Monday, April 1, 2013

On Thin Ice

I feel frustrated and angry, and frustrated.

I have tried, literally for years, to walk the delicate balance of staying in touch with my sister and not upsetting her.  Living abroad far away from her, I would send tasty presents for holidays - even though sometimes I was literally chasing her, as she was changing addresses faster than I could know where to ship.
I would fall into traps when talking with her sometimes. "Yeah Mom and Dad don't even listen to me when I talk to them," she would say to me.
"I know what you mean," I would say reassuring, "I get the same thing."
"Look at how you have no respect!" she would shoot back, "They are old, OK! They don't go as fast as they used to, try to be more understanding!"
"OK, but I," I would try to explain.
"Don't start, again," she says, "you have nothing to complain about."
My wife has advised me not to discuss too much when I talk to my sister, just listen, say I love you and that's it.

In hoarding families, many children of hoarders describe the children falling into different categories: The Golden Child and the other child. The Golden Child is perceived as being the preferred child to the parents, creating resentment in the other child. Sometimes the golden one grows up with an over absorbed sense of self.  This takes the heat and focus away from the hoarders, pitting the children against each other.

I believe in our family dynamics my parents crowned my as The Golden Child, leaving my sister eternally resentful. Despite my efforts to reach out to her, and shake this title from my head, she has persisted in venting her anger towards me.

After my parents last visit to her (last year), my father made it quite obvious that he was not interested in talking about my sister with me. In telephone conversations, he kept recounting the weather, and how he mowed the lawn for his Japanese neighbor. I brought the conversation back to how  was the visit to my sister. "I don't want to talk about it," he said, "it is like walking on thin ice being with her. Everything upsets her."

Then last year, my sister threw a new zinger that she had been pregnant last year, and had a baby. I tried to be happy and calm, but also said I would have liked to have heard earlier.
"You don't know how stressful it is to talk to you," she said.

My parents who had visited her when she was pregnant, never mentioned that detail either, making me feel like they were either in on the family conspiracy or are in denial and wanted to avoid that issue altogether.

I keep flipping this incident around because now my parents have declared they plan to permanently move in with my sister in the coming months, and they dance around that topic too, not being too clear on how they see that working out considering their past experiences.

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