Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Sister Story

I've been considering for a while which, if any, of the stories about my sister I should tell. Until I mentioned her infidelity and weird comments over M's birthday, I was mostly adhering to my policy of not talking about her (or any family member).

Recently my sister and her oldest son (21) had a huge fight. Apparently my nephew left in great haste, vowing not to speak to her again. My sister was very upset about this and told me some of the things my nephew said. He said some pretty horrible things.

I sensed however, that she had not given the whole story.

I talked to my nephew a few days later, and he told me some things my sister said to him. Goodness. Mothers aren't supposed to be so nasty to their sons. What she said to him trumps what he said to her.

My sister has this special skill of being able to say the things that hurt you the most in the heat of an argument. Really, the stuff that cuts to your core insecurities. That's what she did to my nephew that night.

She's done it to me, too, of course. The argument between the two of them has me thinking about something that happened way back in 1994, on Thanksgiving.

My husband and I were out west, visiting family for the holiday. Everyone was on top of this mountain in the southern part of the state, staying in cabins. My brother had arranged it all, and our family was meeting his soon-to-be fiance's family for the first time. Oh, what an impression we made.

It was also a few days before my sister's 40th birthday. In retrospect, I can see some mid-life crisis playing into the situation.

A couple weird things happened before the dinner even began. My sister was acting strangely about the telephone and was mad there was no long distance service on it. At one point she confronted me about how I had made a call to check my answering machine back east. I said I had used my calling card, and she stood there, waiting for me to offer it to her. I sensed something weird, so I didn't. Later I learned she was in the midst of her first affair and wanted to call her boyfriend. I'm SO glad I wasn't party to that.

Once we all sat down to eat, my brother, husband, his girlfriend (now wife) and I were at one end of the table. Various people were in between. My dad, his wife and my sister were at the other end. At some point, my sister started laying into my dad about how he loved the other kids (my brother, me) more, how he never did anything to help her, how much he has intentionally hurt her over the years, and so on. Totally and utterly ridiculous. Besides we were adults, and it was long since past time to just get over it already.

I heard what was going on, and I was really uncomfortable about it. It was so not true. There is such an age gap between all of us that we essentially grew up in different homes. She got some things I didn't get, I got some things she didn't get. Big deal. It's over, it's past.

My dad was just taking it. I hated seeing that.

My brother asked me what was going on.

Now, this is where I made my big mistake. I should have said, "I don't know," and kept my mouth shut. I didn't. I said to my brother, "Just her annual complaint that Dad loved us more."

My sister heard this and became enraged. She got up and stormed out of the house.

This is where I made my second mistake. I went after her.

I found her outside, sitting on some landscaping, wailing at the top of her lungs. Her husband and kids were milling about, not really paying any attention to her. I couldn't talk to her. I tried to say, please, let's just talk, but then she started hurtling the hurtful things. As I said, she knows how to cut to your most basic insecurities in the heat of the moment. She was doing all she could to be as hurtful and mean as possible.

Stop, I kept saying. But no matter what I said, she kept being as hurtful as possible.

Trying to talk to her at all was my third mistake.

I thought maybe if I looked into her eyes and got her attention I could get her to calm down. So I put my hands on each of her shoulders and said, firmly, "Look at me!"

This was my fourth mistake.

She looked at me, and while she did, she grabbed my left arm with her right hand – and bit my forearm.

Yes, bit. As in bite. Mouth. Teeth.

Thank goodness I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt. It protected me and her teeth didn't break the skin.

And she held my arm in her mouth and kept clamping down as long as she could. I started yelling for her to let go, and pounded her left shoulder with my right hand.

Her husband came over and decided I was attacking her. He grabbed my left arm – the one being bit – pulled and told me to leave her alone. For several seconds my left arm was in a tug-of-war between my sister's teeth and my brother-in-law's hand.

I finally broke free and ran into the house. I hid in the bathroom while my sister and her husband gathered their things and left, trashing me all the way. My husband and I left early the next morning.

We stayed in a hotel for the rest of the weekend, and it was nice to be away – do our own thing without the demands of family.

My sister and I didn't speak or communicate at all for about ten months. They were some of the calmest, least dramatic months I can remember.

We've never really talked about or resolved what happened that Thanksgiving on the mountain. I have no interest in hearing about what a victim she was.

By the way, this is a photo of my arm several hours after the incident. The bruising continued to develop over several days and it was weeks before I could push up my shirt sleeves without gasps and stares.

So this whole thing with my nephew? I'm not surprised, really. They've since started talking again, but my nephew is far more wary of her, his own mother. And that's sad.

Next time I'll tell you about the time she stopped speaking to me after C was sick. She was angry at me for not personally calling her multiple times a day during the crisis to update her because I didn't understand how worried she was. Seriously.


wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

What a drama queen your sister is! Why does anyone still speak to her? Has she been treated for mental illness, because, J., she sounds like some mentally ill people I've known. I can see why you've moved so far away.

J said...

Family is family, you know? That's the only answer I can give. My brother think she can do no wrong, even after such events. I definitely hold her at arms length now.

Yes, she has been in and out of psychotherapy and psychiatry for most of her adult life. Usually she goes, tells her tales of woe for a few sessions, gets her prescriptions (anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds, sedatives, etc), but when the therapist or doctor tries to get her to take any responsibility, make positive changes, etc., she quits going and tells everyone the professional in question didn't know what they were doing. Repeat one year later when the meds need be refilled.

She also been treated in a residential setting for anorexia and bulemia. Left after two weeks because she couldn't use the phone at will.

You can't make this stuff up.

Pantheist Mom said...


I'm (almost) speechless. I'm worn out inside just thinking about how that must have made you feel. I can't imagine.

She's family yes, but she's also toxic. You're right to stay away as much as you can, physically and emotionally. You're not responsible for her - it's not your responsibility. It sounds like your brother is probably not convinced of that for himself.

Ruthie said...

She sounds like a truly unhappy, bitter and selfish person.

I really don't know what to say in response to this-- she sounds appalling. Family is family, but good heavens... I think you're probably better off completely severing all contact with her rather than letting her punish you (I can't BELIEVE those bruises!) for every perceived slight.

It's amazing how different two siblings can be... I hope you have a better relationship with your other siblings and that they're normal, well-adjusted people who care about people other than themselves.

The Daily Rant said...

Holy Freakin Crap!!! I cannot believe she BIT you. What a bruise. Oh, the drama. There obviously was, and still is, some deep hurt or something going on inside her. That's really too bad that it had to manifest itself in this manner.