Sympathy: To Give or to Get?

About a year ago, after my uncle Damien passed away, which was approximately 2 years after his wife, Dawn, died of cancer. His two children, my cousins, Daphne- 10, Gunnar- 11, went to live with my grandmother, who is stationed ever so conveniently across the driveway from our house. They didn’t exactly enjoy being over there, so often times we found they had migrated over to our house, and often joked that it was almost as if they lived with us instead of our Grandmother. Little did I know, it was secretly a warning, a foreboding, if you will, of what was soon to plague, for lack of better terms, my future…

One day not long after Gunnar and Daphne had moved in next to us, I found myself sitting in the car on yet another trip to town with my mother. We jested and conversed as normally as we usually did, until she became eerily silent, and simply WOULD NOT respond, until finally, just as I was getting to the point where I was about to spontaneously combust out of frustration like an m-80 in a bucket of water, she spoke. “So…. I have a question,” she started in, “How would you feel about Gunnar and Daphne coming to live with us? Permanently, that is….” All of a sudden the world started spinning. Maybe it was due to being in a moving car, but colors started coagulating on the increasingly narrowing corners of my vision. I felt an immense pressure in my skull, like my brain was having a cramp. If I was standing, I’m almost positive I would have fainted. At that moment the world stopped, blurred, and eventually faded out as I sat there letting the most dumbfounded expression settled into my features. “Or not… Just think it over,” she retorted quickly, glancing nervously down at the steering wheel. All the color drained out of my cheeks. I turned my head so my mother couldn’t see my face- the lost expression, the bugged eyes, the gaping mouth. I was just 13! This was the most imperative decision my mother had ever thrust upon my shoulders. If I chose to send them away, which was completely and utterly selfish, I could maintain my family’s status quo for the most part, but I might never see my beloved cousins again, because naturally, they would be sent to Spencer, Iowa, to live with their other grandmother. But on the other hand, I countered with myself, if I approved the move and let them into my home, my inner sanctum, there would be less space and privacy, and twice as much argument and stress. Especially for me, the oldest, and one with the most responsibilities, but there could ALSO be twice as many good times at the same time, what with a 200% increase of children. “Yeah, I guess I WILL have to consider it for a while….” I answered after a moment’s hesitation. This was the first encounter with my life changing decision.

I had been mulling over and contemplating all my options, along with their pros and cons, for weeks. I knew it had to come up in conversation again soon though. This wasn’t a topic you could blow off and simply ignore for as long as you chose to. This issue had to be attended to as promptly as possible. So there I found myself again- in the car, with my mother. They day was new to a night owl like me, although in reality it was about 3 o’clock. The early fall air was crisp in a way that could ground even the most delusional of all people, and make them realize that this, this moment, is the reason we live. A scene as old and usual as time itself in my eyes. “AHEM!!!” my mother cleared her throat. “Have you decided yet?” she asked. I could hear my breath- ragged and irregular, as I airily replied, “Decided what?” Even though I was already fully aware of what she was asking of me. She looked at me skeptically and raised her eyebrow, questioning my faux ignorance with proper, much deserved reason. She knew that I wasn’t oblivious to what she wanted from me. I sighed in defeat and turned to look at her, my face expressionless. This was the moment. The minute that would define the next decade or so of my life, and second-handedly affect who I was to become for the rest of my life. “I have decided….” She leaned in slightly in anticipation of my answer, the words sticky and moist on my lips. I paused, to dramatize the moment. I glanced over to see if she was still hovering close - she was. “…That I want Gunnar and Daphne…” I teased the words from behind my teeth, a cruel but compulsory act. “As my new brother and sister,” I finally finished. I heard her breathe a sigh of relief as she asked me if I was positive. “Extremely…” I lied, ever so expertly and discreetly, more to swindle the truth from my prying mind.
The truth was, I wasn’t sure at all, and, frankly- I’m still unsure if it was the most astute choice I have ever chosen. I didn’t know if I wanted to risk my comfort and security at this consequential moment for a slim chance that I could be slightly happier with two more siblings, but I took the chance. Looking back on it now though, I don’t regret my verdict at all. Life has become more to me now. There’s a reason to try, a reason to want, to strive to be more socially desirable, to help, to mature, to truly live. Of course there have been some bad times as well, but you can’t have good times without the occasional rotten experience. It is what it is and you just need to make the best of what happens to you. That’s what I’ve learned, anyhow, and I know that I don’t always do a phenomenal job of following this advice and just being content with the cards I’ve been dealt, but it’s the effort that counts. Don’t play the game to win, play to play. I just hope all who read this can take the advice I find so hard to follow, and make perspicacious and informed choices.





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