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Monday, June 7, 2010

Dead to Me

World War I Brookwood American Cemetery and Me...Image via Wikipedia


It must be the time of year, smack dab between Mother's Day and Father's Day, that has me thinking about my family, the people I grew up with and the people who raised me.

Both my parents are dead. We buried our mother in 1999, after she died of metastatic colon cancer at the age of 61. Our dad passed away in 2004, a few days short of his 71st birthday. But truth be told, he left a long time before that due to Alzheimer's disease.

That leaves my three younger siblings, who are sort of like dandelion seeds blown away by the wind.

The truth is I should just let them go. Each, in their own time and in their own way, have come to the conclusion that they need to live their adult lives without any contact with their siblings. I struggle to understand their reasons, of which I can only make educated guesses, which ultimately leaves me with more questions than answers.

If I am really honest, I probably could have predicted this outcome based on my cancer experience. For example, when my three siblings were tested to see if they could be a bone marrow donor for me, one said that they would have to consider whether to give their bone marrow to me if they were a match. No one matched, eliminating this dilemma. Another sibling made fun of me when I started wearing a wig to cover my baldness. There were rumblings in the family that the reason I got cancer was because I was "burning the candle at both ends" and because I was partying in the dorms at college. Only one sibling came to visit me in the hospital on a regular basis, accompanying our dad; the other two were MIA.
Instead of bringing us together as a family, my cancer diagnosis tore us further apart.

I know what they said and what they did back then really had very little to do with me and everything to do with them. Sure, it hurt me. But I can excuse their behavior and overlook their comments because they were young and ill-prepared to handle their older sister's life threatening illness.

But as the years have passed, I've kept hoping that they would overcome the baggage of our collective past and make amends so we could move on together.

I know that people who cutoff from their parents, siblings and other family members due so because of their own unresolved emotional issues. Unfortunately, avoiding their family of origin doesn't make those issues go away. In fact, they are very likely to let those issues play out in their marriages, families and friendships, in essence creating situations where those scenarios play out again ... and again ... and again.

This only intensifies my sadness, as I am here waiting to resolve those issues with them when they are able to do so in a mature, honest and forthright manner.

The last time the four of us where in the same place was at our father's funeral. We were all there at the cemetery, watching as they interred our father into the wall of the mausoleum. I often wonder if this was the very last time we would all be together. In which case, the irony has not escaped me--a cemetery would be the perfect setting for our last rendezvous, especially since they have all decided that they are dead to me.


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4 comments

Overflowing Brain said...

I nodded along for a lot of this post. My parents are still alive, but my older sister and I have had a tenuous past, at best. She mocked me, she rolled her eyes when I said I didn't feel well, etc.

In November I wrote a similar blog post, except it was me who was done. I was done being around her and dealing with her.

And then in January she started getting frequent migraines, and then got horrible anxiety. And I was able to be the support to her that she had NEVER been to me. And almost suddenly she understood how her role as a sister was supposed to go. I can barely tell you how much things have improved and how much I rely on her now (next up, I'd like my husband to fall into the same supportive pattern...ugh).

I don't know your siblings, but I know that there's a chance. Don't give up on them, you never know when you might be able to turn things around. And if not them, perhaps someone else will come around to fill the void that they should.

Kathy said...

What would it take for them to be mature? I mean, what does it look like?

My youngest sister cannot and will not deal with me. Let me rephrase that, if I am able to totally hide any pain or anxiety then we're fine. But show one hint of weakness and I am shown contempt. And that is not a great source of comfort to me :-)

I've tried to reason with her. I've tried so hard to explain what is going on. And trust me I try and hide it! I've never been able to understand how people can completely hide their pain. It catches me sometimes like I'm being slammed up against the wall. And the anxiety? ha! But I try...

And it's the same as it was with my coworkers back when I worked. As far as their concerned...I'm basically full of shit.

So if the common denominator is me...then what? It ain't pretty...

Selena said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Selena said...

Thank you both for the comments.

I definitely think that if someone is being unsupportive, you have the right to limit contact with them. I wouldn't hesitate to say, "I find your comments hurtful and mean and if you can't refrain from saying these things to me I don't want to hang out with you anymore."

It is obviously their issues and their immaturity that is visible in their comments to you, i.e. less to do with you and more to do with them.

It is also true that most people don't understand what you are going through until something similar happens to them.

I have had to develop a thicker skin and not let other people's comments hurt me. I also learned that I can love my sisters AND not like what they say or not value their opinions of me. Sad, but true....