Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What My Sister-in-Law Said

Imagine the pingy clock sound that they play at the beginning of every 24 episode.  Got it?  Okay, keep that sound in your head:  The following took place on Thursday between 10 and 11:00AM:

Cheryl sits at her desk when she notices she is receiving a call on her cell from "Home".  She answers, "Hello?"

"Hey, it's me," says her sister-in-law, followed by a slight pause while Cheryl waits to see what is coming next. "Greg told me what was going on."  Another slight pause to allow this to sink in.  "I think it's wonderful!"

Cheryl's reaction is immediate, violent and profane.  "Well, I'm glad you f*#king do.  That makes one of us!"

Cheryl can sense the surprise of the caller on the other end, but she really doesn't care.  She is seeing red at the moment.  Then, she becomes aware that she probably said that last thing a little too loud, wondering who was around her at the moment.  Great.  So, she quickly recognizes the need to compose herself, which means ending the call.  "I can't talk about this right now," she says hastily and starts to hit the End Call button.

"Well, we can talk about this later," her caller hurries up to say to try and draw her back in, "The reason I'm calling is I have lunch with [someone, I didn't catch the name, and it doesn't matter] and I'm out of clothes.  Can I borrow a blouse of yours?"

Seriously, thinks Cheryl, this is how you ask me to borrow clothes?  Whatever.  Let her pull this knife that just got buried in her heart out so she can respond.  "Yes, that's fine.  I don't care.  I've got to go," is what she says out loud.  The call is terminated.  Cheryl has no idea what the person on the other end of that call is thinking at the moment, but she is thinking, "Oh, I have got to get out of here!"  So, she gets up and confesses her verbal slippage to her supervisor so she will be armed with the information if and when the Powers That Be come to escort Cheryl out of the building.  No one ever does, however.

Nor do the two women ever talk about the call later.  When Cheryl gets home, her dog Myrna is already in crisis, and it's never discussed.  Other things crowded in.  By the time the long awful Friday was over and Cheryl drove home to watch Game 1 of the Semi-Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Audrey had retired back to her mother's apartment.  For all Cheryl knows, she may never hear from her sister-in-law again.  She is left to process the statement without benefit of better explanation, as is Audrey with her reaction to it.  This is how wars begin, it occurs to Cheryl.  Simple little explosions.  Wrong words said in haste and without thought, and chain reactions commence.

End of episode.  Time for commercial.

I admit, I was astounded by her choice of words and took them to be said with malice initially, but I've since found that the wound was not fatal.  Mom, it turns out, was right.  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will only hurt me if I let them.  And, with a little distance between then and now, I can honestly say I doubt she meant anything by it.  For one thing, I believe Greg's eldest sister sees things through her own particular world view and will speak quite earnestly from that perch.  Problem is, the rest of us do not always share that viewpoint.  For another, who knows how the information was presented to her.  Finally, she is not the only individual who has tried to congratulate me on my husband's "retirement".  So, once and for all, allow me to set my side of the record straight, and then ask everyone to not mistake me for a Happy Camper.  Ever again.  Not on this subject anyway.

First of all, I am not of the opinion that wandering around the house aimlessly with no particular goal or career path in mind is actually what someone recovering from grief needs.  For the immediate future, his focus is on trying to get some of the deferred maintenance on the house done, and that's all well and good, but then what?  What actual work is he doing to salve the wounds of his grief?  None.  Maybe every other reason pales in comparison to that one.  Aimlessness is not a cure to grief.

For me and my feelings on the matter, I will have to say it has taught me something.  I have learned that I was building my recovery on a foundation of security that was so fragile it was built on nothing but air.  For me, I now realize, the most important thing left was to protect and maintain the family I have remaining.  But, a key component was a level of hard earned trust that I felt we all had in one another.  I never counted on someone from that unit betraying that trust.  Because, let's be clear, that's how I feel about it.  I was betrayed.  I would have supported the decision to back out slowly, with caution and forethought, and we had broached that subject briefly before.  But, the next mention of it was to announce the decision to me as I grabbed my coffee on my way to work on Monday morning.  Not the level of discussion I was led to expect.  The result is that I feel shattered.  I feel bereft of one of the few people left to me because if he can do that to me, treat me with so little regard, can I really mean anything to him?  Am I over-reacting?  I really don't think so.  That doubt that I feel, that emptiness; to me, that is not wonderful.

And all of that is before I address how our income has now been reduced by 60%.  Don't even get me started on that one.

No, none of this is wonderful.  Do not congratulate me for the situation I find myself in now.  I don't require you to feel sorry for me either (I'm doing enough of that for all of us).  This is a dark time, I will admit it.  But, all I ask is patience while I sort it all out and begin to rebuild again.  Just please don't patronize me.  And wash any clothes you borrow before you bring them back!


  1. This entire situation is frustrating. I would feel exactly like you do if Ken just up and quit without discussing with with me first and we're NOT grieving.

    I don't blame you and I don't think your feelings regarding this situation are exaggerated or over the top.

    Do you think that the people that are congratulating you know how you truly feel about it, so they're trying to put a positive spin on things?

    I'm not sure who else has told you this is a good thing, but I think maybe Audrey really thinks its wonderful, but her brain operates on a totally different wavelength.

    You know how to get in touch with me. I've been thinking of you!

  2. You, of course, know Greg better than I do. That being said, I don't think a certain coping mechanism is right or works across the board for everybody. It may be a very bad decision on his part, not having a stressful job may or may not help him deal with the hole inside him. His actions may feel like betrayal, you may expect him to think about you first, but he simply may not be capable of doing that right now. Instead of focusing on this decision and how it has hurt you think back over the years of the little things and big things he does for you day in and day out that shows his love and respect for you. Spending time with your mother, to give you a break, taking the dogs out so that you could sleep in a little longer, staying home because he knew you would like him to take care of the dogs. My guess is you could choose to think of a million things that Greg has done to show his love for you. Right now you are scared and worried about money, and bills, and housing and food. I don't blame you. I have been there. I am not going to tell you everything will be alright. But I am your friend and I will tell you this: you have a choice, to be frightened and worried AND look at it as a personal affront to you, a betrayal, or to be frightened and worried and take it as the actions of someone you love who is in so much pain and loss they are simply not capable at the moment of thinking of your preferences, no matter how much sense or well founded and logical they are.