Letter to My Brother

I can’t send this out of respect for my brother’s wish for no contact, so I’m going to write it here so I can get out some of the feelings I have about our estrangement.  Also, if I were going to send it, there’d be a need for heavy editing out of a need for diplomacy.   Warning, some foul language. 

Dear Bro,

I thought about you on what would have been Dad’s birthday.  And how we used to check in with each other then and on other family milestones and holidays.  It’s been nearly 2 years since the estrangement.  I miss having someone who could empathize with things like this.  I keep wondering what went wrong and how I could have done things differently.  But then I realize,  I didn’t choose the estrangement, you chose it.

I still don’t understand why I was substantially excluded from your wedding as I got conflicting explanations.  First it was an oversight, then it was  “tensions”  When I tried to find out what you meant by tensions by calling you to find out, you scheduled your time to call me back right before an AA meeting with all of 5 minutes to talk to me.  Then I got a little angry and dashed off an email where the worst thing I said was “toxic family bullshit”  And for which I apologized several hours later.  I took the time out to write an email apologizing again and explaining where I was coming from.  You needed time to process and said in the voicemail I wasn’t being “punished”.  Yet right after that voicemail,  you sent mom links to photos and not me.   Yeah, but I’m not being punished.  Riiiight.    Yes, I’ll admit after over a week of being pushed and the “non-punishment” of not being sent the link, I finally pushed back and left a few extremely nasty voicemails/emails that Wednesday & Saturday (when you refused to take my calls).  Neither of which I did to you previously.   I hadn’t left messages like that for you, nor had I  dodged your calls.

Because it may come as a surprise to you, but your calls weren’t always music to my ears.   Particularly during the prison stint.  There were days I was enjoying myself and didn’t want to hear your woe is me tales from the time you were arrested until the time you were released from your prison sentence.  The whole time of which probably spanned about 3 years.  And I had to listen to mom’s woe is me calls during that time about how sad she was you were in trouble/prison and her health.  But hey, I thought, that’s what family’s there for to support each other during good and bad times.   But apparently, I was only worthy for support during the bad times, not any meaningful inclusion in the good times or any of the tolerance family members have for each other’s flaws.  I didn’t cut you out of my life when you got arrested the first 2 times.  I supported you emotionally when you got sober and then again when you relapsed and had your 3rd arrest.

My angry reaction to the photos wasn’t  my proudest moment, but I think the decision that you don’t want contact with me delivered via email that Saturday was unnecessarily harsh.    And I did apologize for my role in things and have in fact sought therapy to learn from it and how I can change my behavior.

You can’t keep pushing someone repeatedly without expecting them to push back.  I took far worse from our darling, dear sainted mother nearly daily.  You remember how she used to get physical if I tried to stand up to her, don’t you?  I got away from the situation and I worked hard on forgiving her.   Since she stopped with the violence and there was less screaming,  I was still willing to be civil to her to keep the peace.  There’s apparently a different standard.  I’m supposed to take all of the shit from everyone and keep smiling, yet if I fling any back, all of the sudden, it’s an excommunicable from the family offense?

But being civil to her wasn’t good enough for her or  you, was it?  You still turned on me at her behest.  Was it the guilt/sense of obligation because she’s helped you out every time you get in trouble?  Or is it because I’m the one person in your life who won’t buy into the bullshit that you were railroaded this particular go round with the legal system?  For the love of all that’s holy, they had you on a freakin’ video doing what you were accused of.

No, you’re not Andy from Shawshank Redemption.   You managed to get your own dumb ass thrown into prison because you didn’t learn from the one of the other arrests not to do illegal shit and get into trouble.    And your actions affected more than you.   They affected mom, our stepdad and me.  But I figured since it was related to your drinking and you’d stopped drinking, you weren’t likely to do it again.  So I decided to be supportive of you during your time in prison and after, taking your calls, sending you books and notes for birthdays/Christmas.  And being emotionally supportive of you when you got out.

I was thrilled for you when you started turning your life around and met your wife.  That’s why I made an effort to celebrate and welcome your wife into our family both during your dating time, engagement and marriage.

I hope you do realize that having me out of the picture (literally as well as figuratively) will not stop mom from vindictively scapegoating people.  Look at how many people she’s estranged.  She’s been estranged from:

  • both of her sisters
  • her mother
  • her father
  • cousins
  • multiple long term friends

She told our Aunt [real name redacted] that she hoped her baby died when she was pregnant with Cousin [name redacted] and  had to move back in for a bit after problems with Uncle [real name redacted].   That’s right, she wished our cousin [name redacted] dead so she wouldn’t have to share a room and she was 16 at the time.  I could see a petulant three year old or five year old doing it, but she was fucking sixteen when she said that.  She also told her mother to drop dead shortly before our grandmother overdosed.  Again, she was young.  But she didn’t learn from that and kept saying horrible things to people.  And she still does that.

Remember when one of her best friend’s husband was in the hospital with heart trouble and she joked around that she hoped he died so they could hit the singles bars together?  And then he died and she started her weeping on the phone telling her she didn’t mean what she said when she called to tell mom the news?    I didn’t tell you until a few years ago because I wanted to shield you from it, but her reaction to when I came home from the hospital after signing dad’s DNR was “I hope the bastard dies”.  Then she told me not to tell you and went to comfort you.  What kind of a sick, fucked up thing is that to say about someone with end stage lung cancer to begin with?  And to the daughter who just had to sign the DNR? Then she played the weeping widow to another Aunt and us.  After she blocked the divorce dad tried to get to marry [name redacted] who he met after they split up and was there for him a decade and took care of him while he died.   Or how about when I took time off work and paid the airfare to take care of her when she had the mastectomy and she told me if I didn’t lose weight I could get breast cancer too (even though I was in the process of losing weight)?

She’s a nasty, toxic, vitrolic piece of work.  I still can’t understand why you let her demolish a nearly 4 decade long sibling relationship.  She may have poisoned the well when it comes to me with you & your wife, but you were the 2 who decided to drink from it.   And that’s on you, not me.  Before I even showed any anger, you had excluded me from family photos of the wedding (’til towards the end of the reception and from readings, toasts, the family table, etc.).  I managed to find a spot where no one would see me when I felt the tears coming and texted some friends for support.  I thought about just leaving, going back to my hotel and relaxing in the hot tub, but I didn’t want to make a scene, so I pulled myself together and went back to the reception.  When you called about it the next day, apologizing for the “oversight”, I accepted immediately and told you not to worry.  I didn’t want to cast a pall over your honeymoon.  Because unlike mom, I think weddings should be about the happy couple and a celebration of families joining together.  Not a fucking grudge match to punish one’s “enemies” with seating, exclusions from photos, the ceremony.  She would say that about dad at any mention of a wedding, how he’d better not sit near her at either of our weddings.   Well, wasn’t a problem for her at your wedding was it?  Her wish came true, after all.  Now, I realize lung cancer killed dad and took him away from us when he was just 45, but that miserable excuse for a human being who gave birth to us gloated about it and took pleasure in it.  Then tried to use her crocodile tears to gain sympathy and concern from people around her.  How fucked up is that?  And do you remember back before I learned not to cry/show weakness in front of her, I used to cry during some of the nastier tirades?  And she’d tell me to stop my crocodile tears?  Umm, projection much?

I’m not a particularly religious person, but all my thoughts, prayers and hopes go towards protecting your innocent, little daughter and any other kids you have from her.  I really hope she never turns on her like she’s done on others.  I hope and pray you’ll both be smart and strong enough to protect her.

4 thoughts on “Letter to My Brother

  1. So glad I found your blog. Your words and ability to explain the scapegoat phenomena has give me a life line. As the designated scapegoat, I too have written letters, hoping an intellectual controlled response to siblings’ and parental behavior would open their eyes; that they might finally “get it”. Of course it only fueled the flames of blame. I, like other scapegoats, have chosen the only means of survival. Escape. Leave.

    I especially like your comments on the need to not get over it until the healing has taken place. I’ve expressed outrage to my mother for allowing and instigating the blame and scapegoat role, but emotions are frightening to her and others in my family. I have a sister who is, I’m convinced, a sociopath — according the book The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout. This created more problems for me as the scapegoat. Ultimately I’ve chosen to see my scapegoat roll as a gift. Eventually I had to rely on my own judgment about myself. I, unlike my fellow family members, have chosen a conscious path with an honor code. I don’t like that it has taken more than five decades for me to finally see the sickness; to be able to excuse myself from the vileness, but I believe my gifts and talents have been better served for self expression.

    1. I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself about it taking 5 decades, took me over 4 myself and it’s something I’m still coming to terms with. Also, we’re fed a lot of family idealizing and mythology which makes it hard for us to speak our truth even when we recognize what’s going on. And people really don’t know much about personality disorders. I didn’t connect the dots with my mother until almost a couple of years ago.

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