This is the stuff of "Movie-of-the-Week" material. For those of you who have never known the joy of an external antenna and only 4 channels (that would be pre-cable days), the Movie of the Week was a big deal.
And that's kind of where my family is at right now. Movie-of-the-Week material. I'm having trouble wrapping my head around it, and I'm feeling as if I'm in the midst of an experiment in Chaos Theory.
There have always been 4 of us siblings. But now there's only 3.
This past Saturday, I had to break the news to my mother that her youngest child was dead. My youngest brother died 3 days prior to that (approximately) of a heart attack in his home. He was 49 - would've been 50 this weekend.
I don't want to get into gory details and air all the family laundry. But you do need some history. In every family, there's the odd duck, and that was my baby brother.
Frankly, he and I didn't get along. The family dynamic is difficult to describe. One parent an alcoholic, the other emotionally abusive and manipulative. It was not a pretty childhood.
Those conditions made us all what we are today, though. In many ways, the die is set at childhood, and it's less "nature" than "nurture" in my opinion.
I don't know what went "wrong" in the family, but for some time, we were quite fractured. Some of that persisted into adulthood. It was never resolved between parents and children. It probably never will be.
There are the "unspoken" things. The things we as kids understand but we keep from our remaining parent. We all know that we're being played. It took us a while to figure that out, because it's a parent's job to be straight with you, right? Not necessarily.
Anyway, my younger brother was that Odd Duck. And now, at not yet 50, he's not here. There will be a hole in the family regardless of the fact that there were times when we declared him totally useless. Regardless of the fact that it was just easier for me to not speak to him any more than was necessary. Regardless of the fact that most of the nephews thought he was a moron because he was mean to them. They all had enough respect to just blow off the behavior and move forward.
But the Chaos Theory thing is what I'm having difficulty with. Death is final. And there are processes and procedures. There really is no room for drama in the beginning. Save it. See, perhaps this is the viewpoint of the eldest child of a chronic alcoholic and an emotional abuser. It's my "job" to just keep paddling the canoe and moving toward a goal. I have to. It's the way I function.
But the Chaos Theory that is my remaining parent is insisting that this death be dealt with as if the sky is falling, the earth is going to collapse and nothing else is relevant. My remaining parent is, as the Victorians would put it, "overcome with grief."
My theory is "jumped onto the Crazy Train." Maybe that's harsh. My remaining parent is trying to play the remaining 3 of us against each other, just when you'd think you'd want everyone to pull together. Well, we are together. We 3 siblings are united in trying to keep the drama at a minimum. The parent wants to be the center of attention, and will get to do that. Because of the way this parent functions, it'll be all the worker bees around the hive.
And here's my problem. I'm not fitting and not feeling it. Everyone has offered condolences, and I thank you. But I'm not sad. I'm not... anything. I'm sad for his kids. I'm sad for the fact that a parent has lost a child entirely too young and too suddenly. But I'm not sad that I lost a relationship, because there never was a relationship. I feel fake for accepting condolences, and I'm having to really bite my tongue and keep from saying, "Thanks but save it for someone else; we weren't close."
People have told me that even though we were estranged, I'll feel it. Because the square is now a triangle. Strange, though. The triangle that has existed with us for so many years has always felt more stable than the square that we grew up with.
I'm happy to have the kind of relationship with the other 2 that means we can call each other and say, "Ok, I heard ............. Now, what's the story?" because there always has been a story. And each of us only got one piece of it - never the same piece either.
I can't deal well with manipulative people. Just tell me what's going on. Just cut the drama, skip the hyperbole and let's get this problem solved or this issue addressed or just tell me what's needed. I don't deal with the vapors, the hysteria, the cunning and meanness that is manipulation of someone else against another. I just can't. I'm not wired that way.
So it's going to be a week of tension and stress. I have learned that it's important, though it may seem cruel, to disengage. To keep neutral. To breathe away the tension. All of that will be in play this week.
And then we'll cobble together what's left of the family. We will gather as parents with our own families, telling the kids that it's important to NOT be this dysfunctional. We will gather as siblings around our remaining parent and try to remember that a parent is a parent, regardless of the emotional fallout.
We will gather as siblings among ourselves and reinforce the relationships that keep us standing upright and knowing that, for better or worse, we are here for each other in the rough times. We may not be the Waltons, we're not touchy-feely kind of folks. But there's a bedrock there, and I need to believe that at least with the 3 of us, the relationship transcends spouses, parental issues, all that. I don't know how to be eloquent right now.
I do know that the triangle that is made up of the 3 of us is immune to the Chaos Theory that is now swirling around us. And right now, that's all I know.