The younger generation
Churns up a realization from my stomach
That to grow old comes with the burden
Of family secrets from which they
Will always be protected
At least if I have anything to do with it
Which of their fathers never wanted children
Which of them cheated
And the sad story of the two brothers
One of them the favorite
The other most likely autistic
And how their father only beat the one
he considered to be the lesser version
And never laid a hand on his preferred son
Who was simply forced to watch
And guess which one of those two brothers
Killed himself off?
That was the last question
My cousin asked me
Before he overdosed on drugs
I’ve never repeated it
Until writing this poem
Because it was so damning
My most vivid memory
From the funeral was
My aunt standing outside the doors
Saying the open casket was too much
That she couldnt bear to go in
Forbidding her 21 year old daughter to see
What had become of our cousin
And encouraging every attendee
To shield their eyes
And just hold their vigil outside
Instead of going in
Where her sister spun further off
Into her horrible grief
Holding a seance desperately
Alienating the priest
Asking me, at 17, to have a surrogate
Because I was the most like him
And his father bragging
About the top of the line casket
He had bought his son
As if it was a Cadillac
His eyes incredibly sad and stunned
What I remember last
Was the most important
how healthy and handsome
my cousin looked in his final moment
Whoever said I have to invite family to my wedding?
Why not, for instance, my poetry teachers instead? And my friends who sent me orchids today? And just my dad?
A relative whispered, “you know, we’re the only ones here because he was accused of raping his daughter from a previous marriage.”
I couldnt remember whether I was ever left alone with him as child.
That’s what I thought of first. Then, of the daughter and the wife.
“No, I didn’t know that.”
All I could do after that was stare at my lap and question my choice of attending and wearing black.
That’s how my family is. I wonder what they’ll whisper at my wedding. Something true and equally horrifying?
She used to cut herself and sleep in the closet. She ran away three times. She had several lesbian relationships. If you look hard enough, you can find naked photos online. She spent ten years addicted to drugs and overdosed twice.
The first thing people will wonder is if I should really be wearing white.
The crisis specialist tells me my regular therapist will be back very soon and I should try to wait for our appointment. I mention I’m just a little stressed about my wedding and she says oh…well then, you should come right in.
Same thing with the suicide hotline. It’s like there’s a red button with the word wedding on it and when you push it 3 doctors get ready to run up with a straight jacket.
“I wanted to elope. I’m doing this for you, goddamnit.”
“Well I’m sorry that my family…really loves me alot and would probably love to see me get married.”
“Did you really just say that?”
*nervous laughter on both our parts*
“Yeah. Should I be sorry?”
“Well, it was a little insensitive. But its nice you want to give them a wedding. Ok, I’ll book the venue. You send out the invitations.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to feel horrible. If it’s really important to you, we can elope.”
“Ahem. I said ‘Nah. We’ll get through this.'”
Hey, so we’re getting married in April and while I’d love to see you dance at our wedding, we totally understand that you probably won’t be able to attend.
Yeah, I’d love that too…but you know, it is a bit too far from France.
I get it!
However, I may be coming home for Christmas, so we can totally hang out then!
That’s great! Also, thank you for not asking me to move the whole date of our wedding. Because the whole point of this is that I’m forsaking everyone else and you know, marrying him. It’s not like I’m marrying any of the guests.
Totally. Who does that? Wait…did someone ask you to change the date of the wedding?
Yup. By 6 months. Not because they lived out of the country, but because it was kind of inconvenient for them. So now I’m excommunicated from another branch of the family. The shitter of it is, this is a woman who regularly takes 6 hour flights to do laundry for her adult kids and take care of their pets while they’re on vacation.
Oh God, I really miss our normal conversations.