Modern Hydra (#372)

I have a lot of siblings. How many is a lot? Depends on how you categorize them. I have some related through both parents, some related through one parent, some step-siblings, some ex-step-siblings, and some…whatever you call the children of a current spouse of an ex-step-parent.

One summer, when traveling to the East Coast (where all of the sibs live except for one), my son asked me how many cousins he had. I tried to list them and lost track around 20.

“Hang on,” I told him Dalton. “I’m gonna need a piece of paper.”

My husband Andy snorted and said, “What you need is Big Brother’s PowerPoint.” Andy is VERY SALTY about this particular PowerPoint. It details all the marriages, divorces, and offspring (super helpful in figuring out who is related to whom…and which parties should be seated on opposite sides of a banquet hall). Big Brother made the PowerPoint for Lawyer Sister’s boyfriend after Andy and I were already engaged. Andy never misses a chance to point out that HE had to learn my entire fractured family without the cheat sheet offered to all subsequent spouses.

“I don’t think Big Brother ever updated the PowerPoint with the cousins,” I told Andy, before turning back to Dalton. “Where were we? Baby L1 or Baby L2?”

Dalton waved me off. “Never mind. I don’t care that much.”

“I feel you, buddy,” said Andy. “Mom’s family is so much easier to figure out with a VISUAL AID.”


In recent years, Big Brother discovered something he likes even more than PowerPoint: group chats.

He started off small, with Doctor Sis, Lawyer Sis, and me. We would brainstorm for group gifts for various parental units. Sometimes we shared first day of school pictures for our kids or asked for book recommendations. Sometimes they would brag about how many miles they ran and I’d tell them they were all crazy, that the dog and I were currently WALKING a very sane three miles.

This is a pear liqueur lime gimlet. Or so I am told.

Then the chat morphed into pictures of their cocktails, where recipes were shared by everyone except me, because I hate the taste of alcohol. Sometimes I’d share a picture of a glass of green liquid. My siblings would be all excited until I told them it was Gatorade.

“I dunno why you lushes even have me on this chat,” I once said, after Doctor Sis shared a pink drink topped by chickpea foam.

“We just didn’t want you to feel left out,” my sisters insisted. Which was very sweet, since I often felt like I missed a lot living so far away.

I stayed in the chat, but muted it in self-defense once they started exchanging memes at 6 AM (which is 3 AM Pacific Time). Sometimes I would wake up to 37 messages sparked by Big Brother telling us how his dog ate his own poop.

Then Big Brother began creating other chats, adding more siblings or parental units. My phone would ding! relentlessly while I scrolled in search of the new chats and hit “hide alerts.” Then Big Brother would realize he’d forgotten someone, create another new chat, and ding! ding! ding!

I once got added to a group chat in 2023 filled with numbers I didn’t recognize and the message: “Welcome to Tuscany Cycling Trip 2024!”

I don’t even own a bike. I texted a number I knew in the chat—Dr. Sis—with “WTF?”

Which is how I found out that Dr. Sis, Big Brother, Ex-Stepbrother, and all their spouses were planning an epic biking trip to Italy. I probably would have been more excited for them if I’d gotten my morning cappuccino before the explosion of texts.

Text chats plateaued after that. Until their kids got older and Big Brother started adding in the cousins. Different cousins for different chats, of course. Yesterday alone, two new chats  groups were created.

Ding! Madness.

I’m currently hobbling around with knee injuries (another post!) and you might think I’d be happy to get interaction and see everyone’s holiday photos.

A nicer person might feel that way, yes.

I’m not nice.

I’m cranky. I can’t even walk 50 feet. There’s pain from the injury and pain from compensating. Andy has taken over my beloved morning walk with the dog. Dalton has taken over the evening walk. All summer plans are canceled. Aside from swimming laps (arms only!) I’m mostly stuck at home while waiting on a specialist to tell me how much mobility I can expect to get back.

So when Dr. Sis sent photos of her beaming with her bike after her 17 mile, pre-Italy ride, I did the unthinkable.


But don’t worry.

I’m sure there will be another one tomorrow.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

28 thoughts on “Modern Hydra (#372)”

  1. I’m the youngest of 50 cousins so I feel your pain. Fortunately (well sort of anyway) we all lost touch over the years. I stay close to my brother and niece which is a manageable. When I did DNA testing I got reacquainted with some of the cousins but as it turns out, we don’t have anything but an ancestor in common. Not one has suggested group chats. Group texts with my close family are enough! Big picnic tomorrow so I’ll see a bunch of relatives. Good luck with your injury (or has that healed already?).

    1. Big picnic sounds exciting! 50 cousins sounds overwhelming. Wow. Sadly, the knee injury is current and happened about 2 months ago. It’s a mess and I kind of want to blog about it, but that might be too depressing until I find out the prognosis from a specialist.

      1. It was overwhelming and there was about a 30 year span from oldest to youngest. There were only a few I was close to as most were much older than me. Sorry about the knee. Sending positive energy your way!

  2. OMG, that is HORRENDOUS. I got cranky when my sister in St Louis started sending me constant messages containing scans of my mother’s old photos, asking me who everyone was, as my mother cannot remember. That, in itself, was annoying, but made worse by them arriving in the middle of the night. I may’ve been a tad snappy…

    Knee pain is so shit as you can’t do anything without using your knees. I hope your specialist has some positive solutions for you. Those months I spent before my knee operation were the most miserable of my life. Bastard siblings and their biking holiday – how very dare they? I’m cross on your behalf.

    1. Doctor Sis actually texted me personally and apologized, and then I felt bad because she really works some insane hours saving lives. She deserves to have her fun and show off her mad fit physique. It isn’t her fault I’m resentful toward everyone who can get outdoor exercise these days, but I don’t need to have my face rubbed in it.

      That really sucks about the texts from your mom and sister, especially when you might not want to mute them because of your mom’s age and failing health! I have my phone on “Do Not Disturb” at night because of the sibs in different time zones, but sometimes, if it was a bad night, the “Do Not Disturb” ends while I’m trying to sleep in and it’s DING! DING! DING! Yesterday I thought I had turned off all the alerts for all the group chats and right when I dozed off for a nap, the new one with my sister’s pic dinged. I was all “MURDER.”

  3. Oh & yeah, I’ve muted ALL my WhatsApp notifications as they drove me to meltdown. It does mean I can be late to seeing ones I do want to receive – like the recording of my grandson performing in his end of term concert – but… I’m a LOT easier to live with, so Himself is grateful.

  4. I have no siblings so I have never been on any chat like yours. In truth I consider sibling relationships to be a spectator sport. I feel for you but also admit that I’m intrigued by this glimpse inside your world.

    1. And I, of course, wanted to be an only child. Siblings are both awesome and infuriating. Like all relatives, some can be toxic and some can be narcissists and the more of them you have, the more likely you are to have some problematic ones. It’s also extraordinary how different our perspectives are, based on birth order. “Same different homes,” is true, but sometimes we were in completely different houses.

  5. The advantage of having only one sibling and a handful of cousins? No group chats for me! Tara gets roped into a few with her family, but they have never bothered to include me. I should maybe feel left out, but…nah. I’m good.

    Speaking of good, I hope your injury gets gooder soon.

  6. Ugh. There’s nothing worse than a group chat. I never send them and try to avoid them when I can. (though a pear gimlet could make me change my mind )
    Sorry about your injury. I have a bad knee as well, injured it in 2020 and haven’t been pain free since.

      1. My injury doesn’t respond well to surgery so I’ve seen two orthopedists, did physical therapy … even acupuncture. Still hurts every single day. Hope yours isn’t as awful.

        1. That’s pretty miserable. From the research I’ve done, it doesn’t seem like surgery would be any better than PT for my torn meniscus, but I have at least three other issues in that knee that are complicating potential recovery. And the chronic pain is unpleasant, to say the least. You have my condolences and the hope that medical science comes up with a breakthrough for us.

          1. Mine was a deep root radial meniscus tear. The worst possible kind, basically unreachable. I had 3 injections and they didn’t even touch the pain.
            I’ll keep my fingers crossed for both of us..

            1. Can I join in the fun here? I have an avulsion fracture of my shoulder just now (surgery in 2wks) which is really adding to the fun of this ghastly (UK weather’s been awful) summer – especially as I’m a birder and can’t lift binoculars or camera with ease. Feel for you both and very much hope things improve

              1. I hate to say welcome to the club as it’s not much fun to join. I had a shoulder problem a few years back as well. 8 weeks of physical therapy made it worse but then an orthopedist shot me full of some type of magic juice that gave me some relief. It still hurts now and then, but I can live with it.

                  1. I think it was some kind of cortisone steroid cocktail. He had a helluva time jabbing it in the right spot… but when it hit, it was instant relief.

                    1. I’ve had multiple cortisone shots for bursitis in my knee and hip and those things hurt. They move that giant needle around! No instant relief, but helpful in the long run.

                    2. Two different orthopedists gave me cortisone for my knee and it didn’t help at all. Just hurt like hell where they stuck me.

              2. OMG, that sounds awful. Especially if it is your dominant arm. How do you even treat that, other than staying immobile? I had an avulsion fracture in a finger and that was so painful anytime it touched ANYTHING. Also, this club is the least fun club ever, can I just say?!

  7. My three daughters and I have a group Zoom twice a month. I love it, but all the group chats your family has would be way too much for me. Still, I think it may be worse not to have any siblings or cousins.

    I’m sorry about your knee and about the cancellation of your summer plans. I hope the specialist will have good news for you.

    1. The group Zooms sound nice. We did a few of those during the first year of COVID, complete with trivia challenges. Far more manageable than the dozen group chats. There are times when I do wish I had been an only child, but perhaps that would have been boring

  8. Whatsapp chats are ubiquitous in SA. I’m in soooooo many whatsapp chats that I mute, never read, and should just exit but I’m afraid of being judged for doing so.

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