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My cousin and Facebook

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I have a cousin -I'll refer to her as Amy - who is a few years younger than myself (I'm currently 30, so I think she's 28) and is basically the second eldest person in the bracket of the family's generation; out of all siblings and cousins interrelated through my parents and their siblings, I'm the eldest, this cousin would be the second eldest, my sister behind her, and so on. This is the order which I grew up believing. However, about ten years ago, I came to discover that this wasn't the truth - there was another cousin (who has the same father as of Amy) who was older than me and given up for adoption. The father never married my Aunt and was a deadbeat Dad. I've never seen the man in my life. Anyway, our family reunited with the cousin when he discovered my Aunt's existence. His adoptive parents were nice. We spent time with him. My sister really liked him. After a while, he decided that life sucked and did the whole park-the-car-in-the-garage-without-turning-the-car-off routine. He was given a mass anyway. The adoptive mom fainted at the funeral. My sister grieved the death far longer than anyone else in my family.

Amy grew up without a father until my Aunt found a new husband which didn't occur until she was around 16. Until that time I'd say that my sister and I spent time with Amy relatively frequently. The new husband has a job with a government contractor so he is away on business pretty often and soon had the family relocated to San Diego for the sake of his job. Amy went to some university there for college. They were in CA until about a year ago when they moved to Rockford, IL.

Since her relocation I was able to join with my sister to see her twice and these most recent meetings have been pretty strange to me. She insists on going to densely populated bars where you have to scream at each other to talk. The main focus of her conversation with my sister or myself tends to be some reminiscence of some very isolated event from our childhood just for the sake of laughing at it. When coupling this with her new found insistence in addressing either of us with the title "Cousin" in front of our actual name, I cringe internally every time she does it. The rest of the time there she spends taking pictures of herself with us or her other friends present at the bar for the sake of posting it on Facebook. Her actions would make it clear regardless, but (more troubling is that) Amy has specifically declared that she deliberately acts below her age. She went to the high school prom with her (recently separated) boyfriend last year. Yes, all signs point to psychological trauma.

This brings me to a phone call I had from my sister this recent Saturday. She told me that Amy recently managed to contact her biological father through Facebook. Amy came to discover that besides my deceased cousin and herself, this man has sired at least seven other children through the years. One of the children is a priest living in Florida. Amy relayed this news to my sister in an email without any commentary as far as her feelings on the matter and basically gave the news as if she found a high school friend: "Yeah, I found my estranged father on Facebook. OK see ya". My first reaction to the news was "OK, time to put Amy on suicide watch"; my reply had only partial intent of humor and I think my sister recognized and agreed as much.

I have no idea what it's like to grow up with a parent who is absent from your life. I assume it's only natural for the child to spend life wondering where that parent is, for the sake of forming identity if anything else, and I've read many stories about the child's search for the parent. However, the other thing I have consistently read - and with my other cousin, have experienced first hand - is that a grand majority of the time when the child finally finds the estranged parent, the child's life goes to shit. Most of us go through life seeking the answer to some sort of Question, but I can't help but wonder what it is about the Question "who was my parent?" which makes getting the Answer even more damaging than living a life without the parent. Then again, maybe in this age of Facebook and other inescapable social networks, that Answer will not be so damaging after all - at least if the Answer is as easy to acquire as a click of the mouse.

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Tags: family


  1. K3V's Avatar
    Thanks for the feedback, yueliang.
  2. Drewbacca's Avatar
    The reaction to this always depends on your personality. If Amy is a pessimistic person she probably won't look at the things she has in life (assuming they are half decent) as a positive, and focus almost solely on the things she "missed out on" in life because of her parental situation. It's not an easy situation, but if somebody approaches Amy with that attitude (to look at what she has made herself) rather than letting her wallow in self pity she might be more prone to moving on.
  3. Geen's Avatar
    I would imagine most people have an extremely high image of what their missing parent is like and, when the actual person doesn't come close to the perfect person they've imagined, they get depressed and it's a downward spiral from there. Best of luck to your cousin.


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