Sunday, November 19, 2006


One of the hardest things to deal with for my family has been the behavior of my oldest sister. She has been the source of a lot of pain for all of us. I am not sure exactly what her problem is in a lot ways. I know she suffered some brain damage as a result of a birth defect that was not corrected in a timely fashion, mainly because medical science had not yet discovered it. Her doctor, who took care of her once the medical problem was discovered, was the pioneer in the treatment, and was a world class and world renowned expert in his field. I talked about it with my Mom and Dad very often and in great depth. My parents explained that she had some very mild retardation as a result of the brain injury. This meant she would not be a rocket scientist, not that she could not go to school or work, or be a nice person. She has had, since her early teens, a terrible drinking problem. Though she did stop drinking about two years ago, there are just some things about her, her personality, and the ramifications of her abject failures as a parent that have been devastating to our family.

When my sister was twelve, she was ultimately removed from our home, made a ward of the state, and placed in a "home" by the state child protective services. This action was taken after my parents had exhausted all other avenues available to them at the time. The incident that touched off this removal was my sister’s attempt to burn down this very house for the second time. The door to the room she set the fire in that second time still is broken where the policeman kicked it in. My other older sister had tried to hold me away from what was going on when my Dad was trying to get my sister out. I wriggled free, and clearly remember watching the policeman knock the door in. I remember seeing my sister kneeling on the floor in her nightgown, feeding the small fire she had going. I remember the flames reflected on her face. I remember how it felt like all the air and life was sucked out of the atmosphere as I watched the police stamp out the fire, and drag her kicking and screaming from the house. Imagine the Exorcist, only worse. I was three; my Mom was pregnant with my youngest sister. Holy fucking shit, I still have no idea what the hell happened.

My sister has three kids. They are each about a year apart in age. She claims the youngest two have the same father, but that seems quite unlikely as the second child’s father was in jail at the time the third child would have had to of been conceived, but we really don’t know. Her kids are all in their early twenties now. The middle child has been married since she was eighteen, and left home several months before her eighteenth birthday. The youngest child has a two year old, who, by the way, is one of the freaking cutest little people I have ever met, and her oldest, her son, is a special needs person due in small part to a family predisposition for mental illness, but mainly to the fact that she drank heavily, and with abandon throughout her first pregnancy. He lives with her, I suspect in large part due to the fact she gets money and subsidized housing for having him there, and it sure beats getting a job and taking responsibility for herself. She also drank during her other pregnancies, but because she was living with the second child’s father’s family during the other two pregnancies her access to alcohol was limited, and she had a lot of people around giving her a lot of crap about eating right and going to the doctor.

One of the hardest things to deal with in being her sister, or her family in general, as it seems we have all discussed it at some point in spite of all our dysfunction, is that she lies, has an incredibly rich fantasy life, and apparently has absolutely no recollection of all the absolutely horrible things she has done to us all. My Mom and Dad made a lot of terrible mistakes themselves. However, I feel at some point, you must come to terms with yourself about you own childhood. When you are a child you cannot protect yourself, you cannot go some place else, and you cannot do much to affect change in your family dynamic. When you are a grown up, things that were difficult for you growing up color your life as an adult, but as an adult, you can choose who you will be, and how you will interact with the world, and the people in your life. My sister has never taken any responsibility for her actions, or the consequences of her actions to anyone, especially herself.

Inherent to their ages, and the point they are in their lives, all her kids are grappling with the inconsistencies of the world as presented to them by their Mom, and how the rest of the world perceives everything to have played out. I know how terrifying and heartbreaking it was for me to be my sister’s sibling; I cannot imagine how it must have been for her children. My sister has made a lot of decisions in her life that put her children in danger. A lot of terrible things happened to those kids. But she is their Mom. I know from experience that you can create a healthier relationship with your parents after a "bad childhood," but mine was a picnic in the park comparatively. That relationship cannot work unless the parent is willing to work at it too, I think. My sister will not even talk to her kids about what happened in their lives. She tells them all the things they experienced never happened. No matter who you are, or what happens in your life, what your Mommy says matters. To have their mother tell them that nothing bad ever happened, and she never did anything that hurt them is very hard for them right now.

I pray so hard for them all that they will be ok. I see them all trying to learn from scratch what "people do" and trying to figure out ways for themselves to deal with their Mom in a way that is ok for them. Since she is their Mom they want to have her in their lives, and since she is such a hot mess, they feel compelled to take care of her. So ironic since she hardly did anything that can be construed as taking care of them. But, they are scared and angry now, and have a long hard road ahead of them toward healing their hearts, and souls and figuring out who they want to be. The greatest sorrow of my parents’ lives, my fathers’ in particular, was what they felt was their failure as a parent to my oldest sister. Truly, my parents made some decisions as parents that were, and are, utterly incomprehensible. At the time my sister was a child, the resources for families with children with behavioral difficulties and special needs simply did not exist. Both my parents had less than ideal childhoods as well, and were ill equipped to deal with a child with such needs, as well as four other children who had varying degrees of difficulties of their own. But, the most important thing about my childhood, and that of my siblings, is that it is over, and we know better.

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