My sister is coming into town in just over a week from Germany. I’m super excited to be seeing her again so soon. After so many years of her not coming back to the US for visits, it’s nice to see her twice a year. She’s changed so much, and mostly for the better. It’s taken a lot of therapy time and uncomfortable dialogues with herself to reach the point she has. Anxiety is something I think just about everyone has to deal with at some point in their life. I suppose whether or not a person chooses to actually deal with it is up to them.
I know that growing up, anxiety wasn’t something she or I were able to express in a healthy way. Having an alcoholic parent means that you quickly learn how to hide or bottle your emotions, so as not to upset the addict. Anxiety was a surefire way to get our mother to drink more. That meant we weren’t able to show our emotions around her. Neither my sister or I wanted to be the cause of our mother’s drinking. As adults we now know that no matter what we did, our mom was going to drink.
Even today it’s like that. Our actions are not to blame for her decision to drink. Logically we both know this. Getting your mind to actually accept that can be easier said than done.
My sister and I have an Aunt and Uncle who are turning 65 & 70 this year so they’re throwing a joint birthday party for themselves while my sister is here. I haven’t discussed it with her yet but I doubt she’ll be attending, seeing as this is the aunt who regularly likes to talk shit about young mothers who need government assistance, despite the fact that her own sister was once one of those women. Now her daughter is in that position. I’d like to think her stance on it has changed some since then but it’s funny how that only happened once it was directly effecting her that she decided welfare and/or government assistance to young mothers wasn’t such a bad thing.
All that aside, my sister has her principles.
She has also worked really hard to get as healthy as she is, both physically and mentally. I completely back her decision to steer clear of the things she considers to be toxic. Our aunt has made it abundantly clear how she feels about my sister’s choice. She believes that since our father was a bag of dicks, my sister should pay for it. Ol’ Dan didn’t want another kid but Mom had one anyway, but somehow it should be my sister who is eternally grateful, no matter what the cost? I don’t think so, Tim. Maybe my aunt is cool with using guilt as a way to keep her family close but that’s not healthy either.
Then again, this is a woman who flatout let her teenage daughter believe the only reason she was still married to her daughter’s father was because they shared a child. She was miserable but decided it was better to make everyone else miserable than it was to leave. It left some scars on her daughter, that much I know. I hope if someday my cousin finds herself unhappy in her marriage that she doesn’t stay with her husband because she thinks it’s what’s best for her son. Speaking as someone who has been through not one or two, but three divorces in my lifetime, it’s way better for kids to see their parents happy and separate than it is to seem the miserable together. I’ve lived on both sides of it. At each of my parents’ last weddings I told them I wasn’t coming to another one and I meant it.
Back to my sister…
Really this isn’t even about her because I believe she’s doing the right thing. Our mother – true to form – likes to paint herself as the victim in all this. As if she’s powerless in this situation and my sister is being unreasonable. Just a few hours ago my mom said something to the effect of, “Someday she’s going to regret all this. She’s going to realize people have foibles.” She knows. My sister is very aware of how flawed people can be. She’s not perfect and she’d be the first person to admit it.
Alcoholism isn’t something that can’t be changed.
It’s not like my sister has a problem with how tall our mother is or how old she is or anything like that, that can’t be changed. Is alcoholism a disease? Yes. But, in my opinion, it is also a choice. Mom knows her drinking is a problem. She’s even promised to do something about it. Has she? No. She’s not actively seeking treatment. She’s not speaking to a therapist. She’s not even looking to speak to a therapist. Whether or not she wants to admit it, I think a lot of the health problems she’s dealing with stem from the amount of alcohol she drinks. If nothing else, I believe the alcohol exacerbates a lot of the issues. Then you throw the pack a day smoking habit on top of that.
Until I quit almost 4.5 years ago myself, I didn’t realize how much damage it did outside of your respiratory system. Sure my clothes don’t smell funky anymore either, which is nice, but smoking wreaks total havoc on your body. You know what kept me from going back to smoking more than once? It was the memory of being nauseated for the first 3 weeks after I quit. No thanks, don’t need to do that again. Mom’s dealt with chronic stomach issues for as long as I can remember. I can’t help but wonder if her smoking hasn’t been partially to blame for that. She’s also prone to terrible coughing fits that she says are due to her sinus issues.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had enough coughing fits in my time to know that post nasal drip can be a real pain in the esophagus, but this is different. She is never going to convince me that smoking isn’t playing a role in these coughing fits. It’s also getting colder outside which means standing her ass at the patio door when it’s -28 outside to smoke a cigarette. She’ll be sucking down cough syrup like it’s orange juice for the next 6 months or so. It’s ridiculous.
I love my mom. Even with her foibles, as she calls them, I love her. Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t wish she would change. Wanting someone to be healthier doesn’t mean you don’t love them. Would she accept it if I was shooting heroin? Would she keep things business as usual with my sister if she had this silly habit of killing little old ladies who walked too slow in front of her? Part of loving someone and respecting them is speaking up when you see something isn’t right. If my aunts and uncles want to blow sunshine up my mom’s ass, that’s fine. There’s nothing I can do to make them get more involved.
If they want to play the “that’s not how things were done when we were being raised” card, that’s fine. Y’all learned how to work a remote control, a smartphone, and answering machines so don’t tell me you can’t keep up with the times. But whatever. My sister didn’t take the stand she took because she was being a selfish twunt who wanted to punish our mother for some perceived slight. Did she want to protect herself from a toxic relationship? Yes, and she was well within her rights to do so. But she also always wanted to see our mother get healthy. It was Mom who made this into a character assassination, rather than really taking the things my sister said to heart.
So here we are all these years later. My sister told me the other day she has zero desire to see our mother. Mom is resigned to her pity party while I’m out spending time with her other child. And me? I get to stay in the middle and try to stay out of it as much as I can. Some days it’s easier than others. I don’t like to see my mother upset but at the same time I don’t have it in me to tell my sister she’s wrong. I don’t believe she is. As I told our mother, it’s a two way street. She knows what it would take to spend time with her daughter and she’s done none of it. Instead she thinks throwing money and gifts at her will somehow win her back and that’s the furthest thing from the truth. She can’t buy my sister and the fact that she thinks it’s a viable option is, at the very least, offensive.
Aside from our mom being pissed off about not seeing her daughter yet again, I hope this is a good visit. I’m certainly looking forward to it. The way things are going in this country, this may very well be the last time my sister wants to come here until Trump is out of office and we can get back to a saner government. As for me, I should get to sleep. It’s way past my bedtime.
Sweet dreams, all…