16 December, 2008

When Families Fall Apart...

It's the holiday season again, the second year that my family has gathered without the presence of my youngest brother, his wife and their two little girls. Truth be told, no one in the family except my dad has actually even seen the youngest of their two girls, who was born last December. As she is opening the presents on her first birthday and exploring this Christmas with a sense of awareness, our family will not be welcome. My brother has not spoken to any of us since last October. He did not even tell his own family that his wife was expecting another baby.

I try not to let it get under my skin, but my brothers and I went through a lot together as children, and I always considered myself to be very close to them. After we were adults, my youngest brother and I grew even closer. He spent a great deal of his time at our apartment after my husband and I got married. He came over to play games with us and have dinner. He brought his girlfriends around. We had a really great relationship. Then he met Tierney, the woman who would one day become his wife.

She and my sister are the same age, about five years younger than my brother. They were in the same grade at school together, and my sister hated her from the start. I, on the other hand, very rarely form an opinion about someone until I meet them myself. Because of her crappy relationship with my sister at school, my brother's wife was afraid to meet our family. She assumed that because my sister and she didn't get along at school that everyone would hate her. That was the first indication that she was a little insecure... So she and my brother dated for nearly a year before she finally found the bravery to come around. Oddly, my mother fell in love with her, but the feeling was never mutual. Tierney obviously harbored a lot of anxiety and insecurity from her relationship with my sister, even after she and my sister set their differences aside and became friends. Tierney always felt like my mom was interfering in her relationship and life, telling her how to live, think, etc... Who knows. Maybe my mom was doing that unconsciously. She's always had a habit of trying to provide solutions to everyone's life, and more often than not she offers that advice without being asked. So began the early tensions between the two of them.

Then while she was pregnant with my niece, my sister began dating Tierney's brother. The four of them became inseparable as far as couples go. After about two years on and off, my sister and her boyfriend broke up and she started seeing someone else. Tierney's brother wasn't ready to let go, so he came over to my parents' home on New Year's Day in 2007, drug my sister out of the basement apartment and basically kicked her down the driveway.

My mother called the police. Within minutes of the police showing up at Tierney's parents' home looking for her brother, they were on the phone to my mother telling her that if she pressed charges she would never see her granddaughter again. My brother told her she would never see him again either. Months later he would tell me that Tierney's brother was his family, and one didn't mess with family, but what about his baby sister? "She got what she deserved..."

I know that my mother and sister aren't perfect. No one is. My brother isn't perfect either. He's got one hell of a temper and a major superiority complex. He's proud and stubborn and will never admit that he is wrong. Two days after my mother apologized to him and tried to make things right, I ran into my brother at the grocery store and he told me that if she would just apologize, he'd let her see her granddaughter again... She had already apologized, but that wasn't good enough for him.

No one in our family talks to him anymore. My dad has sided with my mom, and rightly so. He has always been good when it came to respecting our mother, and he more or less feels like my brother is a lost cause. The thing is, my mother has become a different person since all of this happens. She and I used to talk at least twice a week, but now she will barely even talk for more than a minute if I call her on the phone. The only time she does want to talk to me is in the middle of the night after she's been drinking. Then all she does is cry about how unfair it is that she doesn't even know her own granddaughters.

Now it's coming up on the holidays again. We gather every year at Yule, but last Yule was incredibly depressing. Even though the only people missing were my brother and his wife, it felt so empty. I'm sure this year will be no different.

The worst part is, I miss my brother. He used to be such a good-hearted and loving person, and now any time I've run into him, he seems like someone else. Someone angry, bitter and full of rage. I've tried talking to him, but it always turns into a disagreement about our mother and she deserves.

I very rarely long to go back in time, but sometimes I wish I could go back to the time and place when my brother was still a good person and relive it just so I know I wasn't imagining that time. The worst part is, I used to like my sister-in-law, despite all of her insecurities and paranoid delusions. Now, whenever I think about her it just makes me feel like the Incredible Hulk.


Susan said...

Oh Jenny--I'm so sorry! Life truly can be a "vale of tears" can't it. Try to feel the love that is still there among those of you who are together...and time can do amazing things...so hopefully your brother will come around eventually.

It sounds like he's stuffing the hole in his heart with anger and rage.


Jacquéline Roth said...

I'm sorry he's still holding on to that anger. I know how it bothers you. All I can say is that he will come around one day. He'll look around and see that something is missing. It may take a while because he's stubborn, but it will happen.