Since we knew we’d be stopping over for a few days in SoCal, I told my cousin who lives in Long Beach that we’d be here and suggested we catch up over a meal. So he, his wife, and his two kids met up with the three of us at a Vietnamese restaurant in Garden Grove for lunch yesterday. It was enjoyable to see them, and I always enjoy chatting with his wife. Sometimes, it wasn’t always clear what else there was to talk about, but somehow, we made it work.
Even though this cousin is my cousin (my dad’s younger sister’s only son), I can count the number of times I saw him growing up on one hand, and two of those times were for funerals. Although he was born and raised in Alameda, just across the Bay Bridge, his mother, who is my aunt, hated our side of the family and hated her mother, my grandma, even more. And since our grandma lived with us, she rarely came to visit. This cousin and I didn’t really start communicating much until after I graduated from college, but especially after his dad died in 2012 and my brother died in 2013. It was like our shared grief, plus the constant family conflicts, kind of drove us together. In both of our sets of eyes, the other is the only seemingly “normal” cousin on this side of the family.
Today, he is fully estranged from his mother; he doesn’t even call her mom or mother; he just refers to her by her first name. She has never met his two children, who are her only grandchildren. He suggested I cut my parents off back when my brother died, but I couldn’t really do it, nor did I really want to, even with all the constant pain they still bring me. But we relate to each other so much as we both experienced the same intergenerational family trauma and are living examples of children who experienced childhood trauma within their families, who are actively trying to break the cycle of dysfunction. With him, I rarely have to explain my parents’ emotional immaturity; he gets it because he experienced the same with his mother. It’s sad, but my infrequent relationship with him is a sort of solace to me.