Last entry I mentioned my family's lack of discussions... the central subject, the bush being beaten around, is my sister K, about whom I'm having one of my regular, neurotic anguish attacks. Much background is required to bring the novice up to speed on this issue; the central point is she was adopted by my parents, who desired (and wanted to assure) female offspring after having four boys naturally (I am the second). She arrived when I was thirteen, after 8 weeks of post-birth foster care. <1>
I called home yesterday and had a nice chat about her very earliest days with my Mom, leaving the message asking that K call back <2>. Rather than the requested dialogue, instead I received this long, rambling email, filled with a lot of her usual boilerplate. Twice she says that she knows what my opinion is (about exactly what isn't made clear) and as ever when she's speaking, the subject is only herself. She'll talk, but she doesn't want to listen. I haven't answered; she's become so defensive and hostile that anything personal or serious I say is either denied or ignored. Still, we pretend to get along - during my visit home I gave her some more Lush bath bombs I got in Vancouver. Yet, beneath the surface lies a tragic antagonism, which I regret, remembering how splendid were our relations in the past, and how they deteriorated along with her sweet nature.
The central issue is how over-protective my father is towards his daughter, now thirty years old, unemployed and living at home. She's never moved away from her parents, never lived with other people, and has been "fired from every job she's had," according to one of my brothers' wives. Since her Daddy insulates her from the natural consequences of dealing with people, it's not easy for her to compromise.
When I was discussing compulsive liars previously, I recognized K as the type who "exaggerates to tell a better story". In fact I think she now lives partly in a fantasy world constructed from the lies she tells (and believes herself). This fragile world is propped up by the Patriarch, and it won't be upset (although that's what's so desperately needed) until there's some change in his status. At some point she'll become dependent on someone else. The possibilities are awful to contemplate.
My friend G says she represents my "shadow": that's a Jungian term for those things we dislike in ourselves, but I think his idea was more complex. For my own well-being I must detach - when I get too close I get upset. And when I (or any of my brothers) get angry with her, the Patriarch always becomes involved and turns the situation around so it's not her problem. The outsider is frequently amazed at how we all ignore or tolerate (and in my Dad's case, are oblivious to) her childish, "spoiled-brat" behavior <3>. It makes family get-togethers a chore (with undercurrents of tension), and depressing because I'd really like to be with her, but her obnoxious, repellent manner drives me away. And she could care less.
"Somewhere there's a happy medium between pretending everything is OK and being an obnoxious whiny brat."- a quote from a new Journal I've been reading - he's a musician and college student up in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
I was thinking about Samantha Smith - she was the Maine schoolgirl invited to the USSR in 1983 by General-Secretary Yuri Andropov (the short-time leader pre-Gorbachev and post-Brezhnev). He invited her after he received her letter about her fear of nuclear war. They both died around 1985... I'm trying to recall the text of a one-panel cartoon I once saw which had the spirits of Samantha and Yuri floating around together, talking.
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<1> What a mean situation for the child, adoption. Watching how upset my brother's new twins become if their parents get too far away, I think what an incredibly rude and traumatic thing to do to your own kid, abandoning it to strangers. Back
<2> Since she avoids answering the phone - she has a beeper. Back
<3> Good article in today's Salon about bratty behavior, and the parents that cause it Back