Monday, 3 December 2007

Aaarrggggghhh! My Sister!

I had a rather upsetting conversation with my mother last night about my sister. Apparently, my mother sent her some money to buy a digital camera for Christmas. My sister's oldest son, 34, unemployed, single dad who lives with my sister along with his two brothers and his daughter, called my mother and told her my sister used the money to pay her electricity bill.

I think the most upsetting part of this is that my sister, 57, still has to use money from my mother to pay bills.

We're not very close, my sister and I. My sister doesn't believe that I can begin to understand her problems. I don't want to begin to understand her problems. They began when I was 11 and she was 21 and moved in with the man who became her husband. That he was a ne'er-do-well was apparent even to my innocent 11-year-old eyes. He blatantly cheated on her but stuck around long enough to father four children with her (and a couple in between with his girlfriend Mimi). They had financial highs. My dad begged my sister to put away money for her children during that time. She swore she had. That was the beginning of her lies and deception. When the financial lows followed, she relied on money from my mother, sent three of her kids to live with her for a while, and when my mother remarried, sent her children to stay with her all summer every summer.

My sister's children inherited her ability to massage the truth. She has played the single mother card for a long time. She has moaned that the whole world is against her and her kids. She HAS worked hard, but I think work has been an escape from her home life.

I used to fall for her stories of woe. I sent money and gifts to the kids, though they were never acknowledged. I gave my niece my childhood rocking chair. It ended up in pieces. I offered to have a nephew come visit me when I lived in New York. My sister neglected to tell me the date he was arriving. He spent 10 hours alone in La Guardia Airport because my sister neglected to give him my phone numbers. He was only 12, scared and angry. I tried to make it up to him, but he took it out on me by getting lost in the Museum of Natural History and stealing from me. I had planned to have the others come stay with me, but that visit scuppered those plans.

My sister's kids are all grown now, and I see the dysfunction continue into another generation. As I said before, her three grown sons live with her. One works for her. The other two are unemployed. The girlfriend of one has just had a baby but refuses to live with him until he gets a job. My niece, the one who visited my mother in the summer and suffered from Harry Potteritis, then gastroenteritis, is stuck in a bad marriage to a control freak who is addicted to Valium and prescription pain killers. The control freak has a bad back (as did my sister's ex-husband) and can only work intermittently.

My sister thinks my husband and I look down our noses at her and her family. If only that weren't true. But it's not for the reasons she thinks. I have gotten caught up in her family dramas in the past and been burned because she is frugal with the truth. I would listen to her cry about her ex-husband cheating on her, then see her act as though nothing were wrong when he was around. She has been involved with a man for the past 14 years. She used to harbor dreams of marrying him, but his children hate her and he will never marry her. He also has cheated on her. She used to call me up and cry about how badly he treated her. My daughter was a baby when this happened the first time. I was so worried about my sister I called her the next night to check on her. And guess what? Everything was hunky-dory again and they were going out. THE NEXT NIGHT!

Her kids have been involved in drugs, have been sent to jail for assault and concealing weapons, have run away, have been put in secure mental health units. And none of it is their fault. When the going really gets tough, she sends them out to my mother's. One of my nephews was sent out there a couple of years ago because he owed a drug dealer money and needed to get out of Florida for a while. But that's not what my sister told my mother. She sent my niece out there last summer, hoping my mother would help her sort out her marital problems. My sister totally ignored the fact that my mother was going through her own crisis. No one else's problems ever come close to being as bad as her and her family's.

We can't choose our family. I really wish I could be closer to my sister, could offer support to her. But I can't and I won't. It's a one-way relationship and a web of lies and deceit that I don't wish to get caught up in. So in this Season of Good Will, I'll send her my best wishes, but I won't send her money.


Flowerpot said...

My God. What a horrific situation for you. Yes, I said you, not her. Very upsetting and I don't blame you - best thing is to keep away from her and the kids. What a shame that some people are as screwed up as that and involve other people in it as well.

Annie said...

I'm sorry - that is a tough situation. This time of year when the tv would have you think all families are rosy and cosy - it's all the more jarring to remember they aren't.

You just have to do your best - and it sounds like you have - sorry your sister didn't do the same :(

laurie said...

we can't choose our family....

that's horrific, wakeup. i have a big family and some of my siblings are drama queens, and have made really bad choices, or call up from time to time sobbing and saying their life is over, only to be perfectly fine the next time and pretending like the phone call never took place.

you are handling it as well as you can--being supportive, but not getting very deeply involved. it's too bad about your nephew, stealing from you and running off in the museum.

but man, look what he had to learn from.

lady macleod said...

I am sorry, but you do have to remove yourself from that situation I feel. I think just sending good will is an excellent idea. You are so right that we can't choose our family, but we can choose how we react to the situation.

Keep breathing.

marymaryquitecontrary said...

My goodnesswhatamess! I hope ypu don't mind me saying so; send your Christmas sympathise and forget about it when you hang up. Always stay in touch but do not let them bring you down.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

flowerpot: There's even more to this story, but I think I've given all of you a flavour. Yeah, I do keep away from her and her kids as much as possible.

annie: Isn't it a shame that I can't be there for her because she's made me not want to?

laurie: Unfortunately, all my sister's kids have burned their bridges with other members of the family. I think you know where I come from on this matter.

lady m: It's so much easier being across the pond.But I think my mother has a role to play in all this too. After all, she's the one who spreads the information.

marymary: Thank you. That's excellent advice.

Queeny said...

I sympathize for you, not so much your sister. Coming from a close-knit family myself, I can't imagine not having family to rely on, or just to talk to and share good and bad experiences with.

But, at the same time, it doesn't help for your mother or anyone else to enable your sister. At 57, if she hasn't learned to stand on her own two feet, I'm afraid all is lost.

Nonetheless, I still hope that she will come to see the error of her ways and you two can find a way to become "friends."

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

queeny: Yes, it would be nice to be friends. It's hard enough facing this world on our own.

The Rotten Correspondent said...

Nothing quite like people who are supposed to care for you manipulating you, is there? We have some situations like that in our family and it drives me nuts.

I think your attitude is a good one. All you can really do is not let them make you crazy.

Vi vi vi vooom!!!!!!!! said...

urgh, yep, you can't chose your family. I've been blessed with mine. I'm probably more of the sister that gets hand outs from her family! (Trips to OZ, money for computers, etc) Hopefully, one day, i'll be able to pay them back.

Swearing Mother said...

Bloody hell Wakeup, I thought some of my lot were a bit dodgy but you have a tough situation there.

Isn't it weird how people from within the same family can be so very different?