My brother in Law (I will call him Sam) died at the first of this year. Between Thanksgiving, when he got ill, and just after Christmas My sister (I will call her Betty) confided in me daily. I am the youngest of 5 children, she is right in the middle. The last day we talked was one of the most critical days in his illness up to that point. For the next 4-5 days I heard nothing from her. Knowing that she was busy caring for her husband I really didn’t think much about it. But because I was also concerned about her health (Betty had also been Ill) I sent her a short e-mail letting her know I was thinking of her and that they were in our prayers. The e-mail I got in return was not from her but from our oldest sister (the oldest child). She let me know what was going on and then ended with something to the effect that our sister was so busy that she only had time to communicate with one person, the oldest, and she would be passing on information to the others. She also asked that we do not e-mail Betty directly until further notice.
My first reaction to this was ‘OK’ no big deal. But then I got the yearly New Years ‘brag letter’ from our oldest sister. She ranted and raved about how her Thanksgiving and Christmas had been so wonderful going from one childs’ home to the other, across country. They had enjoyed themselves and had returned home just a few days before the New Year. My reaction to this was AWESOME sounds like fun.
Then it hit me. Betty had confided in me, using me as her shoulder to cry on until the oldest sister had returned and then suddenly I wasn’t worth talking to. I had been informed of the bad junk going on but yet left hanging with worry not knowing for days if Sam was alive or dead, or if Betty herself was doing OK, because she had also been ill. Left flapping in the wind you might say.
Understanding the family dynamic, having lived in it for 56 years, made me understand what had happened but it didn’t make me LIKE what had just happened. I was willing to let it all slide, put it in the closet with all the other snubs.
Because of money problems and previously made unbreakable commitments my husband and I could not make the trip from Kansas to Arizona for the funeral, which didn’t make me happy. I also worried that they would think I didn’t love and care about Sam & Betty, but what could I do. I broke the don’t e-mail rule and e-mailed Betty letting her know that we love her and would be there if we could. Our thoughts and hearts would be with them on that day…and they were.
We have another sister (I will call Mary) who is the sister born between Betty and I. Mary and I have been much closer over the years. She and her husband were able to make a trip from Texas to Arizona for the services. Knowing that the likely hood of getting a report from any of my other three siblings on the services I called Mary and we had a long talk. I ended our conversation knowing that it had been the blessing for my husband and I too have not been able to go.
Mary and her husband had been treated like less than family. When they went up to the other 3 siblings to talk with them they were met coldly, distantly and they three older kids never approached them for any reason. Sam had made Southwestern jewelry when he was alive, it was a big part of his life. At one point the older three busied themselves making sure all the men of the family (brother-in-laws & nephews included) had one of Sams’ bolo ties to wear, almost making a SHOW out of it. NO one even came close to approaching Marys’ husband to offer him a special tie, leaving him out totally.
It was sad because Mary didn’t even pay much attention to what was happening. She and I are so use to the snubs that we have gotten where we just don’t notice them or it takes stepping back from the situation to notice them. It was someone else outside of the family who came up to Mary and asked…”Well aren’t you one of Betty’s sisters?” that woke her up to see that the family dynamic had never changed. Once again she was being openly, in public, snubbed from the family. I realized at this point that I and my husband would have been treated the exact same way even if we had spent the $1200. It would have taken us to get there. So I will send a nice card and letter via snail mail like any nice acquaintance would and go on with my life.
This has all made me realize something that, I have thought for years, is even more true…Sometimes families can be wonderful families as long as you don’t have to live near them or see them often.