[Conversation with my aunt, who is my dad’s younger sister.]
Me: Hehe. To be truthful, it’s very odd to hear you say that you understand the things my dad has done. Or rather, maybe I should say, it feels good to hear someone finally understand what I have been trying to communicate to others for a few years, now.
Aunt: I understand. I’ve been all my life where you had—and are—walking. And I know the pain of never being believed. More… I know how empty the feeling is when no one thinks to ask… or cares enough to ask. It is good that you and I have opened this communication. You have my devote privacy.
Me: It’s probably one of those things where you just can’t understand it until you experience it for yourself. Matt [ex-husband] kind of understood, when he experienced my dad first-hand at my mom’s funeral, but even then, he still didn’t seem to see my side of things.
Aunt: Your mom’s funeral… and the surrounding days before and after… were difficult. With your sister expressing the ‘proper’ [family’s surname]-endorsed grieving process, she received the attention, while you were ignored (at best) and excommunicated by nearly everyone. To this day, I don’t think anyone understands your thinking/feeling process concerning death and dying; as a horrific consequence, most of The [family’s surname]s don’t know how to interact with you. They never cared enough to ask.
When the whole Ryan* thing went down, I received the same cold shoulders. But you know what? I understood my brother. He and I shared a relationship that was extraordinarily special, and I knew he did what he did because he just wanted to quit hurting. I know that feeling.
Ryan was tired of trying to be for his parents what they wanted him to be like. He was tired of loving the man he loved, while he knew his parents didn’t approve. He was tired of not being understood.
My brother was hurting, deeply. One of his last requests was that his mother come visit him the week he would be off for Spring Break. Mom said she wasn’t ‘up to it.’ Ryan was found, dead, at the end of that week.
My brother was tired of hurting, and he didn’t know how else to stop the pain. I understood. I understand. That’s why I can celebrate my brother’s life, while other more-traditional [family’s surname]s stay in their own grief. It’s all about Them, rather than about Ryan. I, like you, have chosen differently.
But God, how I miss your mom. I never had a sister, and the woman who raised me, was busy being her mom’s daughter instead of my mother. Your mom was all I ever had. I really, really miss her. You need to know that, dear [my name].
*[“Ryan” is my uncle, and her (and my dad’s) younger brother. He lived in the southwest U.S. and was absent through most of my childhood, but I got to hang out with him for a while when I moved 30 minutes away from him, in 2005. He died in 2006. Although he had become my favorite family member, I did not attend his funeral, just so I could avoid the other family members. There was speculation that he might have overdosed on his medication pills, thus committing suicide. I believe he died of a broken heart, since he and his partner had been going through some difficulties.]
Me: …I think with my sister, I had tried to protect her and nurture her, and it sounds like you have been trying to do the same. She was the “baby sibling,” after all. But she needs to learn to fend for herself and learn to live her own life. You can offer her suggestions, but she is allowed to live the way she wants to. If she wants to be around them, then let her. Sometimes things happen for a reason, and life is one big learning experience for us all. 🙂 And even if bad things happen to her, it won’t be your fault. Bad things happen to us all; it’s just learning to grow past that, and learn from it, that makes it worthwhile.
Aunt: Your sister really misses you. I am not the one to play the game of “Let’s All Get Along,” because I know that’s not a reality for most families. I believe that no amount of talking will ever help your dad or grandparents understand their sister/daughter and the ways they have hurt her.
What I think I know about your sister, is that she has gravitated toward your father because she feels abandoned by her big sister.
You were her best friend. She loves you, but is afraid of rejection. That’s why you didn’t receive an invitation to her wedding. She believes she would be rejected.
But you’re right… everyone has to grow up and mature on their own. Mistakes need to be made so one will understand 1) that there are consequences, and 2) there can always be another choice made. This is a new concept that I have just recently understood! At 50, for cryin’ out loud!
Me: Wednesday, I’m going to visit a psychologist. It’s cheap under my current work benefits, so I might as well take advantage of it. It will be difficult for me to talk to a stranger—I rarely open up to anyone at all—but I think it’s time to get a little help.
Most especially, I want to figure out if I was truly molested in childhood, or if it was just made up in my brain as some childish plea for attention.
Aside from that, though, I’ve had various people tell me that I might be bipolar, a sociopath, have social anxiety issues, and even mild schizophrenia! Haha, well I’m no doctor, but I’ll keep my mind open.
Aunt: You and I share more than either one of us ever knew. Please tell me about your childhood. Children do not make things up; adults do. And seeking clarity for anything has my stamp of approval. I support you. And I know how scary this is. I have talked about my memories and experiences to only a small handful of trusted women. And it wasn’t until I was 48 that I had the courage to do so. Check out Marilyn Van Derbur…
[Additional information: SUMMARY OF RELATIONSHIP WITH MY AUNT
My aunt says that she lived with us briefly when I was born, but I do not remember it. She lived in the house next door to my grandparents (her mom and dad), and they all lived in the neighboring state, maybe about 3 hours away from us. I saw her maybe about once a year as I was growing up. As far back as I can remember, she always lived with another woman and I grew up thinking that they were a lesbian couple, although I never saw them acting affectionate in front of us.
We had rekindled contact somehow, in 2009. I told her some details of my past, and she sympathized with my difficult relationship with my dad. She told me that she was homeless. Not technically homeless, but she was living in a house where the owner routinely helped people who were having trouble finding a home. I think she was in the northwest U.S., then. I sent her a “care package” filled with fun things and cookies and food. I also sent her some money as a donation that doesn’t need to be paid back ever, but I don’t remember how much.
Later, she thanked me for the package; she informed me that she was unable to eat the food like normal, because she didn’t have any teeth. I had no idea, otherwise I would not have sent her crunchy snack bars!
She reminded me that her partner had multiple sclerosis, which I had already known for years. What I didn’t know was that her partner had moved back down to a southern state, to be with her family of origin. The MS had really “acted up” and she kept thinking that my aunt and my grandparents were constantly spying on her and wanting to plot her death or something. When she moved out, then, that really hurt my aunt, who said that she coped by drinking a lot of alcohol. She tried a few AA meetings once but that didn’t last long. She got on some dating websites and “adult” websites, and met with some guys for one-night stands and sexual activities. I was confused by this because my parents had always been making jokes about her being a lesbian and so I’d always assumed she was a lesbian. Now, in 2009, my aunt was telling me that she was not a lesbian and actually prefers men. I didn’t quite believe her, or know what to think.
She would send out emails to multiple email addresses, including mine. Her emails came across as pages from a diary or journal: deeply personal stuff that I normally wouldn’t share with anyone. I didn’t recognize most of the email addresses, but I sure did recognize one in the list: it was my dad’s. I was very angry at this, because at the time, my address was my full name (first, middle, last @yahoo.com) and it would be very easy for him to glance at the list and see my name and try to contact me again, and I feared him suddenly showing up in my life. At this time in my life, he was a “monster” that I wanted absolutely no contact with. I didn’t want him knowing where I lived or worked or what my email address even was. So I asked my aunt to please remove my email address from hers, because I don’t want contact with my dad.
He sent me an email and I got angry. I assumed it was because he found my address through my aunt’s bulk emails.
I thought she would understand about me not wanting contact with him, especially because just a few weeks earlier, she told me that she would never violate that trust, because she understands how I feel about my dad, at least a little bit. And now here she was, sharing my email with all these people! She didn’t seem to understand, though. She seemed to misinterpret this and got angry at me, sarcastically saying that she thought I cared enough to want to be informed about her life. But reading her “diary emails” wasn’t the problem—it was the sharing of the email address. But her wall was already up. It seemed like no more communication was possible, and I could no longer explain to her what was going on. She wasn’t making any sense, anymore (at least to me). So I let it go. I moved on. We haven’t talked since 2009.
In 2011 or 2012, my sister told me that she doesn’t like her and doesn’t trust her. My sister said that every time this Aunt (we have two aunts) showed up or contacted our grandparents (my Aunt’s mom and dad), it was only to get money, and that she was manipulative and using them for money.]