Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dear Sister...

The woman I work for, who has also been a friend for many years, learned that her brother has late stage pancreatic cancer yesterday.  Normally a strong (very), stoic woman, she was devastated.  As she was telling me about it, I thought to myself, "Man, I'm probably the last person on the planet she should be talking to.  I have nothing good to offer."  She's had a difficult relationship with him over the years.  I know the brother just a bit, and he can be boorish.  As she said it yesterday, "He's an asshole, but he's my asshole."  I understand her words, and know her shocking sense of loss is peppered with guilt over their strife off and on, but I can only imagine her pain.  I will never know the loss of a sibling.  Maybe I don't give myself enough credit, maybe I've mourned the lack of siblings all my life.  I'm not ignorant to the fact that I compensate for my lack of family by creating my own, all of them with four legs.  What I don't do any longer is try to attach myself to Greg's family all inclusively.  I have learned there are some places I cannot go, some experiences I'll never be able to share.  Siblings strike out on the road of life together, and however that road may split off for each of them, their genesis was the same and no one else can claim that.  Greg knew that long before I accepted it.

Thus it was perhaps funny that his oldest sister, whom I cut ties with after her last visit in the weeks after Mother died, chose to criticize me for not wanting to belong to their family.  I never would have known she said anything had she not sent an odd apology to me and her brother.  Since she had carefully honored my request not to communicate with me anymore, having her husband send the occasional email here or there if she needed our branch of the family tree to know something, I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about.  But I could guess, and I was right.  She had an exchange with Greg over the weekend that began with discussing the disposition of some of Mother's furniture and other items that she had wanted.  I had told her husband I was going to sell it so we could begin the arduous process of putting our house on the market.  After stating her continued desire for the circa 1950's bedroom set, among other things, she apparently went on the offensive about me, with the lead story being that I didn't consider myself a part of their family and how she wasn't going to tell her two daughters that, because they would be so hurt.  Greg apparently defended me for a couple of volleys until she changed the subject to focus on him.  I know he's not telling me everything.  I can tell by reading between her brief lines - myself being adept at styling business correspondence that is polite yet with a "F-you" underbelly.  Plus, that's just how he rolls.  He doesn't want the drama, so he's not going to tell me the meat of the matter, both to save hurting me, but also to get the whole thing to die down quickly.  Luckily for him, my current coping mechanism is to be a little numb to most things, but unluckily, I also dug into it more than I might have because I don't like being numb, and a little family drama shakes things up for me (hence my taking not one, but two blog posts to focus on it).  Her apology, if I were so inclined to take it this way, almost made it sound as though she were giving him permission to stay with me.  She stated, "Whatever makes you smile."  Whatever.  I don't know what he replied back, but he probably pointed out that not much makes either of us smile these days.

I wish he hadn't chosen to defend my honor quite in the way that he did, so just on the off chance she ever reads this, allow me to say, I don't need excuses made for my behavior.  I confessed my sins in the unseemly little passion play that ended - or possibly just suspended - our relationship.  Childish behavior doesn't have an age limit, as it turns out.  You can accept that or not accept that.  I have to take whatever decision you make and be okay with it.  And I am.  Know this as well:  I am not, nor would ever, try to damage my husband's relationship with his family.  Me, of all people - the person who so desperately sought to attach myself to yours.  Even more so with Marissa.  She is now in the position I've struggled with all my life, she's an only child.  Why in the world would I in any way alienate her from what family she has left?   If I need to say more on the matter, then you're not listening.

But, I know how it must look.  I am dragging them clear across the country to tilt at black and gold windmills in the hopes we can find some peace that way.  I know that, since my mother's family is largely still based in the area, that seems particularly suspicious.  All I can say is that I am not fleeing one family into the arms of another.  And I am really fully aware that this may be a fool's errand.  In the wake of watching my friend's distress all day yesterday, I came home last night to try and file paperwork that's been stacking up since before Mother died.  Greg popped in an episode of True Blood to entertain us as I sifted through piles of bills from three separate households:  ours, Mother's and Kelsey's.  The episode happened to be Adele Stackhouse's funeral.  As I wiped away tears, watching Sookie (the main character) eat her grandmother's last ever pecan pie and coming across the receipt from Mother's own funeral, I thought to myself, "Am I ever going to not get triggered over stuff like this?  Am I ever going to feel normal again?"

All I know is we have to try something.  And all I can tell you is that I got nearly giddy when my Realtor answered some of my questions because it meant we're getting closer to finding something, and Greg seemed excited when I showed him a new listing with a massive backyard.  It's not that it's Pittsburgh really.  It's just that it's not here.  I don't really expect everyone to understand.  For their sakes, I hope they never have the opportunity to have to.

1 comment:

  1. She reminds me of the people we used to have to deal with. You know, the ones that scream at you and call you despicable things over something as small and insignificant as getting a card that used terms like "please" and "thank you" and think that is acceptable. But it isn't about the card (or the bedroom set) is it? It's about you not giving them what they want (subservience, acquiescence). For some reason, for some people, not getting what they want means they are free to say and do anything short of an illegal act (and sometimes not even that). I don't think I will ever really get that. I doubt you acted childishly, even when you are angry you are still pretty controlled. You were angry (rightfully), and you may have lashed out, but that is not unreasonable at times - in fact, some times it would be "unreasonable" not to. Sounds to me like you did the reasonable thing (unreasonable would have been to burn the bedroom set on her front lawn).