How Cold is the Family Fold?
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Nancy Belle. I am a reader. Books have been my safe haven for a great part of my life. My children all marveled at my ability to shut everything out and escape the turmoil around me, just by picking up a book. Much of what I know about this world is from the written word. My education is much greater than what is shown on paper, simply because I can and love to read. Having come to my senior years I have stories to tell and opinions to share, hopefully for your pleasure or enlightenment. Yet, perhaps some may not be in agreement or find my stories boorish, that's alright, too. Here's to my exploring and finding my way, with words!

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How Cold is the Family Fold?

I come from a large family. Six women and two men make up the living siblings that all came from the same maternal loins. I am the oldest of this clan. My mother traditionally made me her helpmate in all things. I mean ALL things. For her I was the live in Nanny who brushed hair, gave baths, changed diapers, dressed and in general kept watch over the ‘Little Ones’. I was a live in housekeeper and washed dishes, did laundry in a Maytag wringer washer, hung clothes outside to dry, ironing day wasn’t my favorite day at all, I swept and mopped floors and all that goes with housekeeping. I was sent to get groceries and carry them back home again. The grocery was a block and a half away, but there were times it felt much further with the weight of what was on the list. As I got a little older, I was sent by bus to pay bills. Not many, only a couple, some envelopes and cash or money orders to be delivered to such and such and get a receipt. I wish I could remember to whom or for why, but I don’t so, except for occasionally, I don’t fret about it. Pretty much I was groomed as Mom’s right hand gal and when I had free time “take your sister with you” was a common command from her and after a time my most hated task.

My Step-Father…. I still don’t know exactly what it was he expected of me, but mostly it seemed like what he wanted was for me to just cease to exist. My main crime being that I was here, I looked like my Dad, that Mom still loved him, her first husband who had died. He too expected that I be on call to help with the ‘Little Ones’ and to help my Mother. That was pretty much the standard in my era, the eldest girl was made responsible for many things and if a man is blessed with a son to begin with, that son would also be groomed as the head of the family. There perhaps is where my problem lay, I wasn’t a son.

This reflection has been brought about by recent events and old events as well, to be honest. A few years ago, my next to youngest Sister was diagnosed with lung cancer. At that time it was one lung and a small tumor or two. She did the treatments and came through with reduced size tumors and remission. Yay! They weren’t growing anymore. Somehow, she wasn’t seeing the doctor for follow ups or something, as usual I have not been kept in the loop on events or given subjective opinions from the others. Long story short, she has now been told the cancer is in both lungs and lymph nodes. As of now it has not invaded any other organs I am told. She has made a decision to not do any treatments and is of the somehow mixed up idea that she might have six minutes or six years and is just hoping for the latter and going for what she calls ‘Quality of Life’. The doctors are calling and begging her to come in and at least talk with them about it and they feel she is a good candidate for treatment and they have a couple in mind.

Before I get lost in another story in development as we speak, I will try to get back to my original narrative. In times of crisis families usually go back to, or cling to, those coping skills learned early on in life. It can get real messy when there weren’t many positive lessons gained. In my experience I was made the family Scapegoat, by my Step-Father, the one to berate, the one to blame, the one to beat, the one who he just hated. This was not lost on my younger siblings and beginning with my own full blood sister, when I wasn’t behaving in a way she liked or called her a big baby or not doing what she wanted, it was a great boon to her esteem to go tell Daddy and have him take care of her problem, his way was always a beating and that knowledge didn’t even make her think of stopping. That behavior witnessed by the ‘Little Ones’ became their behavior as well. Anyone in their right mind will eventually say, Hey this isn’t right and I need to have it stop or as I did, just not be around as much, therefore no one could blame me. I did both, I was very verbal and resistant against the abuse and did find places to go, to be away from it. In retrospect and as I told my Uncle, I didn’t find the refuge I sought, but more times than not, found bad things. My search for a safe place ended here, where I am today. Some of my siblings would say that is not true. Those are the ones who don’t have a clue how to share a life with a man. They won’t like me saying that, but it is the hard truth of it. Again, I blame our upbringing on this as well.

So, here we are present day. My Mother dead twelve and half years, cremated and sitting in a very expensive box the personal property of two sisters who refuse to have a dying woman’s wishes met. That being, she be buried, preferably in Montana, with her first-born son or somewhere nearby, as there was much dissent over that idea, cost being used as an issue, but it was just trying to keep her close. That was a very possible outcome, because an Aunt who loved her sister so much, she was giving us a burial plot. Many excuses and mumblings have been made over the years, but my female siblings and just a couple of them, made the decision Mom wasn’t going anywhere. Getting back to the sister with cancer, she expressed to me that she wished Mom would be buried before she died and that she would like to have a picture of all of us including her before she died. Well, I promised her to make sure her voice was heard and bring the monster to the forefront once again. There is no communication in our family, especially on the tough issues. If you go beyond “Hi How Are You” or “I Love You” you are in the familial quicksand zone. Some go silent and hide till the storm is over, others bring back the old behaviors of childhood. If you don’t do as I like ‘I’m Telling’. Accusations fly like robins over a freshly mowed yard, name calling, Bully being their favorite. Ganging up, extortion “you are either with me and against her, or else”. Being told I am using my sick Sister to advance my agenda is high in “OMG” points. My choice of Facebook to stir the pot was not well received, however it did bring everything out of the shadows and into the light. Which is exactly my expected outcome.

We didn’t officially grow up in an Alcoholic Home, my mother didn’t drink as her father was a horrible drunk and she wouldn’t have it, to the best of my knowledge my Step-Father wasn’t an Alcoholic, I only ever saw two beers in our refrigerator in the twelve years Mom was married to him. But I can tell you, even without the drinking, we lived in a dysfunctional family akin to Alcoholism. That dynamic always has a Scapegoat, that was me. So I was raised in a very Schizophrenic way. The one depended on to fill in and help in the care of a family I didn’t create or to be the one to blame for every problem that came along. Including my Mother and stepfather’s marital problems, I was blamed for my Step-father selling everything and moving us into a truly uninhabitable shack in the middle of a cornfield in the middle of nowhere. No one’s life was more messed up than mine in all this, except for perhaps Momma. I even landed in the same tuberculosis hospital as my Step-Father and lost my hope of graduating high school. Even then I was called upon, when once at home again, to take care of the ‘Little Ones’ when Mom was at work or away for the weekend, to visit her husband at the hospital.

My Step-Dad didn’t beat his lung cancer, it took him and left Mom a widow again. This time with eight children. For many years even though life had taken me away from the city I was raised in, I spent my life as a newlywed, young mother and housewife, helping my Mother with my siblings. I came to understand that most if not all of my siblings don’t appreciate any help I ever provided. One of the few times I ever mentioned it, I was told that “Hey, that’s your fault, no one asked you to do it” So it’s my fault because I gave my time and cared. I can grasp the concept somewhat, except this wasn’t just me doing something and expecting love and adoration or even just a little respect, this was how I was trained. This was what was expected of me. So now we have”The Great Sibling War of 2017″ going on because I stirred up the ‘Bury Mom Pot’. For not the first time I’m being told I may not be welcome when the time (as they decide) comes to actually bury her,  I may be dead by then, I’m sure that’s what they are hoping for, as I have also been told that she will remain unburied until the last one of us is dead. Maybe I should figure out how to be the last man standing. The biggest was one of the sisters saying she dumped the ashes in a horse field and it’s all your fault. I am accused of trashing our ‘Sainted’ mother on Facebook. Maybe my alternate self in another dimension. I have heard several times over the years about my imminent expulsion from the family. It doesn’t matter, every behavior is on the table and there isn’t one new thing, now I have been reported to the police just to make sure if anything happens that the Sheriff will be at my door, that covers the “I’m gonna tell on you” behavior. I live 300 miles away and barely make it from the kitchen to the bedroom without worrying about falling. My finances are not greater than theirs, but somehow, they are, everyone, living in abstract poverty to hear them tell it.

It’s sad it’s old and cold. Now there are Grandchildren demanding everyone get along. Some might say that poverty caused this. I say yeah but not the lack of money kind. Most of us have not survived our upbringing or lack of any, enough to really care, to give freely and without thought of return. The day after my Mother’s Memorial, we were gathered around my sister’s kitchen table. I was in a good place. I felt that my full blood Sister and I were the ones with Mom at the end for a good reason. We were estranged and for a couple of days and that day in particular we were good sisters to each other, perhaps it could continue. I did make the comment to my younger siblings that “You are all grown up, Mom isn’t here to ask me for help with you, so I don’t think I’m obliged to do so. Shock, yes they were shocked, kind of shocked me too, I sure didn’t see it coming. It was just an uncontrollable thought that wanted verbalization. Did it mean I wouldn’t help any of them, no it did not, it only meant that I think my OBLIGATION has been filled (as it turned out there were other things that Mom reached out and compelled me to take care of). The day was brought to ruin, by a sister who came in hatefully demanding clarification of something I had said while in agonizing, sobbing, crying and screaming in pain over my Mother’s death only minutes before and the cruel rejection and remark another sister had made when I tried to hug her. She was unable to lay down the need to have a Scapegoat and once again it was me and no explanation for it. Now, this sister is at our peaceful table, taking personally something I said in my pain. I don’t even have a clue. I quickly gathered my things, again sobbing, and found my husband and family and we headed out to Mom’s to get the rest of the family and head back to my safe place, my personal home, 300 miles away.

Twelve and half years…. Most families would have healed, I like to believe. Ours…. There’s no warmth in our fold, if there is, it’s hidden away for safe keeping, like my Mother’s ashes. Children are damaged by adults bad behaviors and carry that damage in everything they do, every relationship they have or don’t have. There is a lot of material here to be psycho-analyzed and a couple of my siblings think they have me in particular all figured out. Oh boy, the classic “you pointing a finger at me is pointing three right back at yourself”, it does make me laugh sometimes and sometimes I really wonder what dimension they have retired to. Big point being, it’s really sick for there to be all this commotion over a Mother’s dying wish or for a dying Sister’s wish.

This is my attempt to make sense of it all, my siblings will, without doubt, be overwhelmed in anger that I take this psycho drama to a public forum. Yet, nothing gets fixed that remains in the dark. If nothing else perhaps they can psycho-analyze me a bit more and perhaps see this is my way, my road, my attempt at self-healing, because it’s definitely ‘Cold in My Fold’. I truly love all these individuals who, like myself, had no choice about our place in life and whom we were placed with in a family situation.  I find it difficult to even describe how difficult this whole thing is. Just hope my words, my attempt to heal myself are intelligible enough to any who might also find comfort, that they are not the only ones. Whether my family agrees or not, this is my medium toward some form of normal and won’t change until I’m just not here anymore.



There Are 4 Responses So Far. »

  1. We must name our demons before can rid ourselves of them. The key is “our demons”. We cannot address the demons of others – only of our own. Some demons to watch out for? There are three A’s that I like. Awareness, Acceptance, and Action. We must become aware of truth, especially truth we do not like. Then we must accept the truth – only then can we take appropriate action. Action can mean doing nothing where prior to awareness we would feel a false sense of power to change others. It is a journey – not a destination.

  2. Seems that naming my Demons is a problem for some. I have been calling them out by name since I was a child. Only today would someone maybe pay attention. Back then I was called unruly and unthankful. Wait… Stop the Presses…. Today still, I am called unruly and unthankful. Do I consider how my family sees me as how I really am, or do I look into my soul and KNOW who I am, do I look at those I have brought closely around me and use their vision to know who I am? I think I like the latter, with just a few exceptions of the former. Sadly, sometimes those who are your worst enemies and treat you worse than anyone else are from within the familial fold. A cold fact of life to be dealt with…. or stay away from.

  3. I think the Demons Thomas was referring to are those such as resentment,self-pity, need to control – acceptance of the world as it is rather than as we would have it. Acceptance of our lack of control over others and a willingness to maintain one’s serenity in the face of adversity.

    Our personal demons control our lives, keeping us from daily happiness.

  4. Resentment is what my family call my legitimate complaints. They always have and probably always will. The current fracas is only because I dared to wake the sleeping monster. Try to address the wrong that is being done regarding our Mother’s wishes and to make known another voice that needs to be heard but along with mine has been ignored these many years. I told Karen I would make the stand once again and deliver the message once again. I also told her it was going to be messy. Indeed it is. I brought the message, stirred the pot, got voices that were silent for over a dozen years to finally speak and got other voices to spill their poison once again, only this time in broad daylight. I retreat, bruised but not broken. It’s funny how they all talk about me like I’m this great warrior and how proud they are of my gregariousness and boldness, yet they also turn the tables when the arrow is in their direction. None of them believe I have any fear and when I tell them indeed I do…. What? Total disbelief. Fear engages two responses mostly and my most go to response is fight, because flight doesn’t work when your parent will jump over kitchen tables to get you or shove you up against the wall, to get you. Yep! The best thing kids do is…. Learn! That’s what they are supposed to do, to bad there are so many grown-ups who either don’t know that or don’t care.

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