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How To Go Forward When Things Have Gone Too Far To Go Back

February 13, 2012

I remember watching one of those news shows, like 48 Hours or Dateline, where they were talking about a pair of brothers who were being reunited after 50 years or something like that, and the whole time I kept thinking “How does that happen? How do you get estranged from a sibling like that?” The concept seemed so foreign to me.  One of those things that only happens to other people and in extreme circumstances. Only, I guess that’s not true, as I am now officially a member of the “Other People.”

You don’t need to know the details, although I know you’d like them. You’re a nosy bunch. It suffices to say that actions have been taken, words have been spoken, legal documents have been filed, and government agencies have intervened, and in the end, I’m down another sister.  One more to go and I’m the only child I always wanted to be. You would have thought that when my sister Parrish died, the remaining family would have rallied around each other and formed a tighter bond. For a while, we did. But the aftermath of drama and grief is really only temporary. Life resumes, old resentments return. Sibling rivalries never die.

When we were younger, my sister Parrish and I went through phases where we wouldn’t speak to each other.  We fought like professionals. She broke my arm when we were kids. I laid in wait for several years to return the favour.  We stole each other’s clothes and drugs in high school. We called each other names. We blamed the pile of unwashed dishes in the sink on each other. We had divergent life philosophies. She honoured Timothy Leary and Jerry Garcia, I worshipped Elvis Costello and Giorgio Armani. Eventually the animosity stopped.  We grew up. We mocked each other teasingly, and we were friends the day she died.

Now, my youngest sister and I are at odds. Only things have gone too far for us to ever go back. The friction between us, between her and the rest of our nuclear family, has rubbed things so raw you can see bone. Things have been said. Heinous accusations have been made. Lawyers have been hired. Wills have been changed. Actions have been taken from which there is no foreseeable recovery. It’s not just a spat. It’s not just a sibling rivalry any more. It’s no longer kids teasing each other. It’s not repairable. Along the way something broke. The fracture was almost audible when it happened, like the snapping of bone or the sharp crack of a wind-shield when it is hit with a skull. And there is no cast or crazy glue to repair it. Other people have been hurt, and the field of debris is so wide it’s like someone set off an IED at a family gathering and everyone has a piece of shrapnel sticking out of their body.

So, how to go forward? Once the lawyers are out of the way and the government agencies have laid down their rulings, how does one proceed? It is possible that my mother and my other sister Reese will find a way to forgive in the future. They are better and less bitter people by nature than I. But for me, there will be no happy family holiday parties with all my kin around.  There will be awkward family traditions acted out short one member of the cast.  There will be events that Dave and I do not attend.  I will not see my nieces and nephews graduate from school or get married. I will not be on the invite list, but I will send a gift. There will be whispered conversations wondering “What happened? How did things get to this point?” There will be people, like you, thinking to themselves “This only happens to other people.” I guess you can add to your list of cocktail gossip tid bits that you actually know “The Other People.” Congratulations.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2012 3:46 pm

    This not-speaking, suing, will cutting thing is a genetic trait passed down through the males in my family. I hate to say it, but you get used to it. Some people live by using other people up, then discarding them. I think you’re brave to refuse to be used up.

  2. Lorraine permalink
    February 13, 2012 3:54 pm

    I too, am Other People. People still say ‘oh, you probably can’t even remember what it was that started all this’. Oh yes I can. And I always will. Sometimes the only way to stop people from destroying everyone else is to set them free to destroy only themselves. It is never the first choice (nor the second or third…) but sometimes it is the only one.

  3. February 13, 2012 3:57 pm

    And here I was feeling crappy because my daughter isn’t talking to me. At least no lawyers have been called.

    I come from a long line of folks who would cut off family members. Wait. I am one of them too.


  4. February 13, 2012 5:44 pm

    Blood often proves to be just messy, and not thicker than other things that bind folks together. Thank goodness for the village, the kin you choose. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, blood kin are part of that village. Real sisters come in assorted packages.

  5. February 13, 2012 5:49 pm

    I think that there are more people with estranged family members out there than you think.
    I’m sending you a mental, hypothetical cocktail.

  6. Annie permalink
    February 13, 2012 7:05 pm

    love you. don’t take it personally.

  7. Chris Brown (not the felon) permalink
    February 16, 2012 3:02 pm

    My mother is like your mother. Quick to forgive, and enterprising in the ways she finds to continue relationships I would have abandoned when Jesus was a child. Unfortunately I am not that way inclined. But I will not be walked over. We all do what suits us best. Hopefully the angst will subside. Life will continue.

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