A Thing I Never Want to Hear Again

My sister-in-law lives in a shed behind her boyfriend’s mother’s house. With a baby. An honest to god shed. A metal box you put garden tools in, with two doors that swing open wide enough to run a riding mower through.

My nephew and the kid who would have been his step brother except for that his dad has never been able to marry my sister-in-law, because she’s still married to my brother, for reasons I cannot understand except that married men don’t pay child support to their wives, live in the would-have-been mother-in-law’s tiny house with her across the dirt yard from the shed where my sister-in-law lives.

At the end of the year 2012, if my sister-in-law wants to use the bathroom, she has to go outside and cross the dirt yard, and go into another woman’s house and use hers. She literally does not have her own pot to piss in.

Sometimes, when I talk about my nephews’ situations, people are like “Oh, but then it’s good that they have you. You doing [whatever] is really important and makes a big difference.”

I never, ever want to hear any fucking thing even remotely like that again in my goddamn life. Ever. What terrible bullshit. What complete and udder horseshit. It’s just some fairytale that makes my whole mouth taste like rot to even recall. Everything is just fucking inadequate in the face of reality.

A fucking shed.

How the hell are you going to knock on a shed door to collect your family member and not feel like you have utterly failed him? Completely? Without question and without qualification? Even if he seems happy, even if he’s doing fine in school. Even if he’s healthy.

There’s no way.

What I realized today is that, when my parents think about my brother and his families, they must feel a kind of soul-bottom terror that would drive them mad if they thought about it too much. I had an anxiety attack on the way home. My head is still spinning.

My nephew’s mother lives in a shed. She has to go outside to pee.

That this is the best possible outcome we’re capable of generating? Or willing to generate? It floors me.

And yet, what is there to do? My parents send her money when she asks. They tried letting her live with them and it almost destroyed their marriage. I wouldn’t let that mean terror know where I live, let alone invite her into my house. Yesterday was the first time I’d even talked to her in a decade. And, apparently, it doesn’t bother my brother that his wife lives in a shed.

And her dad and step-mom know she lives in a shed and I’d guess she’s burnt her bridges with them well enough that there she sits. And she seems fine with the shed, like it’s a workable option until they find something better.

And, my nephew adores her, so I have to respect that there’s something in her worth loving even if I loathe her.

I am exhausted. I am never going to be un-exhausted about this. I now see why my dad expects to die. A person cannot stand inadequate in the face of this–not seeing it for what it is–and not have it break you.

I’m having a hard time believing that I made it home in one piece, alive, to my own home. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this is a real place–this brick house with a big back yard–and that is a real place–a shed–and that there are people I care about in both of them.