Friday, May 27, 2011

From the bad comes some good

I had dinner Wednesday night with my mother, my older sister, and her second husband. This is unusual.

For not only does my older sister live in Los Angeles, we don't really like one another. A year apart in age, my older sister has always felt insanely competitive with me. According to my sister's shrink and family legend, she was a sickly and emotionally fragile little girl who craved my mother's undivided attention. Because of my unplanned arrival at a crucial time in her development, she was deprived that undiluted maternal attention and never would get it. This has colored all of her relationships -- which she sees in context of me and my relationships.

If she were a character in a book, I would feel sorry for her. After all, she has been forever competing and measuring and evaluating life instead of living it. And, since she was the better student and has always been very pretty, it means that she seems to miss appreciating her own gifts.

However, since I am the younger sister of this real-life saga, and my real sin was simply being born, my attitude has always kinda been, "Get over it."

ANYWAY ... my sister and my mother have this complicated dance that has been going on for decades. Because my sister loves and needs my mother's approval and attention so very much -- and since she can't get it because not only do I exist but another daughter came along 8 years later -- she frequently punishes my mom. Most recently it's been withholding financial support (or even birthday, Mother's Day or Christmas cards). Yet they talk regularly on the phone, conversations that often leave my mother feeling sad because they are all about my older sister's wonderful life with her new husband, never acknowledging any concern for the problems my mother is facing in her own life.

It's a tiring situation that I try to stay as far away from as possible. Her trip to visit our mother left me wanting to pull the sheets over my head. So when I was invited out to dinner Wednesday, I was happy to go for my mother's sake, but nervous for my own.

I needn't have been. First of all, I got a terrific rib eye steak and sweet potato combo ... all courtesy of her new husband. Yea! Secondly, I was happy to see that my older sister is struggling with menopausal weight gain, too! Her symptoms are very different from mine (dammit!) but still it was a relief to peer into this window of shared genetics.

And most importantly, my sister seemed proud and felt important for all the help she's given our mother this week. That during her vacation time here in Chicago, she and her husband have taken our mom to a lawyer's office to get the bankruptcy back on track, to the DMV for a state-issued ID, to another lawyer's office to update her will,* and to Costco to stock my mother's pantry with a generous supply of non-perishables (like toilet paper and laundry detergent).

So it was all good! My mom seemed tired, having my sister staying with her. But unfortunately the two of them will never have a comfortable relationship and I can't help that. I'm just so relieved and happy that Wednesday went well, and that my older sister now gets it -- our mother needs her help.

* And I'm glad to let my older sister handle everything in regards to my mother's estate. My mom doesn't have anything and even if she did, I don't want it. I'd prefer my mother live comfortably herself.


  1. i am so happy for you!!! this is great news and will brighten your holiday weekend!

  2. Wow, this was a momentous occasion! Glad it went well!