Guilt Sucks

I am currently laden with some pretty soul-crushing guilt. This is not an emotion I am overly familiar with, and I can’t say that I like it very much.

I found out today that my aunt, my favorite aunt on my biological father’s side, passed away. We don’t know much so far, but it seems she went to take a nap and never woke up. I’d like to be able to say here that she had a history of medical issues, that she had recently been diagnosed with heart problems; I’d like to be able to give you any details at all, but the honest truth is that I have no idea. I stopped talking to my biological father a number of years ago, and by extension, I stopped talking to that side of my family as well. I skipped family reunions, passed on wedding invitations, and declined all casual invitations as well. I have no idea what was wrong with my aunt, a woman who played a huge role in so many fond memories of my childhood, and it is all my fault and I feel like shit.

About the guilt thing- it is a running joke among my family, I think I have mentioned before, that guilt is not in my “repertoire of emotions.” This isn’t to say that I have never felt guilty, just that it doesn’t happen very often. I am capable of being quite cruel, but I do everything in my power to avoid using that particular power. I am very, very rarely hurtful to some unprovoked. I take pride in my ability to be mindful of the words I use and do everything in my power to avoid saying awful things that can never be taken back, only apologized for. If someone pushes me, I will engage them; if they open themselves up to my wrath by being a dick to me or someone I care about, I will let loose. I have written some¬†eviscerating emails in my day, just ask some of my best friend’s asshole ex-boyfriends, who treated her horribly for years, what happens when they try to appeal to me for help in wooing her back. I should post the one I wrote to the last idiot; it was epic, some of my finest work. But because I try to be mindful of my words unless the situation warrants harsher ones, I don’t feel guilty unleashing the full force of my fury. I don’t feel guilty hurting someone if they pushed me to that point.

I also don’t respond well to emotional black mail and passive-aggressive nonsense. Trying to guilt me into doing something is pretty much the easiest way to get me to do the exact opposite; just ask my nana. She is the classic stereotype of a grandmother in that respect, and everyone else in my family falls for it. I tell her to suck an egg and I don’t feel guilty about it because I would have happily done whatever she asked if she hadn’t tried to use some stupid, pouty-faced way to get me to do it. Okay, maybe I am kind of an ass, or potentially mildly psychopathic (thanks, This American Life, for that podcast last week. I think I need to take the test now), but for whatever reason, to sum up, it is pretty hard to make me feel guilty for my behavior. And to clarify, when I do behave poorly, I try very hard to acknowledge my behavior, apologize sincerely, and learn from my mistakes. I am not trying to insinuate that I am an angel, by any means.

But goodness, do I feel guilty now. A few people in the past have asked me how I would feel if my biological father died and we weren’t talking, which is something I have given some thought to. Honestly, I don’t know how I would feel. I know that I gave him every opportunity, hundreds of chances, to be a better father and a better man, begged and pleaded with him to be those things, but finally realized he was incapable a being a person I was willing to have in my life. I don’t know how I will feel if he dies, but I own my decision to not have my current reality sullied by his irrational anger, bitter jealousy, and emotional abuse, so I will own my feelings when that day comes. The question I hadn’t ever contemplated was the one I am currently faced with. I never wondered how I was going to feel when the people who I have ostracized by extension died, the people who I have cut out of my life who have done nothing to me short of having a blood relation to a man I choose to do without. My aunt was in her 50s, it never occurred to me to worry about it so soon. I burst into tears at my desk when I got the Facebook message from my cousin this morning, my stomach immediately twisted into horrible knots because here it was, finally, the real consequences of a decision made many years ago. The real life that is no longer here, the real woman I will never get the chance to talk to again, to hug, to laugh with. The real person that I will never get to explain myself to, that I will never be able to assure my absence had nothing to do with anyone but my father.

There will be services at the end of the month. My father and my aunt had a falling out at a family reunion a few years ago (he felt it was his place to parent my cousin’s 16-year-old son, and when the boy was snarky with him, he punched him in the face. Doesn’t my father sound like a lovely person to be around?), plus he lives out of the country, so he may not be able to attend the funeral. Even though I have no desire to see him, I feel like I owe it to my aunt to pay my respects since my behavior during her life had been so lacking. I owe her the effort I should have put in before she died, and I owe it to the rest of my family to not be as selfish as I have been for far too long. As someone who spends an inordinate amount of time with the rest of my family, who values the relationships I have with my siblings, my parents, and my nieces above all else, how can I not do everything possible to remedy the damage I have done? People have been trying to comfort me today by telling me it’s not my fault, ¬†which I know is what your supposed to say when you’re comforting someone, but the truth is the exact opposite. It is all my fault. Yes, my father being a total asshole is the motivating factor, but the fact that I haven’t seen my aunts and cousins in years is nobody’s fault but my own, a decision I made to leave them behind. Now, for the worst possible reasons, I will begin my atonement.


3 replies on “Guilt Sucks”

Last summer I called up one of my aunts who I had lost touch with because I got an announcement about my cousin’s college graduation. I told her that I felt guilty about not talking to her or my cousins for so long (I last saw this cousin when she was in middle school) and her response was “We’re family. We don’t stop being family just because we haven’t seen each other for a while. I know your there if I call, and we love each other. That’s part of the whole family thing. Besides, it takes two to lose touch.”

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