It’s been 6 years since the person I was died and the person I became was born. Sure, I maintain many of the same characteristics and qualities but new ones have emerged and sometimes they scare me. There are times I struggle greatly to even recognize myself. You can only be hurt so much before you break down, shut down, and begin to walk around like a zombie in a cloud of confusion, half your brain trying to figure out what the hell happened and why, and the other half instinctively knowing somehow that you’re just not ready to handle it yet.
It was late 2009. I have been through a lot in my 43 years – incest, teen pregnancy, struggles with parenting, PTSD – but 2009 was when I started taking steps towards the edge, towards my breaking point. Actually, that’s not accurate, I didn’t take steps; I was led – I was pushed towards that edge, and by my very own family – parents, siblings and a son who were all supposed to love me the most but ending up hurting me the worst and with the most intentional of actions. It would ultimately lead me to full estrangement from my 2 sisters and partial estrangement from my brother, my mother and my son. My father? He died suddenly and unexpectedly in the midst of everything. He was the one who saw through all the crap and knew the truth, the one who could have stood by me if he had not been so afraid to speak up, the one I knew still loved me – and then he died.
You would think that a family split this major must have had something equally major to set it all off, but no – it was something quite small, innocent and well-intentioned even. My brother, the oldest, who lives 3 hours away from the rest of the family, called me and explained how he would like to talk our parents into moving near him and his wife, a family nurse practitioner. I was taken aback at first – I was very close with both my parents and had always been near them. In fact, of my two sisters and me, I was usually the one helping my parents out, running errands, etc. They would just never ask my oldest sister, Sharon (that’s a long story for another blog entry) and my other sister, Sandy, the middle sister, would usually have some excuse for why she couldn’t help or she would send her teenage son to do it. To be fair, on a rare occasion, she would help, but it usually fell to me and I was okay with that. I felt it was my responsibility to help. I loved my parents and would have done anything for them. (Names have been changed in the interest of privacy).
As my brother continued talking to me, I gathered myself and quickly realized that what he was suggesting made a lot of sense. You see, both my parents were in bad health – my father with heart issues and my mother with progressive liver disease. The house they were renting at the time was dark, damp and moldy, all adding to the decline in their health. As well, my brother lived in a city, not a small town like the rest of us, with quick access to wonderful medical care. Although it made me sad to imagine my parents being hours away for the first time in my life, I had to admit that the change could be a good thing for them. My brother said that he was asking for my and our sisters support before talking to our parents about it. I told him I would support the idea – I mean how could I not? If it meant my parents could live healthier, happier and longer, then the possible move wasn’t about me – it was about them!
Later that night, I got a phone call from Sandy and to say that she was pissed off doesn’t even begin to cover it! She had just spoken with our brother and let’s just say that her reaction was very different than mine. “I can’t believe he’s doing this! We’ve been taking care of mom and dad for years and now he wants to just swoop in like a white night and steal our parents away from us. I just know he’s gonna force them into this”, she yelled! I didn’t know what to say at first. In my family, you didn’t speak up for yourself and you didn’t go against the status quo. You certainly didn’t disagree with someone to their face or have your own opinion. Oh, you could HAVE your own opinion, but you’d talk about it behind their backs to someone else in the family. I have to admit, I did it too – it just how it was in our family. Actually, I guess it was more so with my siblings and not so much with my parents now that I think about it. I always knew to never disagree with my siblings. Me being the youngest, somewhere along the line I somehow just learned to keep my opinions to myself and just agree with everyone. My place in the family was the “peacekeeper”.
Anyway, I tried to calm Sandy down and told her that I didn’t really think that our brother was trying to “steal our parents away”. I mean, that doesn’t even make any sense. Obviously she was dealing with her own emotions or internal demons. I suggested that we go visit our parents the next day to talk to them and get a sense of how they felt about the move. She agreed but after I hung up the phone, I just got the feeling that I couldn’t get an honest perception from my parents with Sandy there. I spontaneously decided to go ahead and go out to my parents immediately and talk to them alone first. I know this was inconsiderate to my sister but I had to get to the truth and I knew she would influence my mom instead of finding out how she really felt.
In speaking with my parents that night, it became clear that my father was all for the move but my mother wasn’t. My mom was holding back, which she had never done with me before; we always talked about everything! At some point during the conversation, something in my mother’s demeanor and attitude toward me changed slightly. I couldn’t put my finger on it but I was keenly aware of it. She finally admitted to not wanting to leave us girls. I told her I understood but that she wouldn’t be losing us. Ultimately, I told them both that I would support whatever decision they made but that I thought the move could be good for their health. When I left, I called Sandy on my way home to let her know I had just spoken with them. I apologized for not waiting. I told her that I didn’t get the feeling at all that our brother was in any way trying to force them to move. And then I made the HUGE mistake – I told her that I was supporting the move. And there it was – I had spoken my mind and disagreed with a sibling to her face. That very moment proved to be the beginning of the end of my life as I knew it.
Sandy became very upset with me. I asked her to go visit them like I had and get a feel for herself, that I truly didn’t believe our brother was trying to get one over on us like she had suggested. She huffed and said she would and then I heard the air go silent and she hung up on me without even saying goodbye. WTH? She had never done that to me before, ever! Was she mad at me for not waiting? (This part I would understand after all, but I never figured I would lose my sister of it). Was she mad that I supported the move? Or was it just the first time ever that I had dared disagreed with her? I didn’t know – and I would never know. I couldn’t have realized it at the time, but Sandy and I would never speak again. And what happened in the following days, months and years would break my heart, bury my soul and rip my life apart.