Dear Annie: I come from an extended family that is mostly successful. However, one of my cousins was born mentally and physically handicapped, and the family story is that her parents have incompatible blood types. However, they had another child 10 years later, even though they claim the doctor told them not to, and this child was born completely normal.
A few years ago, my mother disclosed that the cousin was really born with fetal alcohol syndrome. (My aunt drank heavily during that pregnancy.) However, whenever anyone broaches the subject, that person is verbally attacked by the entire family and written off as evil.
What bothers me is that my aunt has always shunned her first child while doting on the younger one. During family functions, my older cousin is mostly ignored. I feel I’m the only one who has real conversations with her and cares what she has to say. I am considering writing my cousin a letter to say that I know the truth and am so sorry she has been robbed of a normal life. The only problem is if she shares my letter with the rest of the family. How do I help my cousin and bring the truth to light without causing World War III? – At a Standstill
Dear Standstill: You don’t need to expose your cousin’s condition to the rest of the family. They already know. Forcing it into the light will not help and may ostracize you, preventing you from being a source of support. Please keep listening and talking with your cousin, making her feel valued. Also contact the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (nofas.org) at 1-800-66-NOFAS. They offer resources that can help your cousin and also provide information for you in dealing with this.