Monday, December 31, 2007

Drama Flakes

I am a storyteller. And while I still haven't been able to formulate a story that I can get published and make some money off of, I still like to think I tell an entertaining story.

This is not one of those stories.

This is one of those stories that I need to tell to scrape its festering mass out of my skull to keep it from rotting my brain. This is a story about a topic a rarely blog about. This is about my family.

First, a little background; the relationship between my brother, sister-in-law (living in New York) and parents have been strained from the beginning. I'm not sure what it's all about but I'm pretty sure it boils down to control issues. My sister-in-law has ideas about how a family should behave and my mother will not tolerate interference in the management of her family. This has been going on for more than 20 years.

My sister-in-law sent us an email last week letting us know that the holiday card she sent to my sister (in Maryland) came back “Return to Sender.” This wasn't a post office mistake, my sister had written those words and refused to accept the card. I sent an email to my sister asking what was up with that.

“I have tried to get in touch with them in the past with no response. I didn't feel they wanted to keep in contact.”

I'll admit to becoming a bite irate:

“So, let me get this straight. . . you try to keep in touch but don't get a response. When you finally do get a response in the form of a card that says "Happy Holidays" you refuse to accept it and throw it back in their faces with "Return to Sender."

I detailed a number of hurts that family members have inflicted upon other family members, usually for no good reason. I detailed that these hurts are compounded because no one talks to one another about issues. I detailed how I had been playing negotiator for twenty rears and it was all pretty much gotten nowhere.

“So, if you care about your brother at all, you'll think long and hard about exactly why you are spitting on him by sending his holiday card back with "Return to Fucking Sender." If you care about him at all, you'll pick up the phone and call him to work out what the hell is really going on. And the first words out of anyone's mouth is going to have to be "I'm sorry", because until people start showing a little humility and take responsibility for what they have done then no one is going to be able to give, or even have an opportunity to give, their forgiveness. If you have courage to do that I think you will find that there is nothing to warrant this sort of nonsense.”

I went on further but ultimately I sent my email response to everyone because, frankly, everyone needed to know what was going on and that I had had enough of this bullshit. For too long, people had kept the secrets and no one knew the depths of what was going on.

It wasn't long before my dad read his email and called me to take exception. In my email I related what had happened between us when my unwed, pregnant girlfriend moved in with me in college. I don't remember exactly what about that set him off but he made it clear over the phone that he thought she was a whore who had tricked me into this by getting pregnant. He thought she should get an abortion. He told me that he was going to come down and “punch my lights out.” My father now denies that it happened that way.

“I would never say such a thing.”

“You would, and you did, Dad.”

He had completely blocked out the whole thing. No wonder this crap has gone on for twenty years when people have been rewriting history like that. I told him that I forgave him for that. We worked that out and that's not what this is about. He shouldn't be calling me, he should be calling is daughter in Maryland. He should be calling his son in New York.

My sister left a voicemail and I emailed back that, again, she shouldn't be calling me. She should be calling New York.

Saturday morning and I talkd to my sister-in-law via IM. She appreciated what I've done but I could tell that she was still firmly entrenched. My brother wouldn't call and she couldn't make him. I told her that she should call, but she won't.

My mom called. She wanted us to come over. I was willing to but, I say, this wasn't about me. She spit venom over how much I'd hurt my father. After that, I tired to explain yet again about what was going on and, if this was the way that I was going to be treated than there's no way I would be going to my parent's house so I could be bullied and berated in person.

My mother called me a coward.

I talked more with my father. He told me things that I didn't know about how nasty their daughter-in-law was towards them and I said that I had spoken to her earlier about those very events and she had a different version. I said that I had no way of knowing what version, if any, was true, but that they should call New York and work it out. I was left with the impression that he wasn't going to call.

I got an email back from my sister in that she had called New York and learned some things, which was good. She still didn't adequately explain why she would choose the most hurtful solution.

“My intentions, however misinterpreted they were, was for healing or peace, even if pain had to come first.”

I have trouble understanding healing and peace from “Return to Sender”. But I suppose, in a sense, that was what I was doing when I did what I did. I know that what I did hurt. It was meant to hurt. But there was no deception in it. I spoke the truth for all to see because the truth needed to be told. And, in the end, I feel my risk (yes, Mom, my bravery) in exposing myself and my fears to all was for nothing. My dad won't call my brother. My brother won't call my dad. This will go on for another twenty years.

And the irony of it all is that I, the family atheist, spent my weekend speaking about truth, compassion, charity, love and forgiveness to my supposedly Christian family. This is something they should have been doing all along.

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