Monday, October 26, 2009

SisterWorld

The thing is, I just don't want to live at my house anymore. It's become a very unpleasant place to be. But for now, I'm stuck.

Here's a run-down of the situation. Since my divorce, I've shared a home with my parents. We buy two-story homes together, where they have a wing of their own and the kids and I have the upstairs. We share the kitchen area. I've always been close to my mother, considering her a friend in adulthood. Sometimes, it's obvious I'm her only friend. She isn't a social person.

My sister has always been the loose cannon. She's the one who got into all kinds of trouble as a teenager, including alcohol and drugs. She has also demonstrated a frightening ability to turn her back on family (including her own children) when she finds something else she'd rather do. The maternal instinct seems to have missed that one. In short, she's a flake.

I've learned in recent years, though, that when she comes to visit now, she becomes the center of my mother's universe. Our relationship goes on the back burner. My sister does what she can to make sure it stays back there. She snipes about me behind my back. She exaggerates or even makes up situations, with a spin to put me in a bad light. She says I've said terrible things about my mother. And she makes sure my mother and I don't have any private conversations, as much as possible.

After a couple of weeks, Mom usually realize this is happening and makes an effort to repair the damage, rebuild the bridge. And we start over.

Then, last summer happened.

My sister came to visit and stayed for the entire summer. This was a couple of months after her near-electrocution. Later, my mother said, "Maybe it's because I felt I nearly lost her that I soaked up everything around her." As she put it, she got "lost in SisterWorld" and saw only what she constructed for her. And that was a world where I was the bad seed and Ranger was my evil partner. She picked on Daughter, and bought her way into Son's brain. He soaked it up, too. He has the same frightening ability to turn on the people who most support him, too, when he sees advantage in being close to someone else. It scares me and breaks my heart.

The thing is, my sister doesn't like her life. A husband who constantly cheats. Health problems. Children who are difficult to manage. No career or skills for getting a career. She sees the life I've made, and she longs for it.

After my sister had gone back home, it took a couple of weeks for my mother to come back to reality. She felt bad that she'd gotten so immersed in it, especially when she realized the damage to our relationship. She felt a little foolish to have allowed herself to be blinded. She even made an effort to get close to Ranger again. Things got back to normal.

When I knew my sister was coming this summer, I tried to talk to my mother about how to keep her from taking over again this year. I was too late. "That never happened," my mother said, when I used her words about "SisterWorld" back at her.

"You're paranoid," she said. That's her new buzz word, by the way. I'm not sure she knows what it means.

"You're just jealous of your sister," she said. That is laughable. Jealous of what? The difficult children? The cheating husband? Yep, that has to be it.

"You're just trying to cause trouble," she said. When have I ever done that? I've always been the peaceful child. But she had already forgotten that. Apparently, the sniping had begun. I was indeed too late. SisterWorld had arrived, even before my sister had.

It's been downhill from there.

Early in the summer, I had problems with migraines. I went to the doctor and the ER several times. My mother not only never asked about accompanying me (something she actually likes to do), but she also never asked how it went. She'd criticize that it was taking me too long to feel better. She would try to pick arguments with me. As I was taking morphine to try to dull the pain, she and my sister would holler across the house, slam doors, turn up the television in the common room, and berate me for not cooking dinner or doing dishes.

A strange thing happens when you have a chronic illness. Those who cared for you in the beginning get tired of it. They forget about it. They carry on without you. This is what happened with my mother. She never asked how I was doing anymore. She never visited with me. She hardly spoke to me.

She came down with a flu about this time. I went to her room one day to check on her. She was depressed. She was watching TV by herself, listening to my dad and my sister laughing in the next room.

"After a couple of days, they forget about you," she said. "They forget you need anything. I think I've been guilty of that with you lately, and I'm sorry." Wow. Some insight happened. Maybe things would change.

Then, the car accident happened.

I have to pat myself on the back for a moment here. In that accident, I had the presence of mind to avoid what could have been a much worse collision. I consciously avoiding t-boning that woman's car, which would have probably killed her and put us in a head-on situation. I also swerved so the impact was on the right front corner of the car, instead of on the passenger doors of my car, which would have injured Ranger and Daughter.

Did I hear about "thank goodness you were able to do that"? No. See, the woman was still accelerating when she hit me. I couldn't stop the skid into the other side of the highway. I could have gone into the ditch or into the oncoming lane. No cars were coming, so I stayed in the lane.

What did I hear? "You could have been killed, going to the other side like that."

Funny thing, the migraines stopped. I dealt with pain in my hand, neck, back, and chest. Everything got better, except the back. My degenerative disc disease had been under control for a couple of years. Little pain, until the accident. It pushed the issue and bent me up again, like I haven't been in years.

One Sunday morning, I could hardly move. I could feel the bone-on-bone sharply. "Why aren't you ready for church?" she said.

"Are you serious?" I said. "Look at me!"

"You haven't been to church in a couple of weeks," she said. "It's always some excuse like this."

I exploded that morning. An excuse? I can't walk, and it's an "excuse"? Her priority was how it would look to others for me to not be in church that day. No concern whatsoever for what was happening with me.

And the walls in our house are thin. As she went back to her room, I could hear her voice and my dad's, as she told him all about my "excuse" and what a poor example I was to my children. This from my mother, who had once been my friend. The one I'd always be able to lean on.

The sniping continued with my sister. See, Ranger comes to see me. He dotes on me. He takes care of me and my kids. He makes sure I have anything I need, and that I don't have to do anything that hurts. My sister has never had that.

So, again, we became a target for her, together. She actually combed through his photos on Facebook. She found some that were taken in his old apartment, but she ran them to my parents with a new spin. "Look! They're in a hotel room together! And they posted this where the kids can see it!"

Can you believe it?

When confronted, I showed my mother what the pics really were. "Oh, she made a mistake," my mother said.

"No," I said. "She wanted to cause trouble between my and you and Dad. She wanted to make me look bad."

"She'd never do that." That's the view from SisterWorld.

So, then I came down with a recurrence of the infection that caused the cyst last summer.  I came back from the doctor and sat gingerly on the couch. I've become accustomed to having no one ask how I'm doing and pretty much ignore me. My mother watched me sit down, though.

"So, when do they think you'll be well?" she said. I looked at her in disbelief. It was not said with concern. It was said with a sneer, with full condescension. I looked at the two of them, a matched pair, completely put out with my obvious discomfort, and the inconvenience it caused them. As if I enjoy feeling like an invalid.

I went to my room. When I'm in there, I'm "out of sight, out of mind" to them. But it shelters me from a lot of crap. Still, it breaks my heart that crossing that threshold pretty much means I cease to exist in my parents' world. And that it gives my sister what she wants, in the end.

The clearest example I can give is one particular evening, when I got home from work. My folks, my sister, and her kids were in the driveway, laughing about something. I pulled in, literally parking among them. I waved at my nephew and started gathering my things to go in the house.

I looked up to see my sister ushering everyone inside. Then, they shut the garage door, almost literally in my face. I opened it again, walked through the house, and upstairs. I've never felt so invisible.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself that the pain medication is there for physical pain, not for the emotions I want to numb.

Things were a little better when my folks traveled to Florida recently. My mother texted and called me, just to say "How are you?" I'd answer, and sometimes get a little conversation about it. I had to wonder, was she feeling the end of my sister's visit coming? They should be leaving after Christmas. Maybe she's a little scared that she's burned the bridge with me, and she will be without a buddy when my sister leaves.

See, since being here, my mom and sister have become peas-in-a-pod, as I called them. Mom goes to work on her own, but outside of that, they do everything together. And to the exclusion of others. Well, the exclusion of me. They ask Dad to join them sometimes. They don't even tell me if they go somewhere. They're just gone, leaving the kids with me without my knowledge. I've gotten to where I don't tell them if I have plans. I just take care of my stuff, and Daughter's stuff. She's left out, too.

Then, Mom and Dad got home. Things went back to "normal." Mom stopped talking to me. She and my sister stayed in her room, talking about the trip. I went in and, again, might as well have been invisible. When I chimed in, suddenly it was time for bed. I didn't even get to finish what I was asking.

The next morning, I figured out why my mother's attitude changed. Sometime the night before, it had been determined that my sister and her kids would be with us another year. Her husband is being deployed again after Christmas. Mom's buddy is not going away.

This is a nightmare for me. Family has always been my #1 priority, where friends have been my sister's. Now, I see their backs turned on me. I see her manipulating things, and I'm just not up to fighting for it anymore.

Ranger is worried about my upcoming surgery. He's worried about the care, or lack thereof, I'll receive at home. Already, he is the one who goes to the doctor's appointments with me. He is my other set of ears. He's the one I discuss my options with.

I asked him the other day, "Do you want to be there when I'm coming out of anesthesia?"

"Yes. Definitely."

"Then I should warn you...."

"Anesthesia makes you sick?"

I laughed. "No. That would probably be better. It pisses me off. I will apologize now for how foul I will undoubtedly be." He laughed, but I'm serious.

So, now, I spend a lot of time thinking about what IS worth fighting for.

My kids. Son is always a little tenuous. You never know when that tide will turn. He's 18. He's wanting to be his own person, have his own space. College is coming soon. Daughter is devoted to me. We have a unique bond. She's loving her high school years, and I'm here to support her for that.

Ranger. My relationship with him is what I always thought love should be. We are strong together. We support one another.

And there you have it. What I think I should do is pay off the debt I have and find my own house, for the kids and I. Then, help Ranger get financially stable (which is getting there - he just reopened his business), and get married. Go on a honeymoon. See my kids through to independence-hood.

When I retire, Ranger and I can buy an RV. We'll tour the country, seeing everything we just talk about now.

And my folks? Well, I think they always counted on me to take care of them in their twilight years. Now I think they can stay in SisterWorld.

5 comments:

Angella Lister said...

You're having a hard time of it right now, but I think you're so clear on what you need to fight for, except you forgot to mention the number one person you need to fight for is you. If you can swing it, do find your own place. When your body needs healing, it helps to be in a space that feels serene. Thank God for your daughter. I have a daughter something like her, so I know what a wonderful corner of joy she can be for you. And Ranger is there for you. There are such good things in your world, still. But I'm sorry things are so difficult. I hope it helps to share it here, where we have your back, and are are praying for you get well, get pain free, physically and emotionally. Hang in there, Blogget!

Fishsticks and Fireflies said...

I am so sorry that are having to deal with this on top of everything else, and I can totally empathize with you (my own sister is currently planning her wedding, and my mom is behaving as if her brain has been sucked out by aliens.) I think the decision to move out is a good one, and I hope the process to do so goes quickly. Hang in there!

e jerry said...

To be perfectly honest with you, I wish I could say that I never met those people. Or your ex-husband.

Sister, you deserve so much better than this.

Angella Lister said...

I hope everything's okay...

Blogget Jones said...

I'm hanging in there, Angella! Thank you!!! And yes, it does help to be here, and to know you all have my back. It helps a lot. Lets me know I'm not crazy.

F&F, thanks. I'm impatient for that process to start, but it has to wait until after surgery.

Jerry - I know exactly what you mean, and thanks. So thankful for Ranger and my kids right now, too!