MY INVISIBLE AUNT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

When I was young, I thought that both my parents were only children. When I was eight or nine, I learned that my father actually had a sister and that she was alive and well. She was eight years older than my father so she was in her mid 70’s at the time. Her name was Bertha, she lived in either Wisconsin or Michigan and she had one son and several grandchildren. I knew none of them. I’ve never even seen a photo of any of them.

I confronted my father, asking him why I didn’t know my aunt and my cousins. He told me she had seen me once, when I was two years old. But that was it. He just couldn’t face her.

Why? Apparently my father was consumed with guilt about his sister. She had not had a great life and he felt he was somehow to blame. Their mother died of Tuberculosis when Dad was three and Bertha was eleven. For several years, Bertha had to take care of Dad until their father came home from work. I don’t know if that meant she had to stop going to school.

The youngest photo I have of my dad. I think he was about 21.

When their father remarried, their step-mother doted on my father but was cold to his sister. Bertha didn’t get to go to college but my father did. He got an education, a career and a successful life. Bertha got trapped in a loveless marriage with someone who could barely make a living.

I don’t see how most of this was Dad’s fault. But his success in life made him feel nothing but guilt towards his sister. My father never abandoned Bertha. They talked on the phone once a year. He always sent her money so she never wanted for anything. He also paid to send her son through college. He just wouldn’t see her.

No matter how much I begged and my mother cajoled, I never got to even meet my aunt when I was old enough to remember her. I think my mother once met with her son when he came to New York City. I know she had his contact information in her address book.

My dad as an older man. His sister would have been in her eighties at this point.

I never understood my father’s aversion to seeing his sister. If I felt guilty about a sibling, I’d go out of my way to be super nice to her and her family. I’d include them as cherished people in my family’s life. I certainly wouldn’t punish them by banning them from it. Instead, my father isolated Bertha from her only family. I think he made her life worse, but I think he was too self-absorbed to see that — or to care.

I felt cheated. I understood I could never have been close with my aunt and her family because of geography. I also understood sibling relationships are often tense, even hostile. My grandmother and her brother would spend years at a time not talking to each other. But some contact with Bertha and her family, some small connection would have meant a lot to me.

Unfortunately, my father’s ‘issues’ deprived me of what little close family I had.

20 thoughts on “MY INVISIBLE AUNT – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

    1. I’ve always wanted family in my life and I never seem to get it! The extended family that is my only ‘family’ now is that of my ex husband. I was part of the family for 25 years so I got to stay after the divorce.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Very interesting article. This spoke volume to me because all of my immediate family is gone. My sister 2012 drug overdose, my brother in law 2014 massive heart attack her husband, my mother Aug. 2016, my nephew sisters son suicide June 2017, My father Nov, 17 2017. I never knew his parents. I did have a grandmother on my mothers who side passed when I,was young. I talk to my father all of the time on the phone bit hadnt seen him since I was 19. I have a brother I havent talk to in 6 years because his wife forbid him to be in contact with all of us. Theres just alot i dont understand and I have relatives to date i still havent seen or know.

    Like

    1. It’s so sad to hear that you lost your family one by one over the years. It’s even sadder when realatives are alive and well but won’t talk to you. That makes no sense to me. You’re still family nomatter what.

      Like

      1. Thank you so much for reading I,write its an outlet and I’m going through so much right now emotionally financially mentally it means alot. I thought I’d be able to generate a little income through my blog but in 3 years i havent its rough my husband works hard at a feed mill 10 hours a day fir minimum wage. In the country in the bottom of Kentucky jobs pay nothing plus I have copd and im on oxygen full time. I was denied benefits i dont understand alot. I always worked my whole life but they give it to a drug addict in a hot minute. Sorry I’m rambling. Do you have a blog I read all day thats all i do. I’d love to read your blog if you have one. I’m writing a book it should be a humdinger lol all I’ve lived through. Thank you so much! Its made my day plus i suffer from depression and anxiety. Life has been a dissapointment for sure. I’m 53 and things just keep getting worse. I know God has a plan I,wonder to myself daily what is it? Thanks dear I hope you return to read again. I dont get many followers or comments so it means the world to me. Thank you!

        Like

      2. All of my husbands family is here in the same county we live in and we never see or talk to any of them. It blows my mind completely. In my younger yearsy family was close prescription medication changed my mom and my sister into 2 people i no longer knew or could grasp the people it turned them into. There’s 2 things that change people for the worse money and drugs. There both the root of all evil.

        Like

  2. I never met my father’s family, except one of his younger brother. It was forbidden. My mother said they were criminals. And in all the years of my life, I never met them. Not once. Talk about missing a piece of family. I’m sure they WERE criminals. My father was something of a criminal too, but I still might have liked to at least MEET them. But I didn’t. Ever. Families can be very strange that way.

    Like

    1. I can understand your mother trying to protect you from your father’s less than savory relatives. We have a friend whose family was low level mafia. Her childhood was not exactly normal.

      Like

      1. It was the deal they made when they got married. My mother would only marry him if his family would NEVER be involved in their lives. Not ever and they stuck to it for more than 40 years. Did people change? Maybe. Who knows? I’d have liked to have some choices in the matter, but kids don’t get those choices.

        Like

  3. Wow! This post touched my heart and soul. I believe that many of us have similar stories. My maternal Grandmother Hattie had an Identical Twin Mattie whom I never met and never got to know. They were born in Feb. 1905 in Davy, West Virginia. Even though I was born, raised and grew up in New York City I did get to know Grandma Hattie. She took care of my brother and I when Mom was sick and later on I visited Dayton, Ohio where she moved after separating from her husband which is another tragic tale for another time.

    Anyway Hattie never mentioned Mattie and later on when I connected with my cousin in Illinois Mattie who was her Great Grandmother said that Mattie never mentioned Hattie. I found this very strange and curious. Identical Twins are supposed to be super close so I have always wondered what could have happened to split them apart so much so that they never spoke to each other again! I may never know since All my Aunts, my Mom and my Grandmother have long gone onto Glory. I suppose when I make the transition and meet up with them then perhaps I will find out. I’m hoping that they all had a Happy Reunion in Heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very unusual to have identical twins who are totally estranged from each other. Someone in the family should have passed on the story before they passed on. I wonder why the family never talked about what happened between the sisters. Usually one side of the family is happy to trash the other side with negative stories about how awful they are.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very unusual but in those days people didn’t talk about certain things. You kept quiet. Reasons known only to them.
        For example I didn’t know the true story of the abuse that my grandma Hattie suffered at the hands of my grandfather until I was a grown woman. After all nobody discussed domestic violence. Once I heard the true story then I understood why my Grandmother made up a story to protect her children and grandchildren. I never married or had children but their are aspects of my life that I would never share.

        Like

          1. Yes this is very true. I do not judge my grandmother Hattie for what she felt she had to do. I think she kept silence and made up a tale of what happened to my grandfather for her own mental well-being as well as for future generations. My Grandmother Hattie was a wonderful loving, caring woman who left me with good memories.

            Like

    1. I think what upset me the most is that there was no animosity or hatred or big falling out involved. No family feud or fight over money. Nothing. Yet I still didn’t get to know my Aunt or her family. I could deal with it better if I could understand the reason behind the estrangement. My Dad’s reasoning made no sense to me!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this I found it very imterestingvi believe my parents went through things I’ll never know about. I met my dads mom one time when I was younger she was drunk we never returned his father i do know hung his self in jail. My father was raised by my aunt edith and uncle houtchen to me they were my grandparents. Until they divorced when I was 12 all down hill from there the bottle got the best of both of them. Its odd theyd been divorced since I was 12 I’m now 52 soon to be 53″and they died 15 months apart botj had copd. Thank you

    Like

Talk to me!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.