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.

10 thoughts on “A Thing I Never Want to Hear Again

  1. My God! You are right. It’s a total crock. This is what Social Services is for. Kids are biologically bound to love their parents no matter. Still, you don’t leave a kid living in a tin shed because he does what he’s biologically bound to do. Get an authority involved and have that kid removed to an adequate shelter. Or, are you too worried that the apathetic people you call a family will not like you anymore because you had the balls to do the right thing?
    Please bear in mind that I speak to you as a mother of three. I’ve had my fair share of crap in my life, and witnessed it in the lives of others. You sound very young, and most likely without resources to do much for yourself, but that doesn’t make you powerless in the least. You are looking at a situation with your eyes open, and you are seeing it for what it is. Help this nephew to grow up having higher expectations for himself than to live in a shed and be shunned by family in this way.

  2. Listen, this is a very sore subject for me, so I’m only going to say this once. Before you comment on this post, read it carefully. No one is shunning my nephew. He does not live in a shed. My concern, other than for his having to suffer with the situation, is not for his physical well-being. He is fine.

  3. I worry about the baby living in the shed. If that’s how she wants to live, then it’s fine for her. You’d think she could find some other option, though. Maybe social services isn’t such a bad idea – she might get the help that it appears she needs to be able to manage on her own. I’m sorry that you have to deal with this kind of thing – it is heartbreaking, especially when you feel that it’s out of your hands.

  4. Wait, so the baby is not in the shed, but in the house with the boyfriend’s mom and his nearly-stepbrother? Or is there another child?

    Do they have any heat, in the shed? If there is a baby there, that’s what would worry me and maybe make me second calling social services. If it’s just the mom, who has apparently acted badly towards you/your parents, then…well…not much that can be done. You can’t make her want more.

    This kind of thing does happen in so many families, but no one wants to talk about it. Right now I have a niece, whose child is being raised by her parents (nearly by me) running around somewhere off her head on meth. I am mostly waiting to hear when she’s dead or in jail. She’s blown through all the help, money, and chances anyone can give her, walked away from therapy and rehab and jobs and school. She’s probably in a horrible situation, and there’s nothing we can do about it at this point.

  5. Yikes. I’ve been having memories I carefully didn’t think about for decades resurface, of a family situation where it’s easy to look at what someone did and say, “THAT! WAS! WRONG! They should have done something different!” But when it comes to actually coming up with something not-wrong for that person to have done instead, damned if I can come up with an answer.

    To everyone else: Trust me, been reading B’s stuff for many a long year, and she’s more than smart enough to have thought of things like calling social services all on her own. Like

  6. He’s healthy, he’s eating, and he’s doing fine in school — yeah, social services would call that adequate most of the time. Which brings us to your point — really??? That’s adequate???

Comments are closed.