One of the biggest highlights of our vacation was spending time with Tawn’s relatives. Some time ago, I wrote about the complicated relationship I have with Tawn’s father. While he has acknowledged that I exist and we met on two occasions before I moved to Thailand, he doesn’t want to confront that aspect of who Tawn is. This is, broadly speaking, a typical “Asian father” sort of mindset.
Because of that, we have had no interaction in the nearly six years that I’ve lived here. Tawn’s mother is very welcoming but around here, the man rules the roost, so I only rarely manage to see Tawn’s mother or any other relative. This has left me feeling a sense of disconnection from Tawn’s side of the family, a stark contrast to the very close relationship Tawn has with my family.
Tawn’s cousin and his family, me and Tawn, and my sister and her family. When considered as a whole, I would call it “my family”.
One big exception to the gulf that keeps me away from my in-laws is Tawn’s aunt and uncle in Los Angeles. Tawn’s aunt is his father’s older sister. She and her husband moved to LA more than four decades ago and raised a family there, three boys who are around our ages, and now five grandchildren. Since first visiting them almost a decade back, they have been very accepting, supporting us, welcoming us into their family, and advocating on our behalf.
Two of their three sons still live in Los Angeles. I hadn’t seen them since that first visit but we stay in touch regularly through Facebook. This vacation presented the perfect opportunity not only to see them and meet their children, but also to introduce their family to my family and bridge that disconnect I feel.
We were able to meet with one cousin, Pete, and his wife and two girls Saturday afternoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. (A mighty fine aquarium, I’ll add.) The girls are roughly the same ages as my nieces (although Emily is a head taller than Jessie), so it provided them some new friends to meet and made it easier to break the ice.
Both Jessie and Sydney are very cute and outgoing. After about a half-hour of walking through exhibits, Sydey tugged on my pants leg and asked if she could hold my hand. Later on, Jessie stopped me and said, “Can I tell you something? You’re really nice.” I’m not sure what she expected, but am glad I made a good impression.
Lots of interactive exhibits kept Sydney, Jessie, Ava, and Emily entertained and engaged.
After spending several hours together, we met up for dinner with the other cousin, Don, his wife and three children, and Tawn’s aunt and uncle. Spread across a very large table – we ended up being 17 people! – I got to know Tawn’s cousins better, seemed to be the center of attention for their children, and for a few hours felt less disconnected to Tawn’s side of the family.
Unfortunately we didn’t take a picture as I’d love to show you that lovely group. But picture or no, it was still a wonderful opportunity to get together and, for me, helped a bit to bridge the gap that I feel. I know many married couples don’t have close relationships with their in-laws. Ultimately, though, I’d like to have as close a relationship with Tawn’s family as he has with mine.