It’s been all of my life that my relationships with my siblings have been strained. In fact, that’s an understatement. I’m the youngest of four with complicated circumstances which I will spare for another day. This past week, the company for which I contract encouraged us to post a photo and brief caption featuring our siblings. It almost brought about a panic from deep within. I don’t even have a picture of me with all my siblings. In fact, I’m certain one doesn’t exist. Although I long ago accepted the situations, I was sobbing by the end of the day my manager made her request. I posted a picture of me with two cousins whom I adore and miss as we live in three different time zones. And even though I love them, it hurt me to do it.
My oldest sister was out of our parents’ home by the time I was born. She came to stay for a couple of weeks shortly after while our mother had a hysterectomy to care for me and our brother while Mom was recuperating. She called me Punk from the time I was very small, which infuriated our mother. I don’t remember ever hearing her call me that. I wish I could say I felt like it was a term of endearment or a shortening of Punkin; maybe a simple oxymoron? That would have been good, but it was inaccurate. She married when I was an infant and had children when I was a toddler. They all lived in another state and visits were infrequent. Even then, I could sense the strained relationships between her and our parents. That, sadly, also never changed until our father died.
The younger of my sisters was not raised with us and I did not have a true connection to her until after I had my own children. She was raised by a relative and also had her son when I was a toddler. Our paths have intersected at various points, including a time when I pursued our relationship and protected it fiercely. I was longing for a connection. After the passing of her husband not long after the passing of my father, our relationship was no longer a present part of either of our lives. Things got uncomfortable. I backed off. She evaporated. It is what it is. We sometimes connect through social media, but that is rare. I accept it, but I miss her. As much as that is true, I also understand investment needs to come from both parties, and I’m spent from trying.
The only boy is eight years older than I. He was present in my life growing up, and when he began his own family, they were an integral part of how my parents ran our family. He and his wife and son lived with us for a while and I was my nephew’s first baby sitter. I spent summers caring for him and he was with me nearly every weekend. By the time my niece was born two years later, I was used to people asking if they were my kids. In a way, I felt they were. Eventually, his marriage deteriorated and ended in divorce and by that time, I had already met and married The Huz and we were living 2,000 miles away. He used to call me to talk about what was going on with him and the kids or about what was happening for us. I can’t begin to express how important those calls were to me, but they stopped and I would learn later, he began to explore new layers of his addictions which took him to very, very dark places. The next fifteen years would find him angry at me for all things. There was only one time I fought back. My part was short-lived because I was aware what it was doing to our parents who were present the entire time. It was the last time I would defend myself to him, choosing to just keep my mouth shut from that point forward. Years later, we talked and became friendly again, but I couldn’t forget the damage and I never let my guard down again. These days, he hates me. His relationships with his kids confuse and hurt me. One speaks to him, one doesn’t, and I understand how they feel. Truly. I miss him desperately, but I will not sacrifice any portion of my wellness for him.
Our mother will be eighty next week. One sibling is traveling for work. One is sequestered in her world. One is likely working and drinking through the next four months, and The Huz and I are trekking across the country to celebrate with her. I’ve managed to keep it a secret from the herd, although I did break down and tell Mom we were heading west. I’m excited for the time away from my own brand of crazy on the east coast, as well as the time with Mom and a few very sweet treasured friends and their families. It will be good.
And it will be sad. No one has to point out that the visits with Mom are dwindling. She’s mostly well, but she’s advancing. We will celebrate quietly, hopefully with my brother’s children and my niece’s sweet young family. While we do, I will be happy, but I will also mourn what I know I will never have. I am OK with it. Long ago I accepted it. I no longer want to expel my energy on the lost causes of reconciliation. But I am sad. I’m maybe more sad than I should be about people who don’t want me.
I’m strong, though. And intellectual enough to know I can’t change them. But I just can’t help but feel a pang when I know once our mother is gone, my relationships with them will finally be put to rest.