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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Family ick


I live 7-ish hours away from where I grew up.
My immediate family is still there...all within a 10 mile radius of my Grandparents farm, which is now owned by an Amish family. We suffered the plight of the small farmer like so many others, and sold out to a corporation many years ago but recently the Amish have been scooping up property, which I say... HOORAY about!
I digress...

Recently, I learned that my Mother, who lives in a nursing facility, was moved to a different facility in my hometown. 
This is how I learned of it:
My best friend from childhood texted it to me after hearing it from her husband who heard it from the guy who owns the gas station who is a friend of my brother.

Didja get that?

 My sister is my Mother's medical proxy but wouldn't think to tell me this info herself.
We'll get to that later...

When my uncle had a stroke a few months ago he got help because the girl from the bank had called and didn't like how he sounded on the phone, so she called my cousin ( who she had gone to high school with) and he called his Dad ( Uncles brother) and they both went over there to find he had had a stroke.
I heard about it (7 hours away) from my cousin within 2 hours, texted my sister (who is local to them) who was irritated that she hadn't heard sooner, and tried to tell my brother, but he already knew from someone at the corner store. And he had already been to the hospital to check on him. My sister's nose was out of joint, she hates being last to know.

Want another?

A couple years ago my cousin Facebook messaged me that he had heard an ambulance call on the police scanner go to my Fathers house but he didn't know what for. He made a couple calls (his boys work in law enforcement) and found out my Uncle (same one..) had fallen down some stairs and broken some ribs.  I texted my sister and she called my brother who already knew from our father. They went to the hospital before my uncle had been seen. Yes, my sister was again irritated that I found out before her.

Ok, one more...
My Childhood friend told me that she had heard my father was in the hospital but wasn't sure with what. I called my brother who told me Dad had had some issue (aortic aneurysm ) that was fairly serious but that he was having surgery and would be OK. My sister, however, had not been told and found out about it at a funeral visiting hours that night and nearly had a heart attack herself because no one had told her, literally ripping into my brother when he arrived to pay his respects to the un-related dead person.
She called me to tell me and was PO'd all over again when she realized even I had known before her and I live in a different state.

So , you may be asking "what's with all the fun alternative communication methods?"
No, it's not a party game or a creative way to connect with family.
It is, in fact , a way to NOT connect with family.

My family is a hot mess...
We dont talk.

Well, some of us do,,,,,sometimes.
But really?
Not consistently.
And some ?

When I say "family" I mean  my immediate fam: Mother, father, sister, brother.
My parents have been divorced for over 35 years,,,So there's a Step-mother in there as well.
I have cousins that I am VERY close to and I have people in the community where I live that I consider family.
But my family of origin unit..?
Not so much.

It's probably my fault, I'm willing to own it.
I'm willing to own that my tolerance level for ,,,toxic ka-phlooey  (I usually call it something much ruder) is at an all time low with these people.
I cant deal with them.

Here's a rough sketch of the terrain:
For me, it kind of started with my mother. She is mentally ill. She was abusive to me ( and my siblings, but I will only speak for me) our whole growing up years.
 It sucked,,,,but I maintained a relationship with her.
Until I just ....couldn't.
I hit a wall when I was around 21-ish. My parents were divorcing ( FINALLY..christ all-mighty), and I was running interference between them.(Middle child bull-shit)
 Mom's level of crazy escalated and my level of tolerance plummeted.
After one particularly painful episode of blatant lying I said "enough".
 I wrote her a letter...I said "I'm done" and that was that.
It was a healthy decision for me.
 I never doubted it or regretted it.

Then things got messy with the rest of the group. Suffice it to say that at one point or another  all of us have had it out and/or stopped talking to everyone else.
Either as individuals or as the group.
My father and step mother were mad at my brother. They wouldn't talk to him.
Then they were mad at me. They wouldn't talk to me.
Then they WEREN'T mad at my brother and I, but boy-oh-boy, were they ever mad at my sister.
My father and sister stopped talking to each other.
My sister wanted to rant about my father to me and my father wanted to rant about my sister.
I politely declined.
They both got mad.
My brother pretends he is Switzerland but he's not. He talks to my father. He lectures me (in the rare conversation I may have with him) about being nice to my father, about how I should continue to reach out even though I have had ZERO response for years, and who has not spoken to me IN OVER 5 YEARS.
So, anyhoo.... it's friggin exhausting..

It may be worth pointing out that I am the only screaming liberal in the group.

Telling other people that I dont have relationships with my family, seeing their reactions, has made me realize that perhaps not all families have this level of crazy bullshit happening.
That they don't get a sick feeling in their stomach at the thought of seeing immediate family.
That they don't go into hyper-vigilant mode if they are in the same zip code as family. (When I am "home" I am constantly looking over my shoulder like some crazy paranoid escapee).
That they are able to have a respectful disagreement with a family member without it turning into a side show at the carnival.
You know, like ADULTS.

But it has also made me realize that many have just as much crazy bullshit, if not more.
And those are the people that I form an immediate kinship with.

When is it OK to let go of people in your life that feel "unhealthy" to hang onto, even if those people happen to be related to you?
When is it OK to set boundaries with your family that may include not communicating with them?
If you google "family estrangement" you will find a LOT of articles and stories...clearly this is not an issue only in my small universe.
But to pretend it's a comfortable situation is not possible either.

I usually just don't tell people anymore, I say something vague like "We're not close"...Or "We are very different."

This last trip to my home town, I reconnected with my mother after a 30+ year estrangement.
I know, I KNOW,,,,it sounds big.
But.... it just felt like time, I finally felt like I could do it, so I did.
I didn't need or want a lot of fanfare, it was a short but very satisfying visit for both of us. As her Social Worker said, it seemed to be a "healing event" on both parts.

My sister wanted, and tried hard, to turn it into a drama. I don't know her reasons, I frankly don't care. I am just grateful that I was able to not engage with her about this as I did what felt right. I was able to NOT engage because of the amazing support that I had from my tribe, the people who love me and care for me and have my back, as I have theirs.

Maybe someday my siblings and I will reconnect.
Who knows, stranger things have happened.
None of us are getting any younger, that's for damn sure.

In the meantime, I'll wait for word of them from my brother's wife's friend who's married to a cousin of a guy I went to high school with.

S'all good