I've hesitated writing about this chain of events, because I've sat on the subject for this long, and thought about not talking about it at all. If you don't talk about it, you can pretend it never happened, and go on with life.
Except I can't do that this time.
A few of you - a very, very few of you - know about what has transpired between my sister and myself lately, and have probably suspected (rightly) that it has been the source of my recent silence here on cat.net. I haven't known what to say, or whether or not I wanted to say anything about it at all, but I know that right now, I am sick of pretending that nothing has happened.
The truth of the matter is that I don't like my sister very much. I make comments about us being "separated by common genetics," and sometimes I think that statement is even more true than I let on. The genetic similarity in our appearances mark us as sisters, but the resemblances stop there. We are nearly nine years apart in age and diametrically opposed in attitude, temperament, and interests.
I am not in close contact with my family. While that's been my choice, Jeff has been right on one aspect: I need to decide whether or not I want them in my life at all, and to act accordingly. I have deliberately kept them at arm's-length, for which I have my reasons (although they are not something for public consumption, even on a private entry such as this one). Instead of continuing to do that, I need to decide either to make the effort to maintain a relationship with them, or to walk away from them entirely.
Things probably would have continued in the same distant, email-every-couple-of-months manner had it not been for a short exchange of emails that happened recently. My sister had emailed me to give me her son's email address, and asked that I write him.
I stared at that email in my inbox for a couple of weeks, and did what was probably the worst thing I could have done: nothing. I had absolutely no idea what to say to an eight-year-old boy whom I've seen no more than once a year since he was three.
However, just because I thought about it means nothing to the person on the other end; all they would see is the inaction.
But, since my sister had emailed, I took it as an unusual overture of friendship. (We rarely speak more than once a year.) When I wrote my mother a couple of weeks later, I decided to copy in my sister as well; why not, couldn't hurt, right? A couple of hours later, I had the following in my inbox:
We're fine, your mother is fine. She has good days and a seldom few bad days, not that you asked.
Don't bother with the updates, at least for our family. Your not in any way interested in our lives so, no real need to waste your limited valuable time.
No need to ask about our son, he doesn't even know you, since you've never bothered to email him, write him a letter, or call him on the phone, birthday card or anything.
If your like me, I doubt you even know our phone number, I certainly haven't bothered to keep up with yours.
I think your mother still misses you, but she's slowly getting over that too.
I am glad your losing weight if that pleases you. I really don't know what else to say to you, your other family I read about seems to take care of most of your needs.
That's the entire text of the letter. No additions, deletions, or corrections.
It took me a minute or two before the cc: line registered on me; my sister had copied my mother in on this letter. That was what really made me furious. For my sister to have a disagreement with me was one matter, but to bring my mother into it was another matter entirely.
I decided to wait for a few days, to see if my mother would acknowledge my original email, and to see if along with it she would say anything about what my sister had written.
When she did, there was no acknowledgment of my sister's email at all.
As Jeff put it, "If my mother knew Lori [his sister] or I had been sending this kind of email to the other, she'd kill us."
Not the case here, it seems.
* * * * *
So what do I do? I've been mulling this over ever since I received my sister's email. No, I am not blameless in this matter, and neither is my sister, but I have to step back, be realistic in this matter, and ask myself, "Is this a winnable situation?"
I am virtually certain the answer is "No."
My sister lives next door to my mother, in a house that my mother owns. With her is her son, who is my mother's only grandchild. Their lives revolve around this child. Realistically, who will my mother side with - the daughter next door, who has the grandchild - or the one who lives 400 miles away and with whom she has a distant, uneasy family bond with and whom she only sees once yearly?
I have yet to email my mother back, mostly because I want some time to think about what I'm going to say in this next letter. This is the kind of letter that decides whether or not someone comes home to visit for the next few years, and I want to make sure that I say everything that needs saying, because I'm pretty sure I won't have a second chance.
I think it very unlikely that I'll be returning to Arkansas anytime soon.
I always wondered how the process of estrangement happens. When I was younger, I was raised to believe that family was everything: alpha, omega, everything in between. Except there was one problem: we didn't really like each other very much. Now that I'm faced with a letter such as this one, I find myself asking why Jeff and I would do fourteen hours' total worth of driving (seven there, seven back) for holidays with people that I don't get along with?
Is it right to walk away? Is the bond of genetics, in and of itself, important enough to preserve when some of the people sharing those genetics are people you do not actually like?
I don't know the answer. I don't know that there is an answer, but I know this isn't finished. I have a horrible, awful feeling that this is just the beginning.
So forgive me for not writing here. Yes, I have been busy with dragon*con-related events, but there has been much more than just that going on.