My dad came from a small town in North Dakota. Thankfully, he got out of there by joining the Navy and ended up meeting my mother while deployed in Australia. They got engaged before he left for Vietnam and after he returned they decided to settle in Port Hueneme - a small naval base in Ventura county - after they had their wedding there. His three sisters weren't fortunate enough to leave North Dakota and ended up with drug and alcohol problems and illegitimate children. My family is very small considering my mother's only brother is gay and childless so I have only ever met two of my three cousins on my father's side. His sisters each had one child, the only girl of the three given up for adoption. Both those boys ended up having hard lives ripe with unemployment and jail time and girl trouble.
I have had very little contact with my dad's family over the course of my life. I remember summers in North Dakota but I think those stopped when I was about twelve years old. My grandpa was an ornery drunk and my grandma was a nervous old bitty. One aunt rode into town on a Harley with her boyfriend Wino once and since then she's shown up quite a bit over the years to be a part of our family. She likes to go by Auntie Psycho and I dig her the most. My dad used to tell me I had her laugh and that she was the only other person that would make him laugh like I did. The other aunts sort of faded into the background and I didn't really see them again until my dad's memorial service.
Facebook keeps me connected a little more now to that side of the family. I think we lost touch because my mom had no interest in traveling to North Dakota and I'm sure that wasn't received well. Little dramas would pop up and eventually contact was lost but I've been slowly trying to rebuild broken relationships since I got married and started a family of my own. There's something about being in a small family that makes you want more relatives around I guess.
Recently, one of my cousins was sent to jail for months for aggravated assault (domestic violence) leaving his 20 year old wife and 2 year old son behind. In North Dakota, I guess meth is a hell of a drug. While he was locked up, I got to read her Facebook posts about holding it down for her man and now that he's out, I get to read his posts about how broken their relationship is and how badly he wants her back. It's pathetic really and I'm sure my aunt is mortified about all of this being on public broadcast. I sent him a message to keep that stuff private but he basically told me it was none of my business. But it must be right? Because Facebook? Sigh.
Over the weekend, Auntie Psycho called and we talked about this and she asked if I'd heard about her cousin Patty Ann. My mind instantly flashed back to about a decade ago when Patty Ann tried sending what was the equivalent of an extortion letter to my dad asking for ten grand to help sick cats. My mother, being a quiet and reserved little thing, essentially handed that woman her own ass and told her to never contact our family again. I hadn't heard hide nor hair of her since until this recent discussion. Turns out in January she was all over the news because 82 feral cats were removed from her home and euthanized. Since then she apparently sent my dad's aunt a missive called "North Dakota: My Journey Into Darkness." Auntie Psycho said she will be sending me the manuscript and I simply can't wait. It is amazing to me that I am related to these people by blood. Thank God I was saved by California. Way to get out, Dad. You did right by us.