Thursday, October 07, 2010

My expulsion from my family

I have written a little bit in my blog about the odd circumstances surrounding my expulsion from my family, but I haven't written much, because it's the kind of thing that probably won't be improved by being aired in a public forum -- even if my blog is only read by a handful of people, it's still nominally public.  I certainly don't want to belabor any of it with only "my side" -- even if I still don't know what the sides are, or what the disagreement was.

Suffice to say that for reasons I never understood, my mother got upset enough with me to cut me off from the family, essentially declaring that I was no longer part of it.  This went so far as to have her not tell me about the health and eventual death of my own grandmother, with whom I had always been pretty close, and who held no bad feelings towards me that I ever learned of (by the time all this was happening, she was well into Alzheimer's and wasn't aware of the fight, whatever it was).  Not only wasn't I invited to the funeral, I didn't even find out that she'd died until many years later.  (My mother even avoided posting an obituary since I could have learned about the death that way even from Vermont.)  I feel that I never found out the real reason, that there's something else in my mother's mind about me that I was never able to answer since I never was told about it.

What I did hear never made much sense; she seemed to be angry at me for the temerity of moving away from Long Island, which made me "think I was too good for the rest of the family" or something (I find it very funny to learn that she has since moved away from Long Island), and for the fact that, having spent many vacations and many thousands of dollars returning to Long Island for various visits, I wanted someone to come visit me.  (It only seemed fair.  Besides which, and maybe saying this sounds like more of that "too good for you" thing, it just seems to make more sense to me for them to visit a place they haven't seen, and thus get double value out of the trip, than for me to go see a place I've seen many times.  Plus I had guest rooms available so it wouldn't cost them anything more than the time and some gas.)  Does that all add up to enough to justify excommunicating someone from their family?

Anyway, when this all happened, it was conveyed to me that my sister, who also lived on Long Island, was part of the "we" in all the first-person-pronouns my mother was using.  And then I never heard from her, either, so I had no reason to doubt it.   I'd been told I was cut off from my entire family, and so it seemed.  A few times I heard from my paternal grandmother, but since I didn't know whether she was part of the "we" (she and my mother had gotten along well at some times and not so well at others) I never took that as meaning there was any change from the rest of the family.  And the few times I made some effort to reach out to my mother, the response -- or more commonly the complete lack of one -- showed no sign of change.

Some people, on hearing this story, dredge up the lesson from every sentimental family movie, and seem positive that I should find some way to reconnect with my mother.  But I don't think my life is a movie, or at least not that kind.  The way I see it is, my mother is the one who burned the bridge.  I don't even really know what she's upset about; she closed off so firmly as to refuse to even tell me.  (Either that, or it's nothing more than the moving-away and wanting-to-be-visited stuff, which seems ridiculous.)  And I have made a few overtures and she rebuffed them unambiguously.  So it's not really my place to be the one to "make things right".  To the best of my knowledge, I never made them wrong to begin with, and if I did, if she won't tell me how I can't really do anything about it.  If she wants to never hear from me, know about my life, or be reminded of my existence, then that's her decision, and what else can I do but respect her wishes?  To force myself into her life out of some sentimental-movie-inspired desire to "reconnect" would just be obnoxious and inappropriate and rude.

Would I mind if things got patched up?  No.  I am mildly upset and hurt with her for the way she brushed me off, but there's nothing in that to hold a grudge about, and I'm not a grudge-oriented person anyway.  If she contacted me one day and said, "hey, that was a big mix-up, here's what I was really upset about, let's talk it out and see if we can resolve it," I'd be entirely on-board.  (Though I think I would have to remind her that if I am resistant to telephone, it's nothing personal, I avoid using telephones with everyone.  And that, yes, I still don't want to use my travel budget to come back to Long Island every year, while no one ever visits me, ever.  But that is the extent of what would be on my side of the negotiations, and that doesn't seem like a lot to me.)  I'm more upset about her not even being willing to tell me of Nana's health and death, but again, forgiving that would be, after this much time, very easy.

But if we never do get patched up, I'm not going to be miserable about it, either.  If she prefers to not have me in her life, then so be it.  I will respect her wishes, and while I suppose I'll miss out on one person in the world who might have cared about me once, life is full of times when someone who cared for you once is no longer there, and we move on because the only alternative is to die a little bit.

I hope this post doesn't seem like I'm unfairly only airing my side.  I would certainly be airing the other side if I knew what it was, if I had the first glimpse of what my crime is supposed to be, if I had any confidence there really is, at its heart, any cogent and reasonable objection to my actions.  In fact, the fact that no one will ever spell out any such accusations seems suspicious -- it makes me doubt that there is anything at the heart of it, save something that is too irrational to be spoken aloud because it would crumble if exposed to the light of reason.  But maybe there's something there I don't know about.  I would welcome hearing it, if it were presented sanely and cogently.  But this isn't like a mystery novel either -- if there's never a parlor scene I won't be unable to get to sleep.

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