Sunday, May 24, 2009

Permission to whine, please

My mother and older sister have a complicated relationship. They always have. I could go into a lot of detail, but I'll spare you. Quick explanation -- each is disappointed in the other.

My sister, barely a year older than I, never felt my mother gave her enough attention. Not when we were babies, not when we were teenagers, and not now. She has been a colicky, restless baby, a troubled teen and a calamitous adult in an attempt to gain my mother's undivided attention. Unfortunately, my mother has two other children, so she has always been unable to fill my sister's bottomless need for maternal love. I also have to admit that the older we become, the less attractive my sister's quest for attention becomes.

For her part, my mother does not approve of my older sister's parenting abilities. Sis' oldest child, her son, is the apple of my mom's eye and it bothers my mother that my sister is never satisfied with him or his accomplishments. Sis' youngest child, her daughter, is a cutter who has run away and attempted suicide. This has broken my mother's heart.

So why does this incite me to whine?

Most of the time, unless my sister is doing something directly to me, I try to ignore/avoid/forget her. We're in our 50s now, and this sibling rivalry is beyond old. My sister and I live 2000 miles apart, and it's easy for me to rise above the fray and just go on with my own life.

But every once in a while, like now, I am forced to listen to my mother rhapsodize and glow about my older sister. Right now it's this man (but in the past it's been "that man" or "this job" or "that new house" or "the new baby" ...) who will make it possible for my sister to stop lying, become unselfish, and forget her troubles c'mon, get happy.

Listening to this is hard because this time won't be any different than 2001, or 1997, or 1992, or 1988, or … My older sister will do something hostile or stupid or just plain nuts that will break my mom's heart once again. And now that my mom's heart is nearly 75, I really wish this wouldn't happen, and I really, really don't want to hear about it. Not my mom's steadily escalating hopes, and certainly not the sudden crash when reality and/or my older sister's true nature rears its ugly head once more.

But I keep my mouth shut. Much as I want to whine, I don't. (Except to this blog, of course.) This dance is really between my mom and my older sister. They began it before I was born, after all. When I'm forced to think about it, I'll try to remind myself that my mom is, after all, a woman. As flawed as she is strong, facing the end of her life as best she can, just as she raised me the best she could.

And look how well I came out!


  1. It IS between them and a dance it definitely is. You don't have to listen to it, though. :) Just sayin'.

  2. It's hard for me to maintain boundaries when there's conflict. I'm still learning.