Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Family hell

I was quite surprised yesterday, because my brother #2 sent me a birthday card this year. This is the first communication I have had from him in over 4 years, aside from being in the same room when our Grandmother passed away.

What follows is the story of why:

My brother #1 got my daughter, K, an I-pod, the biggest most expensive model at the time, for X-mas in 2005, against my preference. Then he and she opened it and set it up without me knowing until afterwards. We had long had attitude issues with her before, but we were really having some more behavioral issues with K at the time. She had been through a lot in 2004, having had cancer, going through all that went with that -- on top of pre-teen angst, rejoining her peers and getting back to a normal life -- it was hard on her. We cut her plenty of slack, but she did not give the same back to us. So Middle School was not a fun time. Additionally we had decided to move to STL due to Hubster's job and she was PISSED! We understood that, but honestly, as a parent -- we knew we had to remain in charge or all hell would break loose!

Needless to say the I-pod was K's dream gift and she lived by it. She also lost the privilege -- repeatedly due to her attitude, mistreatment of her younger sibs and generally shitty behavior. We went on a house hunting trip over spring break and she was given the I-pod to use during the car ride, because we knew that 17 hours each way was a long time and we felt our sanity would be better off if she had the ability to zone out rather than bother us. She did really well during the trip and we returned the I-Pod after the trip with the admonishment that if she went back to the dark side, she would lose the thing for good. After all, how many times can you take away something before it no longer has an impact? We had long ago learned that this kid could wait us out and we knew that a real threat to her keeping the new toy had to be on record.

Given the history, you can guess that K wasted no time becoming a brat again, so we took it and because she had a habit of searching the house for things she had lost to punishment, we locked the I-Pod in the glove box of the car. We also brought it in the house regularly to charge it, until we bought a car charger and then Hubster would let it charge while commuting. It was used occasionally so that it wold not perish from lack of use. I had heard that it could happen and we did not want to take any chances with that. From the beginning, our true plan was to return it to her, BUT not until we were actually en route to our new life in STL. If we gave K any inkling that she was ever getting it back, we would not have gotten the attitude adjustment we wanted/needed from her. We all were having a hard time with the coming changes in our lives and we were not about to have her making it any worse than it had to be. As a parent you learn the tricks that work with your kid and you adjust accordingly to their age and their behavior patterns. That is LIFE! My mom did so with me as well. She was my mortal enemy until I became a parent myself. I actually realized just how big of a shit I had been and I honestly and wholeheartedly apologized to her for it. She deserved it, because I really had made her life hell. Not to say she was not a pain in my ass as well, cuz she was BIG TIME. (Maybe that'll make good story here one day...:-)

Somehow or other #1 became aware that we had taken the I-Pod away, yet again, and that we had told her it was for good this time. K swore she did not say anything, but I think she had to have said something. She knew how to play on their adoration for her like a pro... Mother's Day weekend we all went to Mom's to help with the big spring yard work and have a nice family gathering. I found that #1 had an opinion on the I-Pod matter, but he chose to bring it up in front of my daughter, so my Hubster being the king of one liners that he is, cracked wise and essentially thanked him for the gift. Hubster and I know our kids and we also know that my brothers had a special soft spot for our daughter. If we had told either of them our true intentions, they would most likely have let the cat out of the bag. So, we just held our ground and went with the story that came of the wisecrack. As far as we're concerned we are the parents and we really did not owe any explanation to them. So long as we knew what the situation was that was the important part.

Well needless to say, #1did not like our response, but he never said anything further to me about it. It turns out he had a discussion with our Mom and #2. Somehow she was either asked or decided herself to address the case of the stolen I-Pod. Unfortunately she chose the absolute wrong venue and manner to do so. K had invited her to come over for her birthday, our youngest's 1st birthday & Hubster's belated Father's Day dinner. She came over, she played with the kids, she had a great dinner, she drank wine, she laughed, she sang Happy Birthday and had cake. During presents, K was given a gift card to buy I-Tunes...from there Mom's inner dragon was released and all hell broke loose. This woman I call Mom began to demand the I-Pod be given to her and soon began screaming at us about being horrible parents and all the while our 4 children are sitting there dumbstruck that Grandma has gone round the bend. What happened next was totally awesome and I still giggle thinking of it. My husband, who was holding the baby in one arm, grabbed her by the elbow and steered her to the front door, snagging her purse along the way and deposited her on the front porch and calmly told her to "GET THE FUCK OFF MY PROPERTY" and went inside. I was dumb enough to try to talk to her, but as long as she was yelling in front of all my neighbors I was never going to succeed. Hubster reappeared sans baby and hauled me inside and slammed the door. All I could say after we went inside was "You said FUCK to my mother!" It was AWESOME!

If you know me then you know I was royally PISSED OFF. Mom presented herself as chief representative of the family in her attack and I promptly called #1 up and chewed him out. He got pissed rather than bothering to hear my defense, and we started exchanging barbs. Next I called #2 and it went down the same way. The following day there were e-mails, which digressed with each one. Accusations, snarky remarks and low blows of all manner were flying. Admittedly I was about as nasty as I could be. I had been accosted in my own house, in front of my children, by someone who ought to have known better and who did not take the time to talk to me and get the low-down, mother to mother OR mother to daughter for that matter. Rather my Mom chose to believe the worst about us and NEVER tried to discuss it privately. So a month after the Mother's Day weekend I was blind-sided by this BS and here I was trying to pack my house, my home was on the market but not selling and I was stressed to the max. I reacted badly, but they had accused me of STEALING from my kid and of being lowest scum of the earth. Later I found out that #1 had taken this story to other friends of his without ever trying to get the facts from me and of course all these people had to agree with them that Hubster and I were awful.

The thing is, their excuse was that while they believed the statement that they did not "get it" because they had no kids was untrue, they figured that they could never talk to me because that was what I always said to them. Mind you they did not bother to try beyond the inappropriate attempt in front of K. So, eventually I sent my Mom and brothers an e-mail telling them the day of departure had been set and that if they wanted to say good-bye to the kids before we moved, they could come on the following Sunday at a designated time to do so. This time frame was set because that was the only time we had that was NOT full of other people coming and going -- Movers, Realtors and house hunters etc... Mom was the only one to bother responding and actually stated that she did not know if she was available or not. So, until she actually arrived at the allotted time, we had no idea she had decided to come. She's damned lucky she came, because if she had chosen not to I am fairly certain she'd never have seen them again. Two can play these games ya know?

I went home a few times and never saw a hair of either of my brothers. #1 got married, moved to NC, made a baby, bought a house, had a beautiful son and I was never the wiser. #2 and his wife tried to buy a farm and got out-bid and I was in the dark. My own Mom kept important family milestones secret from me and that cut deep. If not for my Dad, I would never have known anything at all. From the time we left MD, I have sent change of address information twice and Christmas cards with pix of the kids every year. I was not afforded the same courtesies. My Mom spent the first 2 years telling me to "fix" this family rift and yet I did not then and really do not now see how I am A) responsible for fixing it and B) able to do so 800 miles away from home. I finally told her that she would not be welcomed again in my life if she did not back off of me. Her nagging dominated damned near EVERY FUCKING CONVERSATION we had for the better part of 2 years. The reality is, the boys don't want this fixed. As much as I was hurt by what was done and later what was said, they too were hurt by the things I said as well. I sent a letter to each of them once, trying to share my side of the story that they never bothered to get and I apologized for reacting poorly. Though, I really cannot say I entirely regret saying the things I did. After all, these things were milling around our atmosphere already and eventually they would have come out, maybe just not that way exactly.

Ever since I told my Mom to back off she has grudgingly let it alone. I know she is unhappy and she has made some comments here and there, but thankfully no nagging. I really did not want to have to put on my hard-ass outfit again. I was home visiting when my Grandma died. #2 and I were at the home with Dad and other family when she passed away. Other than holding my hand while we shared some stories in the room, he spoke not at all  to me and in fact chose to talk on the phone every time we left her room. We 6 flew home for her funeral a month later when Arlington had fit her into their schedule. Neither the boys or their wives spoke to me at all. K approached them and they turned their backs to her. At his house afterwards, Dad tried to hand me #1's baby to meet and #1 took him away and disappeared for a bit. Eventually I got to hold him but not for long. So, no efforts were made to make amends and worse yet, they ignored my kids. My daughter E asked me why her Uncles would not even talk to her and asked me if they still loved her. It's bad enough that we have issues as grown-ups but the effects on my kids by their attitude was sucky. The funeral venue was not a time to stick it to my kids, no matter what the issues were!

I have to wonder why there is a birthday card after all these years of totally ignoring my existence. I mean I appreciate it truly, especially since I seem to be out of sight out of mind for a lot of people ever since we moved away, any acknowledgement is precious. I sent #2 a brief e-mail in which I thanked him for the card and told him it was a pleasant surprise. Whether or not he got it is unknown and whether or not there is anything behind this I don't know. While I would most definitely love to have my family whole again, I am not really holding my breath.Who would after 4.5 years? These people have missed my youngest kid's every achievement after age 11 months. She does not even know who they are. I have to point to a picture of them and explain who they are to her every so often just so she knows they exist.

Editor's Note:
Some minor edits have been made to this post.

1 comment:

  1. It's a shame family rifts can cause so much pain Momma. The old saying is so true; you can chose your friend but... - Maybe time will ease the resentment, a birthday card is a start :)