It would be an understatement to say that this was the worst visit we have ever had to my mother’s. I am pretty sure the reason is because my sister was there. My sister is miserable and she hates her life and she tries to bring everyone else down around her. Even my mother, who has the people skills of a gnat, noticed that everyone was ‘walking on egg shells’ because of Kathy. She goes out of her way to bring people down by insulting them. She does not dare do it to my mother. Although, ironically, after my mother said something snarky to me Kathy told her to be careful with what she says as ‘her words can hurt people.’
All this lead in to discuss one of the most hurtful things ever said to me by a member of my family. After I had spent 6 or so hours fixing her fucked up laptop she said thank you and then added: “We wondered for years if you would ever be of use.” Be of use? WTF? I was so completely stunned by her comment that I could say nothing. As I thought about it I became increasingly angry. This comment from a woman who’s greatest educational achievement was to barely graduate as a legal secretary. She got a job at a real estate law firm then screwed something up so badly that it cost them $50,000 and they fired her. She waitressed for a year or two after that and has not worked in over 10 years. I could go on and on about her and her screwed up life but there is no point. I realized that while Deb and I have grown, changed, dealt with our issues head on – she has not. She is still the 5-year-old girl, who I had to look after when I was 7, who came home from grade 1, took all of her clothes off and proceeded to watch TV and who refused to go back to school. She has the same coping skills now as she did then – have a temper tantrum and yell and scream if you don’t like what is going on.
The other favourite pass time they have when I visit is trying to push my buttons by saying extremely racist things – this visit was no different. However, *I* was different. I was affected by a post by Melissa McEwan at Shakesville which basically said being an ally is about always standing up and challenging racist, classist, homophobic, transphobic etc views. She goes on to argue that it is the ultimate expression of privilege to decide when you will say something and when you will not. I chose to be a real ally this time and to challenge the racist vitriol that spewed from my mother, my sister and my mother’s gardener (who we really liked and now we are not so sure). I won’t go into the details of the discussions as I will not give my voice to their racist comments. I chose to handle it differently this time and instead of telling them that they were wrong I told them that I choose to be respectful of other people and what they were saying was offensive. They didn’t get it, I didn’t expect them to but I could not let it stand. I also did not care if the atmosphere became very uncomfortable for a while either.
During this visit it became very clear that my mother and sister are stuck. They do not challenge themselves to grow and change. I am more forgiving of my mother as she is 73 but my sister is only 42. It is really very sad. I now know that nothing she says to me is rooted in the reality of 2009. We are still back in 1972, where I am the older sister and she is not going to do what I say. The interesting thing is I really have nothing to say to her about how she lives her life. It is not my business and she would just get mad at me if I ever said anything anyway.