That sad statement was asked with awe by my kids today.
Yes, in fact they have cousins. Four of them whose ages range from 3 to 9 live within 5 to 10 miles of us. To say they don't see them often is obvious in the fact that they didn't know they existed. Once I told them who their cousins were, they remembered. Unfortunately, they usually see them for birthdays and Christmas.
Today, it happened that my great-niece was having a birthday party. And I only knew because my sister (her grandmother) asked if I was going to the party last night. A party I had no idea about (which is typical). But none-the-less, we went. And it was mainly because my sister received a package in the mail belonging to my husband. She lives half a state away, so since she would be in the area, we decided to go to the party and get the package. The party, like most others for family members, lasted about 45 minutes. Yeah, enough time for cake and ice cream, opening presents and a pinata.
Growing up, my niece, the mother of the birthday girl and I were very close. She is just 2 years my junior, so we grew up the best of friends. She was my closest relative. Her mother (my sister, whom I am now close to) was more an adult figure than sibling. My niece and I played together all the time. We had sleepovers, campouts and danced together. Sadly we grew apart in our teens. She blamed my Husband, I blamed her's. In reality, we chose different paths and friends in life that the other didn't approve of.
I hate that my kids are growing up not knowing their cousins, so for every birthday or cook-out invite we get, I make an attempt to go. I am usually the only family member who goes, and thus the only one making an attempt. About five years ago, I made the effort to initiate a Christmas Eve gathering with the whole family. To some, you'd think I asked them to have a kidney removed. Still, to this day, I am adamant that it happen. Even if I need to go with half my family (the last two years, someone has come down with something, making it necessary to me to go as part a family.
For every party we have, we invite the family. Two of my older sisters are always there, along with older brother. My younger sister, who pouts and throws a hissy fit when no one goes to her parties, has never once set foot at a birthday party for any of my children. My other older sister, occasionally stops by, but not usually. Of all my siblings, she is the one I am least close to. My niece, with her two children, will come if her Husband is out of town with the National Guard. My mom and most of the time, Dad will come. My in-laws are always there, for every thing. Even the kid parties. But there is just the two of them. Husband is an only child and they live a mile away, so the girls get plenty of attention for them.
Today, big brother asked me "why did you have him (younger sister's husband) do some work for you" (he removed bags of leaves from my yard for me). This is a task I've asked time and time again (my brother, my uncle, my dad) if they could please help me out with. I've even called outside contractors. Some who either wanted me to sell a kid for them to do it and others who verbally agreed to the job, only to repeatedly stand me up. Younger Sister's Husband volunteered for the task last week. I told him this week what days would work well for me. And the task is done. He didn't ask for payment and did a great job in a timely manner. He may not be someone many people in the family agree with, but at least he's willing to help out. I felt put out that I had to defend my decision to allow him to help me. But that's just how my family works. Well I'm done picking sides.
Most of the time, I feel like I am grasping at straws trying to keep everyone together (I have five siblings and it seems like most are on the outs with others). I know that if my Mom wasn't around, that those straws would blow away faster than a dandelion on a windy day. My siblings would walk away without looking back. Many times, I ask myself why. Why am I putting myself through the hassle. No one else makes an effort, why should I. But the answer is, for them. I want my girls to know where they came from. I want them to know who their relatives are. I don't want them to pass one another by on the street as strangers.