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I am...a New Yorker
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Wednesday, May 23, 2001
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As I said at my dad's funeral, life is too short and we need to move on.

I am...not the cause of the problem. It only took a Mother's Day call to really see that.

My family's not all bad. I talked to my dad's brother when I called my mom and grandma on Mother's Day. He and everyone else kept askng why I wasn't there. I was forbidden to go because I don't get along with my grandmother (dad's mother, I don't generally refer to my mother's mother as my grandmother because I didn't even meet her until I was 11) and my mother nsists I stay there -- nevermnd that I have dozens of relatives on both sides who always ask me to stay.

I try my best, but with my grandma and my dad's sister the air is always thick with tension and I'm waitng for the other shoe to drop. I can't believe everyone was always surprised that I had horrible abdomnal pans whenever I stayed with them.

My grandmother and my aunt have a massive guilt trip gong on and seem to have convnced my mother that I don't get along with them because they're black. My mom seems to suck that right up and she emphasizes them (that I should call or write or stay with them, etc.) over all others. I realized it wasn't my fault after the funeral when I went next door to say goodnight to my aunt and people who had left my grandmother's house hours and hours before claimng they needed to be somewhere or get up early, were still there drnkng and remniscng about my dad. I'm not the only one who doesn't get along with my grandmother -- hello!

So anyway, my uncle nsisted that next time I come, I make his house my "home base" and from there I can talk to any of my relatives or stay with anyone else whenever I want. I told him that mom nsists I stay with my dad's mother, even if she herself stays with my great aunt next door because there isn't room for all three of us at my grandma's.

I told him that my aunt and grandma always make some big stnk nsnuatng I don't like black people. He, beng pretty much as black as could be, couldn't believe it. He said my grandma and aunt (his sister) pull the same crap with him when he tries to see his father's side of the family (he and my aunt have a different father than my dad). I guess part of me still absorbed a bit of the guilt.

As that phone was passed around to relative after relative, I was delighted to speak with everyone (well, with the obvious exception of the tense twosome). On some level, I have not enjoyed my other relatives as much as I could because of this lngerng "white guilt" laid on me by my aunt and grandma whenever I visit, especially when I try to see anyone n my mom's family. I have a ton of aunts, uncles and cousns on my dad's side and n the last two years snce he died I've really come to appreciate them anew, to see and appreciate their importance n my life.

Even my father's best friend was there and so happy to hear from me. He also lamented the fact that I wasn't there. He's always been like an uncle to me and he's the person who knew my father better than anyone, so I have wanted to spend time with him, but I didn't reach him when I passed through last sprng. He, too is pretty darn black. What matters, of course is that he's always been knd to me. He remnds me of the good n my father as well.

With most of my father's relatives, it's the same as with my mom's side of the family. They're auntlike and unclely and I'm just Erica, not Erica who thnks she's white or whatever b.s. those other two are spreadng. To me, it wasn't weird that my mother and uncle were white, dad was black, my aunt was brown (Filipna) and my cousns and I were yellowy brown. We probably look more like one another than any of us looks like our parents, but I never felt like anythng but family with them.

My aunt adored me, particularly because she had 3 rambunctious boys and my uncle was, well, unclely. They weren't perfect, but they were just family without tryng to engneer how I felt or who I should talk to. As one of my other uncles put it, "you're my sister's kid." He meant that to explan his lack of tryng to manipulate me. I'm gong to do what I'm gong to do and so long as I don't hurt anyone, he doesn't have anythng to say about it.

I'd like nothng more than to have a good relationship with my dad's mother and sister, but I've tried to do that agan and agan. I try to come n with a blank slate, hopng they've gotten over it. It's not 100% up to me, of course. I can't make them let go or stop reducng people to skn color or seeng me as anti-black when I adore relatives on both sides. The best that I can do is enjoy my other relatives, get to know them as people and hope that one day my aunt and grandma will let down their armor and allow me to do the same.

[Next entry: "like Kurt Coban: Everythn's my fault"]
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