old (2008), Uncategorized

countdown to texas

This afternoon I had a pretty awesome conversation with my brother. In a little more than a week, I’m going to see him graduate from college — he’s 32 and it’s (obviously) taken him a long time, and probably more than the average person I know what it’s like to get that degree after more than a decade filled with hardship and heartache, not to mention snide comments and ill-humored jokes from family members who seem to take joy in seeing my siblings and I fall flat on our faces.

The conversation turned toward what’s going to happen when all of us are in the same room, and of course I’m the nexus of conflict there. There’s no love lost between my parents, but they’ve been divorced for twenty years now (and they are both remarried), so any explosive tendencies they had toward each other have been doused by both time and distance. My sister has had her own problems getting along with my father, but since she moved back to Texas, they’ve been at least able to visit with each other without threatening homicide. Me, though? Well, I’m the one who’s not talking to any of them (except my brother). I haven’t even seen or talked to my mother or sister for five years, and I’ve spent a total of four minutes talking to (and two hours in the same room as) my father since September 2001. And even though my brother repeated what he’s said to me a million times — “Sis, you’re totally in the right there; I wish I had the strength to walk away after what they did to you” — he also expressed that he’s extremely anxious that it’s all going to blow up in some fashion, and that’s (understandably) causing him a great deal of anguish.

And then here’s where my sobriety comes into play. Rather than being defensive or trying to change his mind or tell him he was silly because I wasn’t going to do anything, I remembered what it was like when I was getting married and had the same fears, and I empathized with him. And then I said, “Bro, I know how much this means to you, and I will walk away or walk out of the room if someone tries to start something with me. I want you to remember your graduation day as the one where your big sister came to support you, not the day when you regretted inviting her.” And he thanks me, then said, “I have a lot of faith that you’ll be the one taking the high road, because I already saw how you did that at Grandpa’s funeral.” And he also expressed gratitude that I’d be putting his needs above my own — and, really, they aren’t even my needs any more. I’ve been relieved of any desire I had for retribution toward my parents, and all I can really hope for next weekend is a chance to show up for my brother without them abusing me in the same ways they have in the past. Not likely, since I’m an entirely different person, but I’m sure they will try their best.

Today I’m grateful to be sober because it means I can show up for my brother next week and act like a responsible human being, one who attends important events to support and be proud of her loved ones, and who leaves all the bullshit and garbage outside, where it belongs. And I’m also grateful to have a wonderful brother, who understands how difficult life has been for me, and who can appreciate that I’m working hard to make positive changes. Still, I can’t help but laugh at how he said, “We can go out for a few beers to celebrate!” and I said, “Well, you can have beer, but I won’t,” and he responded, “You can’t even have a BEER?” No, dear brother, I can’t. But that just means I get to be a better sister to you than ever before. Namaste.