I cry aloud to the LORD; I plead aloud to the LORD for mercy. I our out my complaint before Him; I reveal my trouble to Him. (1 Samuel 142:1-2)What level of fear, or rage, or abandonment, or bewilderment are you in right now?
As some of you already know I grew up in the quintessential dysfunctional family. I have struggled with the challenges of dealing with my own struggles as well as the struggles of my brothers and sisters as we have tried to make it through this journey we call life.
As a child I was often placed in the role of being my mother’s emotional caretaker at a young age. I saw myself as a failure because I often fell short in this role. I often felt resentful, inadequate, unlovable, and powerless. Eventually I was marginalized as a person, demonized, and often placed in the role of the family scapegoat.
With my Father’s death earlier this year I am extremely concerned about my Mother. She has always been very child-like and dependent and with Dad gone I reach out to her every week with a phone call to find out how she is doing and ask if there is anything I can do for her.
My sister Debbie and her daughters have been living with my parents for years now. As my parents’ health declined she helped them get to their doctor’s appointments, made sure they got their medicine, etc. My father entrusted her to carry out his wishes and I respected that and realized that she was carrying a heavy load.
One would think that this would be a time that we would coalesce as a family. One MIGHT think that if one was speaking about a “normal family.” Instead the fractures grow deeper in my family.
When Darryl offered to take me along on his business trip to Baltimore I was thrilled. I haven’t been to Baltimore in years and since it was only a two hour drive to my parent’s home from there it would be the perfect opportunity to spend some time with my Mother as well as to see my children and grandchildren.
When I arrived on Friday, my sister said she was going to take the opportunity to go to the grocery store and that was fine with me. It would allow me to spend time with Mom while Debbie got a break. Dan brought the kids over and we spent a couple of hours with her before Debbie got home.
I didn’t even think it odd that when she got home she plopped down at the table sans groceries and got on the cell phone. I went to the kitchen to get a drink of water before we left and I overheard her tell the person on the other end, “Yeah, Cathy and her clan are over here now. Ok. I’ll let you go. Are you getting ready to go grocery shopping? Oh that’s right I called you.”
Immediately I assumed that the person on the other end of the line was my sister Mary. Why it was important to report that I was there with my “clan” I didn’t know but I tried to keep with my promise of giving my family issues to God because it’s definitely above my pay grade.
It was getting late and we headed out for some dinner. I decided not to give the report to my sister but the Balkanization of the family begins anew. In this particular dynamic it is Mary and Debbie perpetuate the dysfunctional behavior we grew up with by pitting one child against another.
The next day the plan was to head back over to my Mother’s house with both of my sons, all my grandchildren, and my brother Bill. Originally we had planned to take my Mom to visit Dad’s grave but since Mom had just had some surgery done on her eye she wouldn’t be able to go to the cemetery.
My brother Bill and my son Dan had felt that they had been personally snubbed when it came time for my Dad to be interred because Debbie arranged for it to happen at a time when she and all her girls could go but Dan and Bill would be at work. Both had offered alternatives but Debbie stuck to her original plans and there were some hurt feelings. I guess I had hoped that there would be some closure if we could all go there and maybe say a prayer or something. I had even told Debbie about wanting to take Mom there so there was no secret or attempt to prevent her from coming with us.
Since Mom was not able to challenge we changed our plans and decided just to spend some time with her. I thought that would do her a world of good since the last time I spoke to her she told me how lonely she gets. I thought it was a good move all the way around.
Debbie once again decided to disappear not too long after we arrived saying she wanted to take a break and go into town and go grocery shopping. She said she’d be back in two hours and that was fine with me. I didn’t beg her to stay. I didn’t make it an issue. I didn’t take it personally. I honestly felt she could probably use a break.
Everyone wound up outside sitting and talking while I brushed Mom’s hair and helped her when she required assistance. I was really having a good time. We talked about sports. We talked about politics. We talked about Texas and about Germany. No one said anything negative about anyone and I felt the get together went well. After all why should we only come together when someone dies? Why can’t we reach out as adults and find a way to heal?
After a couple of hours Debbie called to say she would be gone for another hour. I told her that was no problem and when she came back two hours later then that I didn’t say anything negative about that. As far as I knew there was no problem.
Darryl invited my brother out to dinner with our family and he called his family to join us. You would have thought that there would be nothing left to talk about but we sat in that restaurant for another hour and a half talking the whole time.
Towards the end of the evening I learned that Bill and his wife hadn’t had a party inviting anyone over because Debbie had a big fight with Bill. Debbie felt Bill owed one of her daughter’s as well as herself an apology. Bill claimed he never said what he was accused of saying so he wasn’t about to apologize. Debbie was also mad because Bill was friends with my son Dan.
This is a whole other crazy story which involves my nephew bragging about the money he was getting for college and how he wasn’t even going. He took photos of things he bought with my uncle’s money. I had no clue about this and neither did my son Dan. My son Mike saw it and told my nephew he shouldn’t be putting that stuff on the internet and how that was basically stealing. This got my nephew angry who then told the nieces that “my son” was trying to keep them from getting money from my uncle. He told them that my uncle was going to cut everyone off because “my son” was running his mouth.
This turned into a free for all which not only had both of my sisters calling my oldest son and cursing him out but calling me all kinds of names and saying hurtful things about me when in actuality none of my sons nor I had any such plan to reveal my nephew’s deception or try to get my nieces college money cut. It was due to all this craziness I had basically stopped calling my father every week for a few months because he was taking sides and throwing my boys and I under the bus.
It turns out that when my father died my sister Debbie and my sister Mary had decided that they weren’t going to call my son to tell him my father had died. This was an attempt to “get even” with Dan for something that was not of his making.
Yes it was hurtful to learn this. Yes it would have been easy to adopt a get-even attitude. Instead I told my son, “Let’s give this to God because he is much smarter than either one of us. Neither one of us can make this situation right. There’s just no way that we can.”
The next morning Darryl and I had breakfast with the boys and my grandkids and I hated to see it end. We stopped off at the cemetery and stopped at my Father’s grave as well as my brother’s grave and the graves of my grandparents. I said a quick prayer and I told my Dad that I looked after Mom for him.
Since I had some time to kill before our flight I decided to call my Mom before we left. My sister Debbie answered the phone. She was very cold and told my Mom the call was for her.
I told my Mom how glad I’d been to spend time with her. I asked her if she enjoyed having everyone come see her. She said she did. We chatted for a few more minutes and I asked if I could talk to my sister Debbie. I wanted to tell her that I wished we could have spent more time together during my visit.
Once Debbie was on the phone she tore into me. She said she “sees how I’m all tight with Bill and all.” She then launched in to a diatribe about how Bill had come to visit one time and didn’t offer to help her with the yard work. She said that Billy suggested that she ask one of Debbie’s girl’s boyfriends to help her so she didn’t have to do so much.
She went on about how she’s documenting all of this. She’d documenting how she threw out her hip helping Dad. “I don’t know if you realize this but it’s in the will that I get to stay here a year after Mom dies.” She told me.
Actually originally I thought she’d be there until she died so it really didn’t matter to me. I had written off any inheritance from my parent’s years ago. Obviously my sister thinks I’m waiting with baited breath for my Mom to die to get my clutches on her estate. Come on now, estate? Really? It’s a house. Big deal. I have a house. I don’t need that house.
Debbie dug right in there. “Well when you vultures come circling around I’m just going to wave that paper around and say nothing.” Fine. Wave it. Big deal! Again I could care less about the house but I said nothing because Debbie was on a roll.
She told me that she didn’t know who I was coming over to the house and telling Mom to listen to her and eat for her because that’s not going to magically make things better. She told me that Mom was bugging her about her compression socks when I left. She told me I could have killed her if I put the wrong ones on her. (By the way I didn’t put any socks on her I just asked her if she was supposed to be wearing them.)
Then after her rambling martyr dialogue she finally told me that she’s going to shut up now because she may have said too much and then slammed the phone down.
I cried. I didn’t deserve that. Mary hasn’t come down once since Dad’s been dead but she feels that Mary is the only one who’s there for her. She’s the only one she can commiserate with and of course the one who is always ready to charge in on her high horse as not so much as a hero but rather she runs rapidly to spread strife among family strife. In this role she can be malicious, vicious, and vindictive.
I prayed for God to help me during this time but I also decided to pray for both of my sisters. I told God that I will put my trust in him and that I will try to let his will be done instead of trying to be “RIGHT”.
How have you been dealing with all that? What’s been working? And what’s just been making things worse?
Sometimes I have retreated from the problems I am facing. Sometimes I confront the problems head-on. There are times when I want to throw my hands up in the air while other times I want fix everything somehow, some way. Obviously one can never truly run away from their problems. Working towards a solution and praying for GOD’s guidance is the only way to make things better.