I have a first cousin who was adopted into my family when she was four years old; I was sixteen. My aunt and uncle were so thrilled to have a daughter, though I had been their surrogate daughter for many years. The year she was adopted was the year after we left my father, the year after my brother died, the year after my nephew was born, the year after my mother made my brother marry the mother of my nephew...not all in that order. So, I wasn't particularly interested in a four-year-old. Finally, I wasn't the daughter of the town drunk; so I was enjoying my junior year of high school. I did see this adopted cousin several times over the next few years, and when I was 27 she came and spent two weeks with me. We had a good time. I think I've seen her twice since then.
She spent her after school time with my grandmother, who had been bitter about the troubles between my mom and dad. Consequently, I didn't spend much time with her. My uncle Myrvis lived with my grandparents and was an integral part of this cousin's life - as he never was part of mine. He and my Dad tried to out drink one another.
(I know this is rambling; hang in there with me.)
Myrvis is 89 years old now, and his health is failing rapidly. I knew enough of the relatives to follow him as he left his family home and moved into the Veterans Nursing Home and subsequently to an assisted living facility near his cousin, who cares for him. The adopted cousin did not know these people, and she has lost touch with my uncle.
This adopted cousin is not someone that I want in my life. She stole money from my aunt, was involved in drugs, birthed a child who was addicted and very much a problem in her teen years, and thought that I hung the moon. She chose her profession in life because that's where I was working the summer she visited me. She knew about my life as I grew into adulthood while I was totally uncaring of her existence.
As a thoughtful, caring, loving person, should I track her down and let her know where Myrvis is? What is my spiritual obligation to this family member? Myrvis was never terribly fond of this adopted cousin or me. I don't know if he would want to see her, and he doesn't talk on the telephone much; so I can't ask him. I asked the person who cares for him tonight; she said, "I don't know. You just have to do what you think is right."
So, what is right?
The religion of family. I want to pick and choose which members of my extended family that I want in my life. To a great extent, I believe that is a choice I can make even as a loving, caring person. I don't have to invite everyone into my life - that includes the ones who are family. Where do I get to set boundaries? What might be good for her, might not be good for me.
Perhaps I shall check the phone directory in the last place I knew she lived. Then, I'll make a decision. Meanwhile, I'm praying about this.
An hour later - I found a phone number that could be hers; I called, and I got no answer and no answering machine.