The Beginning of Family Estrangement

The conclusion of a traumatic phone call:
Mom: You said that you want me and your dad to move so you don’t have to take care of us anymore.
Me: Mom, I NEVER said that!
Mom: Yes, you did! I remember. You want us to move so you don’t have to worry about taking care of us.
Me: I never said that! I never even thought that. You know me, mom – I would never say that!
Mom: Well, you did.

The tone in my mother’s voice was angry. Never in my life had she talked to me in such a way. I was holding back tears listening to her state something that I knew never happened. But she believed it even though it wasn’t true at all. When the call was over, I threw down the phone and cried hysterically. What in the hell was happening here? And then it hit me…

In the days and weeks after I had went out and talked to my parent’s about moving, I discovered many things happening behind my back. Did I have a right to know every move my parents were making? No, certainly not. But we had always talked about everything – always, and they were clearly talking to my siblings about it. Suddenly, I was being completely shut out and I didn’t understand why. I knew that Sandy had talked to them the day after I had, but she didn’t call me like I had called her. That was my first clue that something was off.

A while later, I saw a post on my sister-in-law’s Facebook page saying how excited she was that Sandy was going to be driving my parents down to look for apartments. Excuse me? Sandy was totally against the move! She hung up on me when she found out I supported it and I still had never heard anything back from her! My mom had told me she didn’t want to move. Now suddenly they are all going to the city together to look for apartments? I wanted to help and my mom turned on me. WTH?

But after the phone call with my mom, it all became clear. When Sandy had went out to talk to my parents, it was HER who put the thought in my mom’s head that I want them to move just so I can be free of taking care of them, and my mother in her declining physical and mental health, somehow thought it had been me. It’s the only thing that could have happened. Who knows what else got said and what else she believed. My mother had never raised her voice to me in such a way. I felt like a little girl thinking, “What happened to my mom? Where did she go?” because this lady was not my mother, at least not the one I had always known. This lady was mean and accusatory. I swear it felt like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Nothing made sense! Well, except that clearly my sister was playing a game, trying to win my parent’s over. There she was accusing my brother of trying to be a white knight, and here she was doing that same damn thing.

At some point, my parents decided not to move and I still hadn’t heard from anyone other than a couple terrible phone calls from my mother. And then it happened – the day when something so seemingly small changed who I was forever. I guess it wasn’t that one day that changed me, but rather one moment in a long string of moments that on some unconscious level finally broke me.

It began just after work on a beautiful summer evening. The day was warm and the air fresh and so I decided to do some light gardening in our backyard. I remember feeling the sun on my back and feeling the first bit of relief from the increasing family drama of the prior couple months. Being outdoors, in nature, had always been a respite for me, a place I felt like I could breathe freely rather than feeling the weight of the world on my chest. I was pulling weeds along the side of our house when I heard the phone ring inside. I instantly froze as the pace of my heartbeat picked up. This had become my normal reaction to a ringing phone, for it had recently become the barer of mostly bad news, arguments and anxiety. My husband brought the phone outside to me.

“It’s your brother,” he said. Uh oh. I held the phone to my side for a moment, collecting myself and trying to mentally prepare for what was to come.
“Hey Matt! What’s up?” I said, trying to sound casual. My brother and I were not close and he didn’t call unless he needed something.
“I just talked to Mom and Dad and they have decided not to move. I thought you and Sandy were going to get behind me on this!” he said with agitation.
“Wait a minute, Matt! I talked to mom and dad and told them I supported the move. Honestly, it’ll kill me to have them move away but I told them I think it would be the best thing for their health and if it keeps them alive longer, I’m all for it. And you know what it got me, Matt? It got me shut out! Now mom, dad and Sandy won’t even talk to me. And just so you know, Sandy was the one fighting this and telling them not to move, not me.”

The phone call ended quickly after that. I couldn’t believe he was angry with me when I had given him my full support and it had gotten my shut out by my family. Now everyone was angry with me and all I had done was support my parents having a healthier life.

Normally I would have cried or expressed my irritation to my husband, but this time was different. He was looking at me a little bewildered asking me what had just happened, but I couldn’t respond. I stood there with the phone in my hand; I just stood there. I felt – I don’t know what I felt. I know I had never before felt anything like it. I have to wonder if it was some type of emotional shock. In that moment, standing in my backyard with the sun on my back and dirt-covered gardening gloves on my hands, I felt something deep inside my soul snap. I felt my heart break wide open. I felt a piece of me die and go dark. The family I had known and loved and done everything for my entire life had just turned their backs on me and for what? They did it because for the first time in my life, I didn’t conform and I voiced my opinion. It’s that simple. But it’s not that simple – my family has secrets, dark and devastating secrets, and I think it was only a matter of time before our family was torn apart. It was only a question of who would turn on whom and who would end up being collateral damage. Unfortunately, that person turned out to be me and the effects it had on my life almost killed me. I used to see that as a weakness, but now I know it means I have an amazing strength that many will never know.

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