Friday, November 14, 2008

Taking the fun out of dysfunctional

I understand no one's family is perfect.

I understand that in light of the family I do have, I am luckier than most.

But I just had a conversation with my brother that made me sad.

Sad because the first thing out of his mouth were racist jokes about the president-elect. I tried to steer him off of politics, and he kept veering back. Finally I told him our father would be very disappointed in him if he could hear what he was saying but that if he needed to make those jokes in order to feel better about himself, I guess he had to do what he had to do. Only then did he stop.

Sad because this was the first phone call in a long time between us, and the first one after I found out I wasn't invited to his surprise birthday party last month. And it was awkward. Of course, I was also sad because, like every other time I talk to him, I was fairly certain he was drunk.

Before I called him tonight, I received a letter from my brother that was a form letter, thanking me for participating in his 50th birthday party. (We sent him cigars). He thanked his wife, and two of my sisters, but not me (since I wasn't there) and not my other sister (who also wasn't invited). He asked me if I got the letter. I said yes. He said that's what he sent to everyone who went to the party, but a little different, because there were somethings that I just wasn't a part of.

That statement spurred me to tell him I was disappointed I didn't get an invite to the party. Because I would have come. He didn't believe me. Little does he know, I was checking flights and time off from work.

The invite never came.

I suppose I could have just flown out there, but I honestly never thought that for my brother's surprise 50th, I wouldn't at least get an email telling me the details. I felt odd inviting myself to his party. We don't agree on politics, or social issues, I think he's abusive verbally to almost everyone he knows, and there's the whole alcoholism thing, but I'm his sister. I'm his family too. And I should have been given the choice of whether or not to come to the party.

No, I have not been a perfect sister. Nor has he been a perfect brother to me.

But it's times like these I remember my dad the most. He held our family together. He always called everyone on every birthday, holiday; invited everyone to every party; we were one family with him at the head of it. My siblings out of state are my "half" siblings. My sibling in my state is my "full." We all share a father.

I never felt the distinction until after our dad died.

Now there's a dividing line. I don't know what I did that caused the rift. Maybe it's simple lack of attention on all of our parts.

But it's there. And it shows. And that breaks my heart because I miss my brother and sisters, and my dad would be devastated by the distance between us.

After he died, I found one of his journals. In it, he wrote "There should be less 'me' and 'I.' There should be more 'we' and 'us.'" He's still right.

Part of it is life stages. My oldest sister is 66. She has grandchildren. My other sister's kids are in college. I have a two year old son.

Part of it is differences in politics, and part of it is geographic distance.

But the rest of it is. . . something I don't understand.

And I don't know how to fix it.


SaRaH said...

I have some similar family members and I'm never sure what life lesson I'm supposed to draw from them. Tolerance? Patience? The good sense to run the other way? Anyhow, they're all lucky to call you sister - whatever the relationship. Sometimes I think the lesson is just that it's all okay...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'm sure this is scant comfort, but every family has these schisms and grievances-most never get resolved. At least you have a big enough family to have other members to enjoy. And good memories of a Dad who really mattered. And a Mom who voted for Obama.