Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Am Not My Brothers' Or My Sisters' Keeper

...and I'm sure as hell not responsible for their whiney-assed kids' problems, right?  Right!?  Okey dokey, here's my take on it.

"Mutual Reciprocity" breaks down as "You scratch my back and I'll scratch your's."  More finitely, it is the give and take in any relationship that make bonds that don't break easily, or conveniently, when the going gets tough.

The mutual reciprocity I want to address here is in my own very large family.  I've been kicking this around in my head forever, but some recent spewing of drunken rhetoric by the youngest family dipso set me off afresh. 

For background, I am the youngest of nine children.  My now antique mother was quite scandalously married twice, having two children by a rather abusive, alcoholic and ignorant man, divorcing him - also very scandalously - and then marrying my father and proceeding to have {GULP!} seven more children.  

My two oldest half-sibs could have been my parents at more than twenty years older than me at my birth.  We basically grew up with my half-sister's kids and I am auntie to several nephews and nieces who are older than I am.

My oldest natural brother was 18 when I was born.  He was married and had twin girls of his own when I was not quite five and they came back to Maine to live with us for awhile.  He and his wife shortly thereafter had a little boy and divorced, and we all lost track of one another. 

Now that we're all adults and life has taken its toll on us, the blame has started.  It actually started a long time ago, but only recently has it come to a boiling pointing of fingers and gestures, accusations hurled and ultimatums laid down.  

Here's the gist, at least as I see it.  These few nieces and nephews expect me and my siblings to "do something for them."  We are expected to somehow make up for the losses they suffered as children for all the divorces, their parents' substance abuses and various sufferings.  As siblings to their parents - even though we were children and are virtually the same age as these now whining adults looking for "justice" - we are being looked at as the "Ones to Blame for Everything That Life Did Not Give Them."

My cool brother said to me that one of the nieces angrily said to him, "What did you ever do for me?!"  He remarked laughingly to me that he didn't know he had any sort of obligations and golly gosh, what had she ever done for him?

Well, no shit, and that's my point.  I cannot comprehend what it is we, as their parents' sibs were expected "to do" for them?  Does that strike anyone as stupid?  And does this give them the freedom to feel slighted all these years and blame their aunts and uncles for their crappy childhoods?  Don't get me wrong - they blame everyone on earth, but we're closer and can be actually scorned in public.  It's harder to make everyone on earth feel badly because those people truly don't give a shit about these whiney little pukes who stopped their emotional growth at age "whatever."

And here's some more truth:  I grew up in a house of nine people, ten when my oldest half-sister was home when I was just a baby.  We had one bathroom.  My father worked his ass off and Mom kept things running at home.  To say that we were poor doesn't even say enough.  Mom suffered from severe depression and when my two older sisters graduated high school and left to make their own lives, I was nine years old and thus began the darkest days of my young life.

There is a huge misconception amongst the older nieces and nephews that our lives were a bed of roses.  This is a dream, a lie, a construct they made up to get them through their darkest days.  Sorry to burst your bubble, kids. We had it as hard as you did, just in a different way.

I will always love these "kids" because they are my brothers' and sisters' children, just like they will always love their brothers' and sisters' children.  But I owe them nothing else.  I cannot make up for what their parents did or didn't do.  I can't bring back their childhoods or make them feel whole where life tore them apart. It's not my job; it's theirs.

Now, if I could only make my self believe my sober rhetoric and stop feeling guilty that my love for them clearly isn't enough to make them whole.

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