I think the thing that makes this difficult, even though the nephew has a roof over his head and is doing well in school and is happy and kind and healthy and thoughtful, is that, because my sister-in-law is managing that well, that’s about as well as she can manage. I imagined that, once you fall into social services, certainly, they must get you back on your feet. But the truth is that it really is just a shitty safety net. Once you come to their attention, they won’t let you fall any lower, but you have to be able to pull yourself up.
But people aren’t stuck in the net because they’re too lazy to pull themselves up or because the net is so comfy. They’re like my sister-in-law who has some almost insurmountable things in her way–her new baby, her mental illness, my brother’s complete moral abdication of his family and refusal to divorce her. She, for instance, saved up once for a lawyer and got divorce papers drawn up. She had them sent to my brother. He claims he never got them. When will she have the money to do that again?
And the new baby is a big additional worry, but thanks to him, she’s eligible for the mental health service she needs. So, that’s good, but she’s not working because there’s no job she could get that would cover the cost of a baby in daycare. And since she’s not working–her family just has her boyfriend’s income–she’s stuck in pretty abject poverty. The only reason it isn’t worse is because of her boyfriend’s family. A boyfriend she can’t even marry. Worse than that–a boyfriend who, since my brother won’t divorce her, cannot be sure that the state will legally recognize his own child as his and not my brother’s should something happen to her.
All that could be straightened out in a divorce, but she’s got to re-come up with the money for it. And around we go.
And I dislike her about as much as a person can dislike someone. She practically destroyed my family and she tried to kill my dog. So, you know, if there weren’t any kids involved and she couldn’t get my brother to divorce her, I might find it funny.
But, honestly, the fact that this is the life of someone’s parent–someone I care about–and that this is her life with everything she can manage going as well as it can be managed? It makes me want to throw up.
The part of the mess that is her own making? Well, it is what it is.
The part of it that my brother is responsible for? I don’t even know how to process it. I don’t know what to say about it. I don’t even know how to think about it. This is someone whom I love dearly. Who has known me my whole life and who helped me when no one else in my family could. And I don’t know how to understand this. How stupid is my love that it exists in the face of this? That proximity and longevity and one kind deed are all that it needs to sustain itself?
My love is a stupid thing. It goes to people who do terrible things, things I would cut a friend off for without thinking twice about it, just because they’re my family.
And even knowing this, my heart wants to hurt like it’s been betrayed, like it’s learned something new and terrible, instead of it being the same old shit it’s been for most of my adult life.