Help me sort out what I should say to my aunt -- family drama.
February 22, 2013 7:35 PM Subscribe
Background: When my father learned I was gay, he disowned me. Think radical old-world "you are dead to me." This was many years ago -- well over a decade. He was very serious and cut off all contact with me. Made it clear I was out of the will and all of that -- very dramatic. I did try to initiate contact a few times many years ago, but was rebuffed. This is not what my question is about though -- I am at peace with this. I know I am a worthwhile and lovable person and I have many people in my life who care about me/love me. I had therapy when all this happened and I really feel I dealt with the emotions then. I know I am lovable and valuable person. Also, my relatives on my late Mother's side -- who are also quite old-world -- surprised me with their acceptance...
posted by Lescha to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My question is about my aunt -- my father's sister. She was not exactly super warm when she found out I was gay -- "I love you anyway" type thing. She lives very far away -- many hours by plane -- and so we used to email once in while -- pleasantries and such. But for a long time she did not know I was gay. We just emailed Christmas wishes and that type of thing. After the situation with my father, I decided not to continue to tell that side of the family. And since this aunt lived very far away it never really came up in our once in a while emails.
How she found out I was gay: about five years ago, she -- in a nutshell -- emailed me and chastised me for not talking to my father. (It was quite sudden, I assumed she knew we were not talking.) She said I should forgive him -- he's my father and so on. What? Forgive him? Well, my father told her I was not talking to him (and not vice versa) because I was angry that he remarried etc. - I was not/am not. He lied saying it was my doing that we were estranged. He would not tell anyone I am gay I guess...the "shame" of it. Indeed I was very, very nice to his wife when we met -- before the disowning debacle.
I told her that he was, in fact, not talking to me. I explained that I am gay, he disowned me -- the whole story. And that I would love it if we had a relationship (not so true now) but it's his decision not mine. After that there was radio silence for quite a while - many months -- maybe a year. That hurt, but I moved past it.
When she did email me back she basically said: your father is your father and he feels the way he feels. Along those lines. Well, I am not sure what I thought then -- it was a long time ago -- but I recall that I was kind of thinking that she could have said more than "I love you anyway." It was not very a very supportive message and I was hoping she'd say my father was wrong or something. Nope. Both of them are in their mid to late 60s. She just said that even if my father and I were not in touch she wanted to keep in touch with me.
Then she disappeared -- no emails -- she was not in touch. I guess it's been 3 or 4 years. Mind you, I did not email her either, but I was unhappy about that contact and I didn't feel like emailing her...I was upset. I guess I felt like she took my father's side. Well, that's not quite what I mean -- but I did not feel supported by her. She and my father are very close. We were very close when I was a child/teen too. I do love my aunt.
And so out of the blue she emails me this week to wish me a happy birthday. Just a short note..."we have not talked in a while, hope you are well" type thing -- not much content. Short, friendly tone...like it hasn't been a very long time!
Now I am fretting about what to do -- if or how to respond. I am not typically a fretter, but this threw me for a loop.
There is a reason for this thrown for a loop feeling beyond the existing family dynamic --
My father had very, very serious surgery (a life or death matter) six months ago after and no one told me. Not even her. I found out by a non-family member in a very coincidental way. No one on my late mother's side knew about this either. (They don't care for my father as they love me and hate the way he's treated me.)
My father, nor my aunt know that I know about the surgery. His not telling me felt like a very, very clear signal he wanted nothing to do with me -- not even in the face of death.
My aunt's not telling me makes me feel complex emotions that I am finding it hard to sort out -- that she obeyed his wishes perhaps? That she agreed I should not be told since I was gay and did not deserve to know he was unwell? Was she going to tell me if he died? I don't know -- the feelings are complex.
So now she's emailed me this short little warm little email and I don't know how handle it. I feel -- I think -- angry -- or maybe I feel sad?
I don't want to just be all warm and chit chatty. I think I want to tell her she need not wish me happy birthday if she thinks I don't need to know my father almost died.
What should I email my aunt back -- should I even email her back?