Family Ties

I spent the day out at my parent’s house, after leaving W’s at about 10am. The party was lots of fun, but I was tired today, and not looking forward to the 45 min drive out and back. Still, I enjoy spending time with my mom, and we had a really good visit.

My sister and her family was there too, though, bizarrely, they got there 20 minutes before dinner was served, ate dinner, and left before the dishes were even cleared from the table.  While there, she sat in the front room and played a video game on her phone and her husband turned on a football game and sat and watched it. I don’t think she said 10 words to my parents.  To me she said, “Good God, you’re skinny.  You look emaciated.”  Nice.  I wonder how she would feel if I commented on her weight the way she feels so free to comment on mine. But wait, I know how she’d feel. Any hint of a comment, especially one as unkind as that, would be met with fury.  (sigh) Why is it okay to say such things to me just because I am thin?  I don’t think “emaciated” is a compliment.

Huh, I feel a Body Image post coming on.

The crowning moment came when, while I cleared the table and helped with the dishes, after having spent the afternoon in the kitchen with mom, chatting, talking about crocheting and whatnot, and just in general enjoying my mom’s company (as I thought she was enjoying mine), she asked me if I thought my sister had been unusually quiet. I said if sitting in the front room playing a video game, arriving just in time for dinner and then leaving immediately thereafter was unusual, then yes. Was it unusual? No, my mother commented sadly, my sister never visited for longer than it took to drop their son off for them to babysit during the week (something I was well aware of.) She sighed sadly.  “Sometimes I regret ever moving here when we retired,” she said.

I couldn’t even speak for a moment, I was so stung by her words.  Then finally, quietly, I said, “I don’t regret it.”  And I don’t. I love having them nearer than an eight hour drive.  But apparently the only daughter that counts, as usual, is my sister.

She had the grace to look embarrassed and hastened to assure me that “she didn’t mean it that way.” And of course I know she didn’t intend to be cruel. They are just so…casually thoughtless that way. It is just accepted that I am Second Best, and they almost say these things as though I should also know and accept this as the natural order of things. It sucks to be Second Best, especially when I do enjoy their company, and when my sister can be so damned unkind to them and about them.  But maybe if I tried harder, if I visited them more often, then they would love me more. Value me more?  I don’t know. The truth is I will never, ever measure up, no matter what I do.  And they will always be chasing after my sister’s love, which she will withhold, for whatever reason she chooses to do so.  I do think my sister is desperately unhappy in her marriage and life, and it probably bleeds into all her interactions.  Just another relationship I can’t do a thing to change or help.

I watch people around me making unwise, or hurtful, or foolish choices in their relationships sometimes and it alternatively makes me shake my head and breaks my heart.  Why would you choose that? I think.  But of course when we are in the middle of it, it often doesn’t feel like a choice.  And then I look at my daughter’s shining, innocent face, as she tells me she got to see her boyfriend today, after a week apart, and she truly is shining, in deep like or maybe even love for the first time, saying, simply, “Seeing him just makes me happy, Mom,” and I am struck by the wonder of first love again.  Of any love. We are hopelessly and endlessly optimistic, we humans. I know I am. I could not live without the joy of loving others–it is that that makes everything else worthwhile.

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