Anyone ever been to a family reunion where you don't know anyone? - U2 Feedback

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Old 08-20-2006, 04:12 AM   #1
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Anyone ever been to a family reunion where you don't know anyone?

I had to go to a family reunion today. It was all on my father's father's side of the family...that is, my paternal grandfather's side of the family. But this was an unusual family reunion for us.

My father's father died of a heart attack when my father was 2, so my father never knew his father. For whatever reason, after my father's father died, there was little contact between my father's father's family and my mother, and as such, my father never really got to know anyone on his father's side of the family very well. Since he never got to know them very well, my brother and I never knew any of them at all. It's sort a unique situation. My father knows who some of them are on a very redumentary level( and relation to him), but until today hasn't seen some of them in 30-35 years.

So my dad, my mom, and I went to this reunion today(a two hour drive), and I met these people for the first time in my life and my dad saw them for the first time in decades.

For my dad, it was interesting and held some meaning for him because, even though he didn't have that much interest in going to a reunion of people he was related to but could barely remember, he did have a good deal of interest in talking to some of these people because they are his only connection to the father he never got to know - that is, his older cousins who were old enough at the time to have some memories of their uncle(my dad's dad), and my dad's 90 year old aunt(my dad's dad's sister) - who is in shockingly good shape for a 90 year old, walking on her own two feet and still having all of her mind - who grew up with the guy and could tell my dad firsthand about his dad. So even though it was somewhat of a chore for my dad, it was educational for him too.

For me however....I mean, after meeting them, I have no objections to them. These are perfectly nice people. Really. But should I consider them family? How can someone I just met today, a month shy of my 22nd birthday, be family? I've always thought of family as people you grow up with and who you know better than anyone else. My mother's family is the only family I've ever known. I have two cousins who are like brothers to me(even though I only see them a few times a year), an aunt(mother's sister) who loves me almost like I was her own, and a grandmother(mother's mother) who loves her grandchildren more than anything(and she's my only living grandparent - I knew my mother's father, loved him, but he died of diabetes when I was 7). My mother has aunts and uncles and cousins that I know too, although admittedly I'm not really quite as close with them as the aforementioned people, but still, I've known them my whole life.

They are my family(with my mom and dad and brother too, obviously).

I'm just having a hard time with the idea of actually thinking of the people I met today - as perfectly nice and mostly unobjectionable as they were - as family. I have NO problem thus far with these people, but I also don't feel anything other then maybe friendship with any of them. How could I feel anything more than that for people I just met 12 hours ago? And is it fair to consider people I've known for a day to be family when the people I do consider family(everyone on my mother's side) have been in my life since the day I was born?

Can anyone relate to this? Are these fair questions that I'm asking myself? Am I thinking too much about this? Any input is appreciated.

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Old 08-20-2006, 09:52 AM   #2
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Well, I have lots of relatives, and there are some of them I know but have no idea what their exact relation to me is. My mom's mom has several brothers and sister, which means my mom has tons of cousins (and all the family they've had). My mom's dad, however, is the son of a man who fled an abusive family in England at the age of 15 and came to Canada with nothing but the shirt on his back, so at least as far as that goes, my mom's side of the family is somewhat smaller than my dad's. My dad's dad has several brothers and sisters, as does my dad's mom -- so my dad's side of the family, there's all his aunts and uncles, which gives me great aunts and uncles, plus his cousins and neices and nephews, and all of their family... it's all more work to figure out than I really want to go to.

For me, my 'family' is my immediate family. I've "known" all of my family for most of my life, if only from seeing them once a year at our family christmas dinners -- and even that is only my dad's side of the family. Do I really 'know' any of them apart from name and appearance? Not really. I couldn't list off their interests, their favourite music, colours, food, who their friends are, what makes them tick. My extended family is more a peripheral body of relations than anything else, they're acquaintences (for the most part, there are a few exceptions) to whom I have obligations, ie if one of them gets married it is likely that I have to go to their wedding, same with funerals, retirements, etc.

My grandparents, my cousins, my aunts and uncles (my mom and dads brothers/sisters), these are all people who I know better than the rest of my extended family. These are the people who are 'family' to me. My grandparents on both sides have had something of a hand in raising me, and my mom's mom and dad live across the street from me. Few people my age (21) still have both their grandparents, so I'm lucky that way, but luckier still that they're the best people in the world. I wouldn't trade my grandparents for anything. My cousins are, when we see each other, my friends; we spent a lot of time together as kids, even though we don't really see each other much now. I'm more of an uncle than a cousin to my dad's sister's kids, though, since they're only 4 and 5, and I can't really take a peer-to-peer role with them.

Anyway, after all that... You're completely fair asking those questions to yourself, this is a new thing for you, but you shouldn't feel like you have to be paying extra attention to all these people and trying to lovingly incorporate them into every aspect of your life. Blood may be thicker than water, or however that phrase goes, but really: your relations can be as unfamiliar to you as total strangers, and that isn't anything criminal. I don't know if I'd say that you're thinking too much about it, it's important to keep family in mind, but I don't think you need to think much more about it... At the end of the day, are all these strangers family? Yes, but in name only. If you want any of them to be part of your family (the people you earnestly care for) then that is in your power, but apart from that, they're just people like any others.

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Old 08-20-2006, 12:09 PM   #3
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Re: Anyone ever been to a family reunion where you don't know anyone?

Originally posted by namkcuR

Can anyone relate to this? Are these fair questions that I'm asking myself? Am I thinking too much about this? Any input is appreciated.
Those are completely fair and valid questions that you're asking. I totally agree with UFF's last paragraph. These are people you have just met, and if you want a further relationship after meeting them for the first time yesterday, then go for it!

My family is a bit interesting too. My dad's side of the family is Canadian, and my mom's is American.

My dad has 2 sisters, and I'm very close with them and my cousins. One of my aunts lives next door to my parents, and my other aunt is considering moving into the neighbourhood as well. I'm not very close with their father (my grandpa), which is where the interesting part comes in. He was very active in our lives when I was younger, but then him and my dad had a falling out. Since then our relationship has been sporadic. Things started getting better for a while a few years ago, and we would see him more. However, about 2 years ago, things started falling apart again, and I rarely ever see him. It's really sad, because I would like to know my grandpa better. There are a bunch of issues with our family, and it's really unfortunate. But then again, most families do have issues!

Another thing with my dad's side of the family has to do with our last name. Our extended family is pretty well known in the Vancouver area (where I live) and I do have a relative who's a famous Canadian singer. People sometimes make a lot of false assumptions about me, based solely on my last name. It used to piss me off when I was younger for a myriad of reasons, but now I'm okay with it, and actually love my name.

Anyways, enough about them. I'm extremely close with my mom's side of the family, who live in Washington state. That's probably because I've spent so much time there, and even lived with my grandmother for a period of time. They're amazing people, and I always love being with them.

Let us know what you decide, namkcuR. I'm always fascinated by people's relationships with their families. That's probably a bit of the reason why I studied Sociology in university!
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Old 08-20-2006, 01:11 PM   #4
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Thanks guys

A correction for my original post:

Instead of

"For whatever reason, after my father's father died, there was little contact between my father's father's family and my mother"

it should have been

"For whatever reason, after my father's father died, there was little contact between my father's father's family and my FATHER's mother"
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Old 08-20-2006, 02:15 PM   #5
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Totally normal thing to wonder.

I have lots of family abroad, some I've never met and while I consider them "family" in the strict definition of the word, I don't feel any emotional attachment for them necessarily. I don't know what they're like, what their daily existence is like and so on. I'm more attached to my friends whom I've known for years, went to school or work with, grew up with, etc.
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Old 08-21-2006, 10:56 AM   #6
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I do not think you're being unfair or unreasonable.

I feel the same way about my dad's side of the family, and I actually do see them several times each year. There's mainly one family with four of my cousins who I always feel awkward around. We're in the same age group, so it's like we're suppose to be best friends, but our lives are so different. They are rich and have everything handed to them on a silver platter and move in and out of relationships, change houses and schools every few months, etc. They're nice people, but we have nothing in common as far as interests or how we were raised.

Ironically, I have a family of four cousins on the other side of my family and even though we only see them once a decade or so, I feel much closer to them and much more comfortable around them.

I've noticed that my mom's side of the family is more family-like even though people live farther away, while my dad's side tends to be more artificial and superficial.
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Old 08-21-2006, 03:45 PM   #7
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Yeah, I think people just get busy with their lives, move further away from where they grew up, etc. and start losing touch with friends & even relatives. I happened to think the other day that I haven't seen either of my aunts & cousins on my mother's side in probably at least 10 years.

I've been to a family reunion kind of like what you described before. It is very weird knowing you're related (& can even see it in their faces), and not knowing them & trying to catch up on each other's entire lives.
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Old 08-22-2006, 03:22 AM   #8
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I went to one when I was young. They hired out Bathurst Showground to house it, and it absolutely floored me that I was related to the thousands of people who turned up in one way or another.
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Old 08-22-2006, 01:44 PM   #9
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i went to a retirement party for one of my mom's high school friends. i had no idea who anyone was except one family friend who was my mom's high school buddy.

everyone was very nice, and they were saying things like "oh wow i havent seen you since you were a tiny baby now your all grown up with your own baby and she's so beautiful (daisy's expression...priceless)!! etc etc."

it was strange but very cool to see who my mom hung out with when she was a teen.
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Old 08-23-2006, 09:12 AM   #10
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I go to one every year and meet the same "new" people over and over again
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Old 08-23-2006, 09:38 AM   #11
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The last family reunion I went to was my grandparents silver anniversary about 10 ten years ago. I felt like a stranger there even though I had met my aunts, uncles, and cousins a couple times before. Unfortunately, my family never went to christmas get togethers and the one time when we lived in the area my grandparents went travelling, no christmas get together

Now, all of my grandparents are deceased. There's bad blood on my mothers side and my dad has a brother that they hardly ever communicate with.

I tend to consider a lot of my friends my brothers and sisters, I know them far better and would trust them more then my extended family who I hardly know.

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