Monday, February 08, 2010

Sister Sister

My sister is getting married.

Wait, you're thinking, her sister already got married. Back in December, right? What happened? Are they part of some bigamist cult? I mean, they do live in Florida after all and that kind of crap is common down there isn't it?

No. My other sister is getting married. And my other other sister got married last July, making a total of three sisters (out of four total, not including me which would make five) getting married in one year.

What in the hell is she talking about, you wonder. She just has one sister. The one who managed not to murder any of the patrons at the Cajun bar where she was forced to work a double on the Super Bowl Sunday when the Saints won.

Umm. No. I have a total of four sisters actually. I just don't really know three of them and I've hesitated to write about them because I was generally just sort of freaked out about their very existence and I didn't know them anyway. But now, I'm just putting it all out there. I'm going to be Mrs. Oversharington here and let you all enjoy the neverending, hyperbolic drama from every possible direction that is my life.

The sister you know is the one I grew up since I was eleven and she was three. She isn't even my sister at all. She's my mother's half sister, my half aunt but we were raised like sisters. She's my grandfather's daughter from his marriage after my grandmother. That marriage didn't work and she and my grandfather lived with us on and off for several years. When my grandfather died, my sister came to live with us permanently. We aren't blood sisters, but we have the relationship of sisters and calling each other sisters is far easier than going through a paragraph long explanation of our actual relationship, that no one can quite grasp anyway.

On my biological father's side, I have five siblings: three sisters and two brothers. I don't know them. These are the children he had with my stepmother Louise and all were born after my mother had finally gotten custody of me after many long years of trying. I moved away from Millpond to New York at the end of sixth grade. I moved in June and their first daughter was born in July, so I only got to see her as a massive, veiny swell under my stepmother's hideously frumpy maternity jumpers.

My stepmother Louise was a cruel, selfish woman. She was a zealot, smug, self righteous and judgmental, though utterly lacking in good judgment. She was vicious and manipulative and I believe, especially now that she's dead and I've learned a lot more about her, mentally ill, though I couldn't really put my finger on any definite diagnosis, unless plain hateful is somewhere in the DSM.

Louise was young when she married my father. She was a middle school teacher at my school and had, what I now realize, is a very idealistic (and unrealistic) expectation of what her life was going to be like. She wanted to marry, have as many children as possible and stay home to take care of them. Then, all of them would grow up to be violin concertos, missionaries and PhDs. The girls would never wear pants or cut their hair. The boys would be doctors or pastors or even both. The children would all speak several languages. She'd homeschool them all. These children would be disciplined within and inch of their lives. They'd be prodigies with impeccable manners and multiple talents. Everything would be perfect and there would be no deviation from her plan.

The biggest problem was me. She chose to marry a man knowing he had been married once, for a short time, when he was very young and that marriage had produced a daughter, whom he had custody of. To her, this was unacceptable and it didn't mesh with her plan. I've always wondered why she went ahead and married him. Maybe she really loved him, but I have a hard time believing she was capable of love. I think she didn't have a lot of options. Louise was ugly. She was an unkempt girl with snarly hair, very bad skin and her outfits were always thrown together and full of wrinkles and cat hair. Nothing matched and she always smelled like moth balls. She had squinty eyes and a mouth that looked like it was drawn with a very sharp pencil. Besides being unattractive, she just wasn't pleasant to be around because she was always making arrogant religious statements and telling everyone they were going to hell. This is not a way to make friends. Most men would not want to marry a religious fanatic who'd been beat by the ugly stick. Except my father, who was just as mean and smug and ugly as she was. I honestly think these two were soul mates. No more perfect match could have ever been made. They were exactly alike.

But he had a kid and that didn't mesh with her perfect plan, and besides that I was already nine when they married so that meant I had passed the age of being able to learn languages and musical instruments. You have to start kids in infancy apparently. I was no prodigy at anything. I had no discernible talents and all that scribbling I did in notebooks I called journals was a waste of time and probably sinful. Louise had to get rid of me. She had to make me so miserable that I would want to go live with my mother in another state. It had to be MY choice so she could play the victim. She couldn't be seen as a woman who got rid of her husband's child. Her plan worked and just in time for her to have a new baby. Unfortunately, the part of the plan that didn't work was the part where she looked like the victim. No one bought her crap and the entire town of Millpond despised her and gossiped about her. A few months after I moved, she convinced my father to move far away and start a new life in a distant, northern state. Once there, they got caught up in a cult-like church, which conveniently for her, encouraged its members to give up their worldly, non-believing families and become a part of the church family instead. They had very, little contact with my aunts and uncles and grandparents after the move and zero contact with me.

Conveniently, they were in a new place where no one knew their pasts. To all involved, they were a young, newlywed couple just starting out and having their first child. I did not exist. No one knew about me. Louise had done it. She had her idealistic, unrealistic plan in place. She had five children. I never met any of them. I knew about them from other relatives telling me they were born.

At my wedding in 2005, my aunts told me Louise had been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. It's the most aggressive form of breast cancer. It usually had a bad prognosis. There was little hope for Louise because she had grown massively obese, was sedentary, had poor nutrition and tested positive for a breast cancer gene that had already killed several female family members. Everyone present at my wedding said that Louise deserved her fate, except me. I felt sad for her.

Suffering from the condition of unrealistic idealism myself, I decided to write her a letter and try to make things right with her before she died, to tie up some karmic loose ends so she could pass from this earth without unfinished business with me. I wanted to forgive her. I wanted to show her what a good loving person, what a successful person I had turned out to be in spite of the fact that I dropped out of high school, had premarital sex and couldn't play a note on a violin. I imagined some scene out of Anne of Green Gables where she'd weep and beg my forgiveness and sob about how wrong she'd been to me. In my letter, I was positive and hopeful, but I also didn't mince words. I told her she'd hurt me and that what she'd done was wrong, though I said I was willing to move past that now. I just knew that now that she had cancer and was facing certain death that she'd soften and change.

I am a complete, flipping idiot.

Louise was always a bitch and now she was just a bitch with cancer.

She wrote me back. She did. I'll give her that, but all I got was a terse "I'm sorry you still think after all these years that I hurt you." That is not an apology. Then she just basically proceeded to brag about how great her five kids were and all the things they could do. After that she asked me if I went to church and then sent me a bunch of tracts about getting saved and Armageddon.

Louise knew she was going to die and she started a blog about her cancer. Now if I were dying, I'd write something for my kids to remember me by. I'd write about them, and all the things I loved. I'd give them advice for their lives for the times I wouldn't be there. I'd write about how much I loved them. I'd write memories and moments and capture the best parts of my life. Did Louise do that? No. She essentially did nothing except complain about her treatments (and I cut her slack on that because I get how bad it is), and ask for people to pray for her and bring her things. She'd put lists of things she wanted so people would get them for her. She rarely mentioned her children. I don't know if maybe I'm just pissed and biased. I tried to be sensitive about this blog, but it just seemed so self centered, so all about her suffering and nothing positive and nothing to really remember her fondly by.

Towards the end, she mentioned that they needed money. Their car had died and the oldest daughter Chastity had quit her job to take care of her mother in hospice. She had no money to get by after making this huge sacrifice. She asked people to pray for money for them.

What did I do? I sent their asses $300. I had apparently lost my mind. Lost it. It was crazy, like I still wanted these horrible people's approval. That's the only reason I did it. I admit that. It wasn't altruistic at all. I sent them that money because I wanted them to see that I had it and that I could be the bigger, kinder, more generous person in spite of everything they'd done to me - that I was the truly good one no matter what they said and that they were wrong wrong wrong about me.

This is so stupid. I knew better deep down, but I did it anyway.

A week letter I received a thank you note in the mail from Chastity, the oldest daughter, profusely thanking me and mentioning Jesus a few times.

That was it. Then Louise died. Then, although I was in California and couldn't have come anyway, my father made sure that he got the message to me that I was not welcome at Louise's funeral under any circumstances. I don't know why he thought I'd come. Asshole.

Louise died at Christmas. In January I get an email from Chastity, the oldest daughter. There are three daughters - Chastity, Charity and Mercy. In her email Chastity said she wrote her mother's obituary and that it had originally included me as a survivor of the deceased. Survivor. That's the perfect way to describe it. I had definitely survived Louise. I survived her like a natural disaster. My father had thrown such a fit that she had to remove it.

"Your mother would never have wanted that," he said to Chastity.

She wrote to me that there was a lot I didn't know and that she always wanted to know about me and who I was. She had found a hidden stash of pictures of me from my childhood in their attic. She said she always knew she had a sister far away, but was threatened never to mention it. Now that her mother was dead and Chastity was an adult, she said she wanted a real relationship with me.

"I've always wanted a big sister and now I need one. This is a really hard time in my life. Can I have your phone number? I just want someone to talk to."

How could I not fall for that line? How?

I fell, and hard. I landed face first on asphalt from it. I gave her my number and proceeded to open up a Pandora's box of drama that now, two years later, hasn't ended.

To be continued...


Rich said...

Looking forward to the rest....

Anne said...

Sounds kind of like the lunacy I dealt with when I met my birth-family! Can't wait to read the rest of the story...

kerry said...

Well, yes, it's logical that she would be having a hard time after losing her mother and that she would reach out to surviving family, so yes, I can see why you would believe her.

Can't wait to hear the rest...

Jean said...

Today's old adage -- "No good deed goes unpunished."

Sometimes, darlin', you have to say No, I won't open this door. It's shut for a reason.

Anonymous said...

I have a phobia of Christians because of shit very similar to this. Give me an honest, fire breathing whore any day; at least I know what's in front of me. I have been treated so badly by so-called "Christians" that I am genuinely phobic.

As a side note, all of my sister-in-laws are fundamentalist Pentecostals. I am watching their male offspring grow up obviously gay. The fecal material *will* hit the oscillating device and, frankly, I cannot wait.


Wide Lawns said...

Maureen, me too. I am totally with you. I was going to mention my panic attacks in church tomorrow. Definitely caused by all this mess.

dissed said...

No, no! It's a trap!! This is what they DO.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to the rest of this story.

Anonymous said...

I have never commented here before, but this seemed so strange to me that I had to mention it.

To this day do your 'sisters' never cut their hair and always wear skirts? Do they live in Wisconsin?

Its just that I went to school with a girl who had never cut her hair and was forced by her father to wear skirts all the time. She was also a part of some very strange cult that I didn't ask too many questions about.

It seemed like a very strange coincidence to me... but eh, but the world is a wide and weird place.

Missicat said...

What Maureen said. Fundies will burn ya every time.
Yes, I speak from experience!

Jean_Phx said...

How much money did Chastity want? I'm sure see saw you for a cash machine since you loved them all so much and cared so much for Louise that you would want them to have the money ;-) I can't wait to read the rest - what a piece of work Louise was. After your previous posts about her I actually get angry at a person I don't know and am so pleased that she wasn't able to ruin your life more than she did.

Moll said...

Wow. Can't wait for the rest of the story. Families are effing nuts, but I love that in some ways we do choose who our family is. Some will be related by blood and others not, but I don't believe in that "you can't pick your family" bull. Because you absolutely can.

Anonymous said...

I hate to leave an anonymous comment, but I'm going to on the off chance my own crazy person googles my usual handle...

The cluster B personality disorders in the DSM qualify as "plain hateful" and also "abusive jerks."

Note: a (possible) diagnosis is NOT an excuse, just a label.

- Mr. E -

skippy said...

Wow. I can't wait to keep reading- Snaps to you for surviving the crazy fundamentalists. We had a brief spell with a religious whack job (my husband's ex-wife) who fits the profile you described...after staying close enough to create drama for a couple of years, she finally ran off to oral roberts university, and trust me, a day doesn't go by that I'm not thankful for that. You sound really grounded for having dealt with such a bag of trouble-twisted souls. Keep writing, we'll keep reading!!!!!!!

Hey! My Sock! said...

Never has the wisdom of Admiral Ackbar had such resonance. "It's a trap!"

Melanie said...

Don't you mean violin virtuosos? Instead of violin concertos?

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