12 November 2010

Step This Way

I was skimming through the paid obits in the Times, as one does, when a name popped out at me. Not the whole name, just the none-too-common last name. I then read the whole of that obit, and when I got to the name of the dead woman's dead husband, it fell into place: my stepsister's stepmother!

Mind you, I'd never met the woman.

But my father was his second wife's fourth husband, and her first husband had been the dead woman's dead husband. And my stepmother had two kids by said man (and another by her second husband, though that's kind of irelevant to this tale) and those kids are my stepsiblings. So their father's subsequent wife would have been their stepmother, and are you confused yet?

Good. Because here's an even weirder thing. If my father had been married to someone else BEFORE he met my mother, and had kids with that (hypothetical) woman, my stepsister's stepmother would be my mother.

Kinship systems are complicated.

19 comments:

Janet said...

now I have a headache :-)

kathy a. said...

the multiple marriages are complicated, especially post-childhood.

my dad's second wife had 2 kids whom we never met in their 15 years together. my mom's third husband also had 2 kids, stepsibs we only met a couple years ago, when all of us were mid-40's to mid-50's; we know none of their various children, and i don't actually think we'll be keeping up the acquaintance. what am i supposed to call my sister's second husband's daughter, someone else i don't know?

Bee said...

Uh, yea.
Have you always read obituaries or do you find this is a new thing? One of the things that I don't like about my 40s, but cannot seem to help, is my heightened awareness of (and morbid interest in) death.

slow panic said...

even when they are not complicated they are complicated. in my experience.

Amira said...

It was not fun trying to follow along with a headache. But I did pick up that you have a thing for obituaries? No? I have a headache, remember?

YourFireAnt said...

What was the uncommon last name?

slouchy said...

Whoa. That totally sounds like my family.

toquegirl said...

It must say something about my own family that I was totally able to follow that. :)

alejna said...

That was dizzying. I've had 5 step-siblings, none of whom I know anymore, but I never really considered that they may have had other steps. Come to think of it, it's quite likely.

nonlineargirl said...

(1) I kept expecting this post to end with "I'm my own grandpa"

(2) love obits, though I rarely read the paid ones. For several years I had a book of NYT obits on my bedside table and would read one or two every few nights.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We joke that the only way to keep track of our familial ties is with a spreadsheet.

Lady M said...

What Janet said!

The Library Lady said...

I'm hearing strains of "I'm My Own Grandpa".
Oy.........

susan said...

I'm still scratching my head over your last hypothetical! but yes, kinship is complicated.

And I ALWAYS read the Times' paid obits.

Varda said...

I am so with you on the complicated family issue:

My (recently deceased) father had been married to someone else (and divorced, he's no bigamist) before he met & married my Mom and had me. They'd had 2 kids together, my (half-) brother & sister.

My Dad's ex-wife also remarried and went on to have 2 more kids herself (2 boys).

Now, happily, my family all stayed reasonable connected. My Bro & Sis are quite a bit older than I (18 & 15 when I showed up) & we never lived together. But still, connected. They are also very connected to their OTHER 1/2 sibs, their brothers on their mother's side.

The tricky part is that one of those (1/2)brothers lives 4 blocks away from me and we are friendly, socially connected at family functions and beyond. But what the hell do I call him (and his wife and kids)?

Because if the time stream were reversed (as you mentioned) he would be my step-brother. So that is what I call him sometimes, my "reverse-step-brother" which often confuses people. I have tried "half-brother's half-brother" but get the head scratch there, too.

Other times I will say "distant cousin" (not true literally, but about right feeling wise) or just "Related by marriage & divorce, don't ask it's complicated."

Have I got YOUR head spinning now?

kathy a. said...

one of my friends was friendly with her husband's ex [mother of his kids], and referred to her as "my wife-in-law."

mayberry said...

Wow. I think I need a diagram.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

My parents have been married for over 40 years and so have my in-laws (although my MIL was briefly married to someone else. And my husband's sister has been married to the same man for over 20 years. Now that's weird, eh?

I don't read obits. I read the foreclosure notices. It's similar.

flutter said...

They really are complicated