Things Wind Down

My brother and nephews left this morning. My parents leave tomorrow morning. It’s been a nice but rough visit. The dog behaved and we may have acquired another cat. There is, at any rate, a cat curled up in the garage, who has not been allowed in the house until it can visit a vet.

It’s hard to talk about them. Especially as they get older and my name becomes more firmly attached to Tiny Cat Pants. But it’s hard. Especially when the nephews are here and it seems like my brother just pushes off all parenting of them on my parents. And everyone yells all the time and no one listens to each other unless there’s yelling. And I just start to feel like there’s some kind of equivalent of the Taos hum when we’re all together, a background level of noise that just starts to work on your nerves.

I wish I were a better aunt, but I feel like I have no patience for what are probably very normal kid things. And I also feel very heartbroken and weirded out by my nephews who clearly have no parents. They are good kids, better, really, than we could have hoped for considering that they effectively have no parents. But it weirds me out, how self-sufficient they are, even emotionally, as if they have learned there never is any comfort coming. And I have trouble relating to them. They don’t do what they’re asked. They don’t do what they’re told. But they do what they like, which is often what you’d like them to do.

Their interest in their Native American heritage is interesting, considering the philosophical underpinings at least one of them has been given.

My brother all but asked my dad to drive the youngest nephew back to North Carolina, because he didn’t want to do it and I’m afraid it left such a bad taste in my mouth that it kind of soured the last part of their visit. I keep trying to tell myself that it doesn’t have anything to do with me, but it pisses me off so much that he is not considerate of them. I mean, I don’t know where he was supposed to learn this, but he’s a grown man.

And I don’t think that he gets that my parents are old people. Not that it would ever be okay to try to ditch you kid with your parents and leave them to drive 24 hours while you drive 4, but to ask people almost 65 to do that, when one of them would have to do the majority of the driving, it just makes me so mad.

And then I heard him this morning telling my dad it cost him $200 to get from Georgia to North Carolina to Nashville and was going to take him another $200 to do the reverse trip.

I don’t care if my dad wants to give my brother $400. My dad can give my brother four million dollars, for all I care, as long as my parents have enough money to do what they want in their retirement.

But I just don’t think it costs $400. I mean, I know it doesn’t cost $400.

And the ease with which he lies in order to get as much money as he can out of my parents irritates me. Because it makes me feel like he either doesn’t get that whatever money they have is what they have to live on for the rest of their lives, may they be long, or he doesn’t care. And that really, really bothers me.

Oh well, what can you do?

I feel like it’s both my business and none of my business and that just sets me ill at ease.

And I wish my nephews were having easier lives and I don’t understand why the person I know who is most responsible for making that happen is not doing it. And the fact that this is someone I love and care deeply for makes it very hard to accept.

4 thoughts on “Things Wind Down

  1. Four hundred dollars may have been the agreed-upon price to get to take the kid out of state for Thanksgiving. Or maybe it was more than that, which was why he was trying to get someone else to take the child back — to avoid a pre-Christmas shit-pounding and child support arrears incarceration.

    I understand it and I can explain it but I can’t accept it as how it is. I never have been able to accept how it is or tell myself that this is all we can expect from our men, that they are useless weak people about whom lies must be told so that their behavior appears merely inconsiderate.

    I feel for you. This is the worst part of the holidays, the recognition that all the love in the world can’t mend the things that are broken.

  2. I don’t know that I have much to add, except that I’ve been reading a lot of Mary Wollstonecraft (my latest historical crush) and Susan Faludi lately, and it’s got me all worked up over how things ought to be and how they could be if we all just grew up and tried a little harder (especially the menfolk).

    I look at my little daughter and I hope that I can raise her to recognize that bullshit you’re talking about, Bridgett, and to not feel that she has to accept it. But I also know that among all the little boys her age that I’m seeing, a good percentage of them are being raised to accept that they can carry on as weak pieces of shit and live below their human potential as long as they each have a penis, because there is a whole cultural script of lies in place to bolster them. And there are cultural and societal mechanisms in place to put down those whose innate equality might otherwise challenge you to be more of a human being. But I want to do more than teach my daughter. I want to change the world she’s going to have to deal with, so that she doesn’t do all that a girl possibly can and still find herself buried under the avalanche of social inertia like poor Mary was.

    The dark side is that I read of you ladies’ travails and I see how far we have to go. The bright side is that there are so many of you smart and wonderful people out there now fighting these battles, which gives me a feeling that one day this Feminism thing won’t be a radical concept but will be more or less just the way we live.

  3. I wish I had a solution to offer,but I don’t. I do know from experience that your brother won’t change or won’t learn until he is ready to – and even that is conditional upon the supposition that he has a conscience.

    I used to think everyone had one, but some chose not to acknowledge it for whatever reason. Now, I believe it is possible that some people simply never developed that inner voice that, if we center ourselves, reminds us of our better selves and then continues to nag us until we do something worthy of it.

    I’m not a mental health professional, but I have plenty of bad actors in our extended families so my “theory” is that your brother, like so many people, is acting badly because he has some anger issues – either self-directed or directed at those closest to him. Perhaps he resents your success (meaning happiness) in life versus his own where he might feel repeated failure/unhappiness. Perhaps he has always felt your parents thought more of you regardless whether reality bears that out or not.

    Perhaps he projects his personal failures on those who love him, blaming them for whatever shortcomings he perceives his life to have. It’s tough to accept our own shortcomings, to realize that our life situation may be due to the decisions we make, not some predestined fate.

    Perhaps he just wants to hurt other people by failing to address his responsibilities. Oh, he could also just be bad seed or just plain damn lazy, but odds are he’s acting out his own self-hate or hatred of his circumstances by taking advantage of others and seeing how far they can be pushed before limits are established, requests denied, and punishment meted out.

    He might be asking for retaliation for his bad boy behavior or he could be enjoying manipulating others. He could be crying out for someone to call him out, really and truly call him out, for his self-absorbed irresponsible actions.

    Whatever the cause is, the fact that children are involved must put the entire question on a different footing. Instead of trying to save, change or help him, the focus now needs to be on his children. You yourself are voicing that concern. You said you don’t know what to do, but I suspect you do.

    Your nephews may or may not repeat his Loser Persona as they grow up, they are definitely being affected by it.

    Have you challenged him on this basis? Does he really want his legacy to be that of a father whose children and grandchildren will either avoid him or treat him with scorn? Is he really proud of the example he is creating?

    He will say he doesn’t care, but he will. He will most likely tell you it’s none of your business, but it is.

    In some ways, it would be easier to know what to do if he wasn’t family. It’s always easier to evaluate needs objectively when we have no connections. As his sister, you have emotional baggage with him and your parents. You risk losing connections if you try to fix things, but you obviously are struggling with the need to do something.

    As I said, I have no answers, but I did want you to know that you are not alone in struggling with these situations, these emotions. I know you know that, but sometimes it just (I hope) helps a little to hear someone remind you that others have gone through or are going through similar crises of conscience, compassion, and caring. You want to protect your parents, your nephews, and even your brother. It is abundantly clear from this posting and others that you are someone who does have a conscience and huge heart. You are also obviously blessed with a clear and strong mind and strength of character.

    You will find the answers yourself that work for you and your family. You know that. Just be kind to yourself as you work through the process because you will feel self-doubt, fear of failure, and just plain sadness but it just part of the process of growth and change. Things will work out because you’ve achieved the most difficult threshold for change: recognizing and admitting something is wrong with your brother and his relationship with those closest to him. Now, if only he can recognize and admit it . . . .

    Blessings be to you and yours. Thank you for sharing your pain and frustration because the sharing gives a sort of permission for all of us to look more closely at ourselves and those closest to us. Whether you realize it or not, you are being a blessing in and of yourself by writing about this.

    On behalf of those who read your postings and will never comment but may feel as I do, I thank you for giving us an honest reminder of the human condition – with all its complexity, pain and love. Your brother and parents are lucky to have you as a sister and daughter. Your love for them is plain to see.

  4. Ha, Bridgett, I only wish this were some way to get child support money out of my parents, but this is the kid to whom’s mother he’s still married. Still married because there is no child support nor any custody arrangement. Staying married keeps the courts out of it.

    It also means his kid lives in abject poverty, because he doesn’t have to pitch in anything. And so, of course, he doesn’t.

    But yeah, it’s impossible for me to accept that this is supposed to be the best we can expect from our men. That’s exactly right.

    But, as Sam brings up, it does also raise my feminist hackles, this idea that I am supposed to understand myself as smaller and less than a man who has to be nagged every step of the way to do what is even less than the bare minimum his children deserve and then that I’m supposed to participate in the myth building through which he’s reimagined as either being a good man or being on the verge of becoming a good man.

    Right in the middle of writing this comment, my dad called, to say that they’d made it home, but he was also calling because he wanted me to make the Butcher call my other brother a couple of times while he drives home, because was almost in an accident and apparently he’s worn a flat spot on his tires trying to avoid it.

    Or something.

    I don’t know. It just breaks my heart to hear the stress in my dad’s voice. And it’s hard for me to not resent my brother because those are my parents, too, you know?

    I don’t care if he takes all their money. I mean, I care, but it’s their money and they’re competent.

    I care that my brother seems to not get or not care that our dad had a triple bypass last year and that my parents are getting old.

    He just doesn’t have the right to take years off our parents’ lives. But I know that’s what he’s doing. And the resentment I feel about that is really hard for me to get over.

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