How does one mend fences when the intended recipient is too stubborn to make peace? Is it OK to admit you no longer can have a relationship with a sibling when your parents have passed on?
It pains me to say that I have not spoken to one sibling since we walked away from the gravesite of my father more than 18 months ago. Due to a need for a medical history of my dad prior to my own potentially serious surgical procedure, I had two uncomfortable conversations with the other sibling.
Reflecting back, there is not one moment when things changed. The death of our mother almost 34 years ago did alter the relationship, but we rallied around the fact that our dad needed us . . . until he didn’t.
Then, there were multiple occasions where we commiserated about how his remarriage rocked our worlds. Perhaps it was the introduction of spouses to the equation. Since we do not pick our siblings’ mates, that certainly played a role in the divide. Jobs, kids, and socioeconomic differences were also a factor. And yes, the stubborn personality trait that we all inherited from our mom.
Accepting that one’s spouse was not your cup of tea was not a capacity that either of my siblings had, but as a middle child, I kept trying to look the other way. I had issues with theirs as well, but it was evident I was more tolerant.
Outsiders noticed the tenseness. I made excuses.
When my children were young, we were polite, but that soon changed and invitations to holidays, birthday parties, and casual gatherings disappeared.
Social media only made it worse, as I could see pictures of the two siblings and their spouses getting together—just miles from where I live. Initially, it hurt. I was alone in my struggles, including those which pertained to my then spouse. Me being private, and them judgmental, I kept these struggles to myself.
I reached out when each in-law lost a parent, to mixed results. I even attended a funeral and wake for one where the sibling refused to acknowledge my presence, to the dismay of his wife. My brother-in-law tried to stay in touch, especially after he lost his father. He needed to vent his grief, and I compassionately listened. But the phone calls became fewer and fewer. We both knew my sister was none too pleased and when my dad died, his calls stopped altogether. Occasionally, I will receive an accidental text message, initiated by a group chat where the sender has no idea.
It is not like you advertise your estrangement from family.
Nor do you send updates of how you are doing. No happy birthday calls or merry Christmases. No joint visits to the cemetery to acknowledge the placement of dad’s headstone.
Sadly, no communication with my children either. Prior to the funeral, they would hear from their aunts and uncles via phone, text, and social media, but that has stopped.
So, what do I want from them today? A fresh start or a periodic hello. A family visit to the grave as is the custom in our tradition. I’d like to update them about my life and the changes we’ve endured since that sad day in October 2020. The good, the bad, and the ugly. It would be nice to establish a new rapport with them, acknowledge the transgressions on all sides and establish a healthy, new relationship.
Do I expect it? No, but as the perpetual optimist, I pray that the next time we gather it is not at a cemetery. It’s never too late to do the right thing . . . until it is too late.