Monday, October 04, 2010

I Suppose I Should Tell You What Happened With My Sister

(Hold on, this is a long one)

So. The trip out west. And the sister blowout after which she is not speaking to me.

It really starts years and years ago. Don't all such situations start well in advance of the actual "event?" But I don't know exactly when it started.

It could have been when C was a baby and she came out for a few days to "help" - which consisted of her spending the morning criticizing my new parenting, then taking the T into the city for a few ours, coming back mid evening drunk, reeking of cigarette smoke, telling us about the cute sailor she met at a bar and then wanting to hold the baby. Um, no.

Maybe it started when DH and I got married and she pitched a fit because I didn't want to get acrylic nails. I've never been much of a manicure person and there was really no time in the day before. No matter. It pissed her off so much that, instead of driving to the B&B where I was staying and hosting breakfast, as agreed, so I had a ride to the church, as agreed, she had her husband drop her and my dad off. When asked where the car was, she gave me a shit-eating grin and said, "It's not here and (her husband) is not coming back."

Maybe it started when C was a baby and we went out to visit, spent most of the time cleaning out a storage space of my dad's that she had been asked for MONTHS to clean out, and then she demanded a cut of the couple furniture items we had sold. On that same trip, we went to dinner with her and two of her sons (11 and 4 at the time), and learned much about how not to parent. The boys started acting out immediately upon arrival at the restaurant, and my sister started trying to get them to stop by saying, "If you don't stop, we're leaving." Did they stop? No. Did she make them all leave? Of course not. After a little while, it turned to, "If you stop I'll pay you a dollar." They never did stop.

Maybe it started after my sister bit me.

Maybe it was the way my sister stopped speaking to me after C was sick. You know, because I was so insensitive to how worried she was. As if I didn't have a few other challenges right in my face.

Or the other times she's stopped talking to me for God knows why.

Maybe it started a lot of times. Who the hell knows.

And now has "Annoying My Sister" listed on her "Interests" in Facebook. No, really. I have screen shot of it. I'll have to dig it out. (I mention that level of maturity here and here.)

It probably most directly started two years ago. My sister's youngest son, my nephew, CS, requested that for his 16th birthday, my C be allowed to fly out there for a week to spend time with them over the summer. Sounds so benign. But in addition to scheduling challenges (we weren't out of school until late June, they start school mid August, C's sailing schedule, their extensive vacation schedule), there were these considerations:

1. C, at that point, had successfully spent the night away from home exactly once. He's a homebody. To send him 3000 miles away for a full week didn't seem realistic.

2. My sister's complete lack of appropriate home environment. My sister stays up to 3 or 4 in the morning most nights, playing Euchre with her ex-boyfriend's wife and other odd characters, maintaining no consistency of routine for her kids. Well, just the one kid left. She and her husband regularly play that kid off one another.

3. CS, the nephew, is mostly a good kid deep down, or will be. But right now he's a snarky, entitled brat. A couple of friends have had encounters with him on Facebook and can vouch for this.

4. I know other things that have gone on in that house. The value system - the affairs, for example - don't sit well for me.

5. You can't count on her in a big or little. (One of many examples: In 1999, Hurricaine Floyd was about to hit North Carolina, where we lived at the time. I was pregnant with M. I spent two days looking for batteries - we needed some backup D batteries for flashlights. I'd been beaten to them at every store. I finally called my sister as a last resort. I begged her to overnight some D batteries. Begged her. She said okay. I caller her later than day to make sure she'd put them in the mail. She hesitantly said yes. I should have known. The batteries never arrived the next day. I called her. She said, oops, she'd accidentally overnight-ed them to herself. Uh huh.)

This wasn't exactly a situation that felt comfortable to me. I said no.

My sister sent me a letter telling me how selfish I was and how much I hurt her and CS by not letting my son go. And how rude I was for giving him an actual gift late. My oldest nephew (CW), got into it, too. Yeah, a 23 year old started telling me how to parent. (A couple summers ago, when CW was interning for the summer out here, we'd let C spend a bit of time with CW. At 21 I finally felt he's gained a little maturity. Even so, consistently, for two days after spending time with CW, my C would have a nasty, snarky attitude toward the rest of us)

(I should also mention that that summer with CW, and the previous summer when CW went to an internship in anther city, my sister threw a scene each night before he left, threatening to kill herself, and all sort of other dramatics. Each time, CW almost missed flights. But I suppose that was her point in the end. And she wonders why her two oldest don't want to spend time at home.)

Anyway. This trip.

We got out there on a Friday. CW and CS came over to the hotel that afternoon to swim, and we were all to meet at a pizza place that night (one for which I had to make reservations a month in advance). CW asked for my C to spend the night. I said no. My reasoning on this was simple: we had been up since 2AM local time, C was tired, and their house would not be an environment in which he'd get to sleep at a reasonable time - and he can be a real bear to deal with when he's that tired. At any rate, we go to dinner. My sister and her husband show up late and fighting. CW is stressed. CS is a teenager, and not in a good way.

I might have considered letting C spend the night the next night, but it wasn't offered. That afternoon we went to a cool Mexican restaurant, and back to my sister's house for some dessert. CS does not join us - busy with friends. But we do finally see the other nephew, CL who had been at work. He's heading back to college the next day.

The vacation week continues. We see my brother and his kids, my mom, we go to California and have a great time.

Meanwhile my sister posts this passive-aggressive Facebook update about how "wonderful" it is to see all of us. Her friends totally catch on, and the comments are, "Like Texas?" (where her in-laws live and where she complains about going *all the time*) and "(snicker)."

Back in town the next weekend, we see my sister and her husband on Friday night, and make plans for Saturday. (No CS - I note that because there were plenty of time for CS to spend time with C, and maybe even build up some trust with me, and those chances weren't taken.)

CS wants my C to go off with he and his friends. They say they are going to do a slip-n-slide at some park. Um. Slip-n-slide at some park? With what water? This is Arizona? Everyone needs to bring a gallon of water. With what kids? Just friends. My sister can't give me names. She doesn't know. CS is 2 1/2 years older than C, and it's enough of a difference that I'm uncomfortable about judgment and exposure. And that no one can tell me who these kids are - that I'm just supposed to trust a nephew (just because he's a nephew) who has declined to spend much time with us and is really snarky in general. It doesn't feel right to me, and we have plans with my mom (whom my sister treats *terribly*) to go to the art museum anyway.

Yes, I am the mean mom and I say no. I use the excuse of one of my favorite local laws about teen drivers: For the first year of driving, teens here cannot drive groups of friends. I like that law. I go with it.

There are plans to go to my sister's house for dinner, however, and they include my mom. We pick up cupcakes from Sprinkles. We go.

We get there, everything seems fine. Well, as fine as it gets with my sister. CS comes home and my sister claims ignorance that my C wasn't with him. (I'm doubting more and more that she didn't know - I think, really, we were set up).

Then my sister says, "Okay, I'm going to say this and then we're not going to talk about it anymore. I am so hurt that you didn't let C go with CS. We are your family, too, and you should let C spend time with us."

It went on from there. She kept saying that she was just going to say it but we weren't going to talk about it. What the fuck? Why not? Well, aside from the fact that I could totally destroy her marriage with reasons why I wasn't comfortable with the situation. She is so committed to being the victim, the wounded party. It was all about how hurt she was, and what the right situation was for my C was beside the point.

I stood up and said, "I think we should go." My husband heard me, and said, "You think we should go? Okay."

Whoa! Big warning sign there. My husband, such an even keeled peacemaker kind of guy, wants to go. Turns out my sister's husband had been making snide comments about the situation in front of all the kids and DH in the next room.

Now there's a healthy house dynamic, don't you think.

A few more minutes of arguing - with me NOT saying the big things - ensued and we left.

My kids were upset and we had some long talks with them about what had happened and why we felt it necessary to leave. We didn't say we'd done the right thing (still don't know if we did, really), but expressed compassion for my sister and her family while reiterating that their physical and mental health and safety came first for us.

I called my sister-in-law and told her what happened. She totally agreed with me and understood. (My brother doesn't, but then he and my sister have always played the two of them against me. They are closer in age and their early experiences with our mom and dad are more similar, which may have something to do with it.)

We left town the next morning. No contact since. I don't know what happens next, if anything.

I don't know if I did the right thing by leaving that night. I felt like no matter what, that evening was shot, there would be comments and glares and all sorts of mature behavior on my sister's part. I just felt like we had to go, for our own sanity.

And there you have it.

No comments: