My paternal grandmother, whose name was Mabel, had eight brothers and sisters: Lilly, Bill, Eula, Nora, Gertie, Genevieve, Norma, and Pleas, which is pronounced like the first syllable in "pleasant," only it doesn't really matter because everybody called him Pee-Wee. They're all dead now except the youngest, Norma, and she's got dementia. I have memories of all these great-aunts and -uncles except Gertie, who died in a car wreck long before I was born; Bill, who died when I was very young; and the mysterious Genevieve (my grandma always left the last "v" silent), who moved to California as an adult and never looked back. I don't remember ever laying eyes on her.
It seems safe to assume that each family has its own Genevieve--someone who, for whatever reason, decided to bow out of the group by moving far away and is now part of the family in name only. Sometimes when I'm looking at photos of my nieces and nephew (ages 7, 5, and almost 1), it occurs to me that for them, I will unavoidably be a Genevievean figure. I go back home more often than she did, of course, but there's no way to count me as a principal cast member in the story of their lives. At most, I'm a special guest star during sweeps week. As they grow older, I imagine they'll think of me the way I always thought of my stranger-aunt: alive and well and elsewhere.