Jekyll Island Beach 2012

Jekyll Island Beach 2012

Monday, June 14, 2010

THE ROAD HOME, Chapter 5

The Rogue Speaks:

Mum has decided to spend the entire day on the patio. I get her set up in the lounge chair, with a pillow behind her head, and a lap robe to keep her from becoming chilled. Her lunch is on the table beside her, within easy reach. We settle in with our books.

Reading has become my therapy, and every spare minute I have, I grab a book and bury myself in it. Mum has a book as well—a Carol Higgins Clark book that she has been reading for at least three years. She brought it with her on her last visit with us, and the book mark had moved very little in all that time. I peek at her over my book to see if she is either reading or eating. She is doing neither.

“Mum, please try to eat some of your lunch!” I chide.

She tries to distract me. “How is your sister?” she asks.

“My sister died, Mum, almost three years ago.”

“How did she die?”

“Leukemia, Mum.”

“Oh,” she says. “Then how is Buz (my brother)?” she asks, determined to avoid her lunch.

“I don’t know, Mum.”

“And Bill (my other brother, 15 years my junior), does he live here? Have you seen him?”

“No, Mum, I haven’t. Please try to eat!”

She begins to pick at some apple slices.

The subject of my siblings is sticky. Mum has no concept of the term “dysfunctional family”, and I always try to avoid discussing mine, especially now. There would be endless questions, many of which have been asked and answered in years past. I particularly do not want to answer questions about my sister, who had always left a path of destruction in her wake, and who, over the years, had become more and more hostile toward me, more violent in her verbal attacks. She had gone to a psychiatrist, who gave her anti-psychotic drugs, anti-depressants, and God know what else, to keep her calm. Either they didn’t work, or she wouldn’t take them, I don’t know which.

I had long decided that when Mother died, I would make a run for it. I would break with my sister once and for all, and live a quiet and gentle life with Rod in Tucson. And so I did. This infuriated her even more, to the point that when she learned she was dying, she swore the rest of the family to secrecy. They were all WARNED that no one was to tell me she was dying. So no one did.--until the near end. Four days before she died, my brother Buz, 6 years my junior, call me and said in an over-dramatic tone, “Andrea is dying!” The word “dying’ was stretched out so long that in my head I could actually see each letter with a dash in between. He then went on to explain in a clipped and disdainful tone, everything that had happened, including the fact that HE had been a bone-marrow donor to his beloved sister (the same one to whom he had not spoken for five solid years, but with whom he had “made up” a couple of years before her illness.).

“Hmmm,” I told him, “well, keep me posted.” I was shocked that I was so calm and apathetic, and I was certain that there must be something seriously wrong with me. I had read case studies of abuse victims who, after finding the courage to finally escape for good, eventually had absolutely no empathy for their abuser. This was definitely me.

I never received a call from either of my brothers, and when my sister died, my cousin Sandra, with whom I am particularly close, called to tell me. I sent my brother-in-law a sympathy card.

I did receive an email from my sister-out-law, Buz’s ex-wife (see my post, dated Friday March 12). She likes me, she says, and always has. She says I am smart, and talented and more creative than anyone else in my family. She says that I got all the good genes, and they got all the crazy genes. She’s right about the crazy genes—I lucked out there.

Several months after my sister died, I got a scathing letter from Buz, telling me what a horrible person I was, and how I was the cause of all their problems (I have not lived in Atlanta since 1978), and so from now on, I could consider myself no longer a member of the family. The letter was long and rambling, and sounded as if he was in the manic phase of one of the several mental disorders which he and my sister had inherited from my father’s side of the family. I decided the best way to deal with him and his craziness, was not to deal with him at all. Actually, becoming a non-member was a relief for me. It meant that they had finally decided to stop trying to drag me back into the chaos.

All this is not something I want to get into with Mum, because 1. She would not understand the first thing about it and 2. She has always been a worrier and she would start worrying about me and my family day and night, trying to figure out a way to fix it so everyone was happy. Instead, I get my scissors and a comb and give Mum a badly needed haircut, hoping it would make her feel a little better about herself.


Elisa said...

I can't believe you read the letter. :/ I wouldn't...and don't. You're better where you are. You're able to enjoy being yourself, grow as a human and support your friends and Rod. Nothing else matters.

I hope she enjoyed the haircut. Sometimes that helps tons. I should know! I just got one! LOL


Judie said...

Elisa, I know that--you are right! But Rod was curious, and I'll admit that I was, too. It did me no harm, and strenghtened my own position in the situation.

Haircuts always make me feel better! I need one so badly, but just haven't had the time to call and make the appointment. I'll bet you look like a princess in your new clothes and haircut!!:)

bluzdude said...

Good riddance! Who needs the drama. You know you didn't do anything wrong. Some things (and people) you just can't fix.

Your mother is lucky to have you looking after her.

Judie said...

Actually, Mum is my mother-in-law. Stick with me here, Bluzdude. Although my sister got more than her share of my father's BAD genes, she was my mother's clone. I guess that means that she got the worst of both.

It never occurred to me to "fix" anyone other than my father, whom you will read about very soon. Some people are just unfixable, and I instinctively knew that from a very early age.

I've been waiting for you.

Joann Mannix said...

You have cultivated a success story out of this mayhem you survived. Your coping skills are so healthy, Judie, to know and really understand that none of this is your fault and that you did the very best thing you could for yourself. Disassociate. It sounds like there was no other option. I am still struck by the terrible abuse you survived and the fact that you are standing here today, so healthy, with a great life, sharing your story with all of us.

I am honored to hear it.

Judie said...

I am honored to be floating around in my pool, reading your wonderful book! I am surprised by every twist and turn. You are a wonderful writer, and you inspire me.

The Guy's Perspective said...

Even though we wrote a post on conflict, at some point, enough is enough. And in your case that certainly is true.

I'm all about surrounding myself with positive energy. I'm too busy and exhausted to deal with petty stuff from acquaintances and from overly dramatic stuff with my family. I just don't have the head space for it.

So it sounds to me like you're better off.

Hope Mum liked her haircut.

Judie said...

Sae, every day that I wake up, I know that I have done the right thing by scraping them off. My mother had created the mess by ignoring reality and thinking only of herself. When she died, I experienced a freedom like no other.

dianesartnow said...

Sometimes you have to scrape the family off with a butter knife only to fine that the grease is still on you. I know how it is.

Sarah said...

That reminded me of my family. I think most families are dysfunctional, some worse than others. I cut my ties with my sister as well, and life is much better!

askcherlock said...

What a poignant post.It was honest to the core and so many of us can relate. I admire your ability to leave abuse. Staying is not the noble thing to do. Sometimes we do need to cut cords. Even within our own families, there are toxic vs nurturing members. Most importantly, we do have choices for emotionally healthy living.

Judie said...

Diane, I plan to wash away that film of slime that has been clinging on for a while. This last trip was the acid test, and so far I am coming out ahead. Diane's gone for 10 days, but after that, who's up for drinks at Metropolitan Grill?

Sarah, when I started this, I knew that I was not alone in my thinking. I have amazed myself, however, with just how strong I am. I know you know that feeling, too.

Stick with me, Cherlock--the best (and worst) is yet to come. I feel empowered by the like-minded people who have crossed my path recently. It can't hurt, it can only heal.

Angelia Sims said...

It takes strength to stand up for yourself. Wisdom to know when to do so. And LOVE for yourself to make it happen. I know it was painful to break from a family that is just not healthy. You are an incredible woman.

Judie said...

Angelia, I am probablu too strong for my own good. Actually it was not as painful as you think. I was ten years old when this saga began, maybe even younger. I think I am probably an old spirit, so when all of this started happening, I was pretty much prepared to deal with it on some level. Mum was never prepared for what life dealt her. She still managed to come out ahead of the game because she was such an innocent. It kept her safe, just as my experience on the other end of the pole kept me safe. God help those in the middle--they don't have a chance.

nothingprofound said...

Most families are basically crazy, and one needs to get away and establish one's independence as soon as possible. I was fortunate to have two pretty sane parents, especially my Mom, who was my best friend while she lived. I have a terrific instinct for happiness, so I refuse to let anyone drag me into their morass of self-created bitterness and misery. I know how to remain aloof and detached.