Home for the holidays



Home for the holidays

My mom called me this past weekend to nail down some details about our trip up north. First, we will be visiting with her and my step-dad in their little cabin in the woods. Over the weekend most of my extended family ~ step-sister and step-brother, their spouses, children and grandchildren ~ are coming over for dinner. I am honestly looking forward to this. We haven’t all been together, well… since I can’t remember when.

I’ll get to spend some time with my Ya-Ya sisters and reconnect with old friends and hopefully we will all be better about staying in touch.

We’ll then travel a couple hours further north to visit with my dad and step-mom, and her son and family during the week. One evening we’ll stop by Hub’s sister’s and ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ over how grown up and pretty her daughter is ~ because she really is. It will be good to see everyone again.

The only other extended family I have is one bio-brother. We will not be seeing each other over the holidays, and I am okay with that. We were never close growing up, and continued to grow apart as we’ve gotten older. He was always disapproving of me… my friends, my choices, my life, every thing I did was somehow inferior.

I’ve been to his home once in 22 years, and that was for the birth of his first daughter ~ he has two now. That visit was one of the most painful experiences I have ever had and to this day is a trip I regret making.

The entire weekend I was there I spent crying in the hospital restroom because I was denied the opportunity to see my then only niece ~ not being either a parent or grandparent, the only people other than hospital staff who were allowed in the room when a baby was brought to the mother. My brother and his wife never missed an opportunity to remind me that I was ‘contaminated’ and thought they were being clever and funny. The more upset I got, the funnier they thought it was.

It is not a happy memory.

Nor was that he refused to attend my wedding because I would not reset the date after invitations had already gone out, upon learning that his daughter was due two weeks prior. Ten days after her birth I walked down the aisle and my brother, who lived only two hours away, was not there.

I wasn’t a fixture in his daughters lives, other than them knowing their father had a sister. I tried sending my brother and his wife cards and gifts for birthdays and holiday, but they went unacknowledged or I was told what I sent was unsuitable and it was exchanged for something else they wanted, so I stopped sending anything. We would see each other on the rare times we visited our parents on the same holidays.

When we did find ourselves in the same house, I spent the entire time walking on egg shells, wondering if what I would say or do would set him off and have to deal with him telling me what an idiot I was, or him making snide remarks to Hubs.

Part of me was thrilled about moving to Florida years ago because it put so much extra mileage between us. I do not miss him. We have seen each other at funerals (two grandmothers, and a grandfather), at the hospital (when my dad had heart surgery), and a couple of years ago I think our parents conspired to get us at their homes at the same time for Christmas.

Where I was once distressed about what he thought of me and was heartbroken by his obvious disapproval, now I simply don’t care. His opinions mean nothing to me and I couldn’t care less what he says or does. I’ve given up on trying to figure out what I did, what possible wrong I could have done when we were kids, that caused him to dislike me so much. I have finally resolved to let that be his burden, not mine.

When I spoke to my mom about our upcoming visit she told me he would be at her house Christmas Eve and our dad’s Christmas Day. That works for me since we won’t be at either home until after Christmas. My mom still holds out hope that one day we’ll at least be civil to each other. My dad realizes that will never happen.

I’ve made overtures to him. I did some Internet research and found his e-mail address. I thought maybe if we couldn’t talk face-to-face, we could have some kind of exchange. He can be sarcastic and mean even through a computer. I’ve tried talking with him to find out why we can’t get along. I’ve told him that I hoped our children could know each other, for at least them to be friends. He’s told me we’re fine. We are not fine.

My brother once became very angry at our mom because she told me about a bad motorcycle accident he had. He told her he didn’t want us talking about him. That laid down the ground rules… I’m not to know anything about him, unless he approves the message.

When he and his wife separated two years ago, my mother broke the rules and told me. I asked her to ask him if it was okay for her to officially tell me since that was a year we were actually going to be in the same place for Christmas. I thought it would be awkward for everyone if one of my kids started asking about Aunt M. I felt like I was back in high school and passing notes.

I’ve missed having a sibling that I could count on, one I could call for a shoulder to cry on or to share something wonderful that has happened. I have not told him about my cancer scare four years ago, I have not told him his nephew has been struggling with learning disabilities, I have not told him about my job promotion, I have not told him about his niece graduating summa cum laude from high school and attending college on a academic scholarship.

I have been fortunate that I have fabulous friends who are what I always thought sisters or brothers should be like. I envy those friends who have siblings they are close to. No matter how close a friend is… there is no real substitute for family.

I will be going to Tennessee to be with family and friends. I will gather with my steps and we will share stories about our children and grandchildren. We will laugh, eat, maybe cry, eat some more and I will be happy. What I won’t be doing is spending any time with the one person in this world who is closest to me ~ biologically ~ and I am okay with that.

If you have a brother or sister, next time you see them give them a breath-taking hug and tell them how much you love and appreciate them. A call… remember to end it with ‘I love you.’ E-mail? Tell them why they are so important to you.

This holiday season, let’s not forget what is really important. It’s not what you get, it’s the people in your lives who are your most precious gifts. Cherish them and treat them with love and respect.

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