Ever heard the one about someone saying that they’re going out for a pack of cigarettes and then they don’t come back? Well family lore has it that that my Dad’s birth mother told her 5 kids she was heading to the grocery store before hitting the road.
I heard this story fairly young, I can’t remember the exact age but I knew in elementary school that Grammy and Grampy were actually my great-grandma and great-grandpa. Little kids are weird with facts so that was something that I mused over as a kid infrequently. I remember one night at my uncle (great-uncle technically)’s lake house, explaining to my friend who was spending the night, my non-traditional family tree and the story, as I knew it. It’s really no wonder that I had a friend in middle school tell me I was too weird to be friends with anymore.
Things got really weird when I found my technical grandma on Facebook. It happened several years ago because one of my aunts moved down to Florida and started a relationship with her and they were posting on each other’s pages. It’s kind of an out of body experience to see your technical grandma, that you’ve known about your whole life and never met or seen a photo of, on Facebook. Just bizarre.
I had a pretty big grudge against her. I love my Dad a lot and could not help but be angry/resentful at someone who would abandon him as a kid. So I silently facebook stalked her, like you do in that sort of situation. I learned that she’d remarried and had a new family. Her husband had passed away, but she had three adult kids. I couldn’t figure out if they were her kids or step-kids (come on Zuckerberg, help me out), so it added this new puzzle of whether my Dad had more siblings that he hadn’t ever met.
Side note: It turns out that the cousins that we hung out with one summer when I was a kid were actually my Dad’s half-sibling’s family and I just have a terribly memory.
It got really weird as I continued my stalking (please, we’ve all been there when all of a sudden you have no idea how you got to someone’s page because you’re like 4 degrees of separation of the person you were originally stalking), and discovered that one of technical grandma’s kids has a daughter named Jenna. Seriously. Mind freaking blown. Started to feel like some strange twilight zone experience.
I decided not to contact technical grandma. From some of her social media activity it seemed like there was a propensity for drama with people (family mostly) and given that this was just what was publicly visible on Facebook, I didn’t take this as a good sign. The last thing I wanted was absentee technical Grandma to become crazy drama technical Grandma in my life.
I also felt that since she was in contact with my aunt that if she was curious about me, she had the tools, and if not, her loss. (Being completely honest, it wouldn’t have been a sure thing that she would have gotten a response had she reached out).
Every once in a blue moon I’d take a look at technical Grandma and see if there was any new bits of info to file away in my mental folder. One of these random nights was last week. It had probably been over two years since I’d looked her up and when I looked at her 5 Facebook accounts (always a good sign when someone needs that many), I noticed they were lacking any real activity. I assumed that meant she must have graduated to a 6th and decided to google search her (seriously, stalker). I came up with an obituary.
Not just an obituary, but one that was from this February.
Ready to keep getting weird? The obituary was a spite obituary. Right, I didn’t know this could be a thing either. It told me that she’d been briefly hospitalized before passing away and then it talked about how her parents were deceased (true) and then it talked about how she was survived by her three kids and a number of grand and great grand kids…
What the hell?
Whoever wrote the obituary literally decided to write my family out of it. Two surviving brothers, three surviving kids, 7 surviving grandkids, 4 great-grandkids, and a number of nieces and nephews (I get a little foggy on my full family tree sometimes and how everyone is technically related vs calling everyone “cousin”).
So I called my Mom and asked her if she knew since asking my Dad offered the option of talking about a potentially weird topic or being the person to tell him that his birth mother died. Risk>Reward.
Mom had no idea and after discussing it, we started to come to the conclusion that no one did. And that is how my internet stalking of my technical grandma led me to be the information source to tell the two brothers and three kids that she had died. And that they hadn’t been notified. And that they’d been left out of the obituary. In fact there is a decent chance that some family members are finding this out from this blog right now.
We all agree that it’s a weird thing to react to. I mean we can also all agree that it’s a dick move for family #2 not to tell anyone in OG family. I’m typically in the camp that you shouldn’t use death to spite people, just get the fuck over it at that point. It’s game over, let whatever it is go.
So it’s left me feeling weird and really thinking about things. The phrase “I’m sorry for your loss” had me thinking today (no one said this because no one knows about technical grandma until now), but just the idea of that standard funeral response (not that I’m going to her funeral because I assume they had it already, probably with a family photo of us facing the wall so we couldn’t see). But the idea of what this means.
The first thing that came to mind when I thought about it in that line of thinking (loss, not funeral exclusions), was the family I have as a result of my Dad being raised by his grandparents. I have an uncle and aunt (greats technically) that have been a huge part of my life since I was born. I think there is a very good chance that I would barely know them if my Dad hadn’t been left. I also am close with their kids and think they have been the most amazing big cousins (kind of like a big brothers except they get to leave when they want and don’t have to share) I could have asked for. Then one of them had kids and I’m crazy about them as well. So this one terrible thing actually gave me the gift of having an enriched life from the family that my Dad grew up with as a result.
So at the end of this, I can only speak for myself, but technical grandma did me a solid making the decision she did. I hope that she’s resting easy now and that she felt fulfilled and found happiness with family #2. Even if they might be vindictive dicks.