was rude. And insulting. And inappropriate. And offended her deeply.  As it should.

Basically I brought up things from YEARS ago that need to just be laid to rest. My niece told me as much, and I said, yeah, but if I were drunk they would still come up. My aunt tried to smooth it over by saying that was why I didn't drink. But my niece was hurt. And I understand that. Now I am going to give myself a little bit of slack here, just a little though. My father had just died that week and I was operating on grief, no sleep and stress levels that were through the roof. My filter fell off and out came words that needed to stay in my head.  I also sent her an apology and an explanation of what I was trying to say, and had just said very badly. But that's not to say what I did was right, or unprecedented.

There is a significant age difference between my niece and her husband and they started dating when she was much too young, in my opinion. At her high school graduation I met him for the first time and only saw him for a few minutes, which was good because I was not happy with the fact that nobody seemed to be concerned at all with their relationship and I wouldn't have been nice. At all. While they were still dating he got a job transfer to Colorado. She decided to go with him. This time my family freaked the fuck out. All of us. But for very different reasons. I really felt like Ash was going to be giving up her fun teenager/ early 20s years and end up in a much older role. I wanted her to take a year, let him move up there on his own and then follow him if she still wanted to. The rest of the family wanted her to get married. This part I told her in no uncertain terms was NOT my advice. I didn't want her married to him because I wanted her to be able to leave. I was pretty clear with her on why I thought and felt what I did and what my advice was and she listened and thanked me for being honest with her and moved to Colorado to be with him.  But she didn't marry him so for that I was relieved.

A few years went by and as these things happen she got pregnant. It wasn't their plan, but it was still happening. And my family freaked the fuck out. Again it was because they weren't married. This time I saw the logic behind it. But I didn't tell her that she should marry him so that there wouldn't be a baby out of wedlock, I couldn't care less about that, I told her she needed to make sure she was covered by his insurance and to protect herself financially.  Now, just are a young woman who just found out you are pregnant with your first child. It wasn't a planned pregnancy but you are happy none the less. You are in love with the father of your child, you own a house together, you have been together for a few years and the reaction you get from your family is, "marry him so the baby isn't born out of wedlock" and "marry him so you can cover your ass". Not the most loving giving scenario right? To be fair we all also told her that we loved her and we would love the baby as well.

And we did and we do. Now here is where things start to shift for me. A year and half ago we went home to New Mexico for Spring Break to see the whole family. Ash came down from Colorado so we could meet Liam as well.  And he was perfect.  Adorable, sweet, happy, healthy. Everything you could hope for in a child and the only way to get all of that is through good parenting. She is a wonderful mother. But she isn't doing it alone and this wasn't lost on me, though I didn't say anything at the time. Another thing that struck me was that we had family pictures done during that visit and as people would say it was almost the whole family, my sister was away on work, Ash would patiently correct them saying, and Mike and Dylan aren't here.  Her husband and step son. Over and over she said this. It stuck with me. Not just because she heard again and again people that love her not mention her baby's father and her other son, but because she handled it so much more graciously than I ever would have.

Fast forward to this summer. We are past the conversation where I bullheadedly argued with Ashley about things that are over and done with and on to the day of Dad's funeral. Mike had been working and so this was the first day he was in town. Watching how much more relaxed and at ease she was when Mike was around was something to see. Remember I had only seen him once before in all of the years they had been together so this was new to me. Watching them together, with Liam and seeing how their family worked I realized that I had been so wrong to hold on to the past. Yes, in a perfect world they would have started dating later than they did. They would have had Liam at a planned time.  There would have been a wedding that she planned and wanted instead of a judge and a piece of paper.  And in that perfect world they would have been...well....they would have been just what they were right then. A family. Happy to be together. Raising their sons to be good men. Loving each other the best that they can. Being each other's rock and safe spot to be during stressful times. How it began is never as important as how it ends.

So here is the other thing I did wrong that week in New Mexico that I am going to fix now. I fought with her in public but apologized in private. So now I am apologizing again, but this time in public. I am sorry I was horrid. I love you, baby girl, and your husband, and your sons.

I wish I could promise you that I won't ever be a bitch again, but know how your aunt is...

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