Love, Respect and Forgiveness

This post is going to be a little different than most.  You see, today, I learned that one of my cousins died.  While this sounds sad- and it is- I have a lot of mixed feelings about it.  You see, my cousin was not always a nice man.

My mother was one of 7 children.  SEVEN!  Theirs was a yours, mine and ours kind of family.  That is, when my grandmother married my grandfather, they both had 2 children; they got married and then had 3 more children together.  My mother was number 6.  So when we had family reunions when I was growing up, there were a lot of people around!

I always loved going to California to see the cousins.  They were all so much different from us- they went to huge high schools (I graduated with 40-ish other kids), they were competitive, they worked side jobs, and had grand plans for adulthood!  In his particular family, two of the four children dropped out of high school.  That was NEVER an option in our house.  Heck, dropping out of college wasn’t an option in our house!

Truth be told, I don’t really know the family dynamics of their home growing up.  I know that there was a lot of alcohol.  A lot.  Why did I like going to see them?  Because they were family- they were funny- and I loved them!

Bill was 3 years older than me and when he grew up, he brought his new wife to Oregon to begin a new life.  Soon, they had children- and I LOVED them!  I didn’t even mind sitting at the little kids table at Thanksgiving, if I could sit with them!  But, I began my own little life, and I guess things just got lost.  I tried to go see them when I came home, but you know, our lives were just so different.

In any case, Bill and his wife eventually split up.  The economy wasn’t great, and it was hard to make ends meet.  I don’t know when, why, or how… but I know that along the way, Bill made some really bad choices.  Really bad. Three hots and a cot bad.

By the time all that went down, I was married, with two kids of my own and a teaching career.  I had my own life- and my own struggles.

Eventually, he was released, and the family was warned that he had become a very dangerous man in prison, and to make sure we stayed alert.  That’s flippin’ scary.  I really didn’t think he would do anything, and honestly, I don’t know if he even tried.  I just kind of forgot about him, honestly.  I’m not proud of this, but it’s true.

Shoot, that was many years ago.  My kids are grown; his kids are grown.  Things are just so different.

The thing about it all is this:  I just decided I didn’t have time to worry about- or care about- this negative person.  So I didn’t.  Until today.  I hurt for his children and grandchildren.  They are dealing with a loss and a great deal of heartache.  I think that’s where my mixed emotions come from.

Bill isn’t the only family person I have cut out of my life.  It took me awhile, and dealing with a lot of garbage, but I  came to the realization that if you can’t treat my family with love and respect, I just don’t have the energy or heart for you in my life.  I don’t do fake.  I don’t play games.  I don’t tell you one thing then turn around and tell others something different.  I believe in doing the right thing.  And so, I’ve just kind of “blocked” them from my life.

So today, I’m taking a moment to pause.  A moment to reflect.  Maybe even a moment to forgive.  That one is hard.

I know that people can change.  I’d like to think that Bill managed to turn things around and was the fun loving, hard working, caring adult I knew as a teenager.  I really hope that’s how it turned out.

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