I’ve been writing about the drama of everyday life on the rez. But there’s plenty of drama around here too. It’s not in my house usually, though sometimes things get a little dicey with my adult son who has Asperger’s Syndrome. But that’s understandable and we work through it.
I’m talking about extended family drama – parents, siblings, cousins, friends.
Back in March, we had a wonderful little episode of drama that doesn’t seem to want to go away. The synopsis: I wrote about how I had checked my parents’ home while my step-dad went with my sister and brother-in-law to Las Vegas – a little post-funeral time away (my mother died in January). I had taken some items from the house to clean as a surprise to my step-dad. My fibromyalgia flared and I didn’t finish cleaning them before my husband and I left for a vacation also. The day I returned, I was in essence called a thief and a liar by my step-dad and my sister. I sent the items back with my husband, since another fibro flare was arising out of the stress and anger I felt. My step-dad told him I must not have loved my mother because I didn’t cry enough when I walked into the room where she had died. (I have learned to keep my grief private). Since then, we haven’t spoken.
But I did meet with my mother’s doctors not too long ago and promised her cardiologist I would give the information he had given me (see Disclosure Meeting for details) to my children and my sister. I had told my kids, but not my sister. I felt I owed it to my mother to give my sister the info, so I e-mailed it to her the other day.
Fast forward to her response. She thanked me for the info which she said she would share with her doctor. Then she wrote, “So, are you not talking to me anymore? There are only 2 of us, so we should probably clear up any issues we have before it gets out of hand. What do you think?”
There are no issues to clear up. My family doesn’t know who I am, obviously, if they thought I could steal from my step-dad and lie about it. They don’t know the “goody-goody” whose first thought is always “What can I do that will be a good deed for that person?” Or, “What can I do to surprise that person to bring a little love and positive energy into his/her life?” My mother understood that. In fact, I think I got it from her. I believe in “Random Acts of Kindness.”
I have often felt like I somehow got placed into the wrong family at birth. Took a wrong turn coming down that birth canal. Even with my Mom. It’s odd. I felt strongly connected to my Dad. He felt that way with his mother. When my grandmother died, my father said that he “wouldn’t last long.” They had almost both died when he was born and they had an incredible link. She died in February 1963. My father died in November 1964, from a blood clot that lodged in his heart – who could have imagined something like that?
My mother was an only child, so the only aunts and uncles I had on her side were great-aunts and great-uncles. The only cousins I had on her side were her cousins and their children.
My father was one of nine children. I had lots of aunts and uncles, as well as cousins on his side. They weren’t a particularly close-knit family — no Waltons, so to speak. But I felt drawn to them, too. My mother tried to keep some ties with them for us, I think, but there was really only one of my father’s brothers who really made an effort to stay in our lives. My mother blamed it on the aunts and uncles but I have often thought that she didn’t make it very easy for them, either.
After my father died (I was 12 years old), I never seemed to have the same connection to my family that my sister did. I went to college in 1970, the same year my mother remarried (to my step-dad). Although they had been dating before I went to college and we had even gone on a few vacations all together, I never lived in the same house with them after they married. The first college summer I worked at a Girl Scout camp. The second college summer, I spent as much time (if not more) at my fiance’s parents’ home than at my parents’ home. The third college summer, I was married and living away from home. My step-dad never felt like a father to me although he had been a wonderful grandfather to my children.
My mother had a need to celebrate every holiday and everyone’sbirthday with a big get-together every year. I have always hated big parties and other shindigs. In the beginning, during my first marriage, I tried to smile and attend every one because I didn’t want to hurt my mother. And, of course, I wanted my children to have time with their extended family. But as the children grew and I came to understand my fibromyalgia better, I also became more able to explain to my mother how I felt and how these things effected me and my health. She came to understand how I felt because she tried to, even if she didn’t like it or agree with it. She knew that I was an adult and had to make my own choices. When I remarried, we still attended holidays with my family, though we have found ways to visit with my husband’s family, too. But I have never felt relaxed and happy to be at the gatherings. I did it for my mom.
Mom is gone now. I don’t feel close to my sister, who is 4 years younger than I am. I don’t ever really remember feeling close to her, although my mother used to tell me I was very protective of her when she was a baby. We’ve never really had much in common. I was in high school when she was in grammar school. I was in college when she was in high school. I graduated from college the same year she graduated from high school – and I was already married for a year. She partied in college far more than I ever did. I went to church, even in college. She lived at home with my parents after college graduation. She loved to go to dance clubs (that’s where she met her husband). She tried to get me to go with her after I divorced. I hated it – loud noise, smoke, booze. Definitely not my cup of tea. She loves to shop – I hate it. I love to be out in nature – she doesn’t. My favorite vacation spots are Yellowstone National Park and Tampa, FL (when there’s hockey). Her favorite vacation spots are Bermuda (for the clubs and sitting by the pool) and Vegas. She likes to gamble. I know too much about probability to enjoy giving my money away. She has no children. I had two. Her husband is loud, smokes (even though she had breast cancer), and frequently leaves family gatherings to see his friends rather than staying with her. Oh, the list could go on and on.
But the main thing is I don’t feel close to her – I don’t call her to share my secrets – never have. I don’t feel close to my step-dad. And after he told my husband that I didn’t love my mother because I didn’t cry enough, after he basically called me a thief and a liar, I have no need to be around him.
I don’t miss them. I was always the loner in the family, so for me things really haven’t changed much. The big change is who is having the expectations that I’m going to feel the same way they do. It isn’t my mom anymore and that makes it much easier to “just say no.”
I sent an e-mail back to my sister, telling her how I felt and what I thought. I haven’t heard anything back, though I don’t expect that she’ll let it be.
But for now . . . . ahh, the sweet peace and quiet.