Not that my mom's family was much better. I only wonder why she didn't turn out to be a serial killer.
My grandmother, Olga, was a miserable woman. I remember her as a gray-haired doughy woman in a floral printed housedress, always in the kitchen. She had become hugely fat and never bathed in an attempt to keep her husband from having sex with her. They were Catholic, so divorce was not an option. They had three children: a girl (my mother) and two boys.
The older boy was Andrew Jr., who grew up to be a cold, sullen man with three boys of his own. My cousins were Mike, Chris and Matt. Chris was the oldest, a weird, distant guy who cultivated an Ivy League appearance, married a rich girl and withdrew from the family. Mike was a blatantly arrogant bastard who smoked cigarettes the way Capone smoked stogies: with an air of smug, pretentious superiority. Matt was the white trash trailer park, plaid flannel wearing loser - worked in a chop shop, sired a kid or two out of wedlock with a stripper who had also been his best friend's wife at one point and had the social skills of a trashcan.
The younger son was Francis, the aforementioned fireman who once elevated my status in the neighborhood by showing me a cache of recently confiscated, illegal fireworks. He was the favorite child of my grandparents, a midlife baby, spoiled and coddled. He grew up considering himself superior to everyone and everything. He married a rake thin bitch with a thin nose and a frosted perm.
My mother was the middle child, and the only girl. Grandma Olga beat her as a child, told her she was worthless, ugly, good for nothing but getting married to whatever idiot might have her and bearing children. She'd wanted to go to college and study interior design, but Olga said no, girls had to get married and let the man work and support her, period, the end. However, when Francis decided he wanted to go to school, my grandparents mortgaged the farmhouse. My mom married twice, first to an abusive alcoholic, philandering jerk who sired my abusive sister. The second time to my father. When my mother told Olga that she was pregnant with me, Olga demanded to see the marriage certificate to see if my mom had conceived out of wedlock. Olga was convinced that my mother was a no good slut who would fuck anyone, anywhere, anytime. Interesting fact: Olga conceived oldest child Andy out of wedlock and had to get married to the husband she would grow to hate, Andrew Sr. Olga did not want her daughter to have a better life than she'd had.
Andrew Sr. - my grandfather - was a portly old man with a sour disposition and a drinking problem. He was devastated when Olga died in 1977, and told everyone who would listen that it had been my mother's fault. When my mother returned home for the funeral, she found herself ostracized by family, friends, acquaintances, etc. with no idea of what she'd done. Only later did a loyal friend tell her what her father had been saying. Even her own brothers turned against her. My grandfather had a substantial estate and they sure as hell weren't going to risk being cut out of his will.
When my grandfather died, in the 1990s, he left everything to his sons - a cool near million - and a mere $5,000 to my mother. We didn't really care, it had never been about the money. But then my Uncle Andrew Jr. had his lawyer draw up an official paper, instructing my mother not to sue him or her younger brother for any of their inheritance. The thought had never occurred to her, but she signed the paper, sent it back and cut off all contact with her family. We haven't seen them for more than 20 years.
There was another baby, a little sister for my mother named Regina. Regina died before she was six months old. Back in the 30s, her untimely passing was chalked up to crib death. But my mother had heard the quiet discussions between her parents and hospital staff, the accusations and evidence of bruises, the whispered threats that if nurses reported it, the hospital would be sued by our well connected family. Regina had died of a broken spleen, an injury inflicted when my grandmother had picked the crying baby up and slammed her against the wooden bars of her crib hard enough to shatter her like a doll, and then left her to die.
Probably just as well she didn't live. While pregnant with her, Olga had gleefully informed my mother that she hoped it was a girl so my mother wouldn't be daddy's little princess anymore.