However, this post is not, so, my apologies for the novel I’m about to write.
Any of you who’ve been following my blog for any length of time know that we are pretty much estranged from Tim’s family, for good reason, I might add. We do not talk to his brother and his wife at all. His wife is at the bottom of a lot of what tore this family apart and his brother did nothing to stop her. Then again, he is no prize himself and is just as much to blame for a lot of it too. We are civil to his sister and her husband but rarely see or talk to them. His sister is a pathological liar who played a big role in all this too. Tim talks to his parents to update them after doctor visits and on birthdays and such. I maintain civility with them really only for his sake and Olivia’s. I put on a good act despite how hard it is. I am VERY angry at these people. Besides what they’ve done to me, they screwed over my husband and my kid. We do not spend holidays with any of them anymore, or go on vacations to his parents’ Vermont house anymore. We are out of his family. On the rare occasions we see the nieces and nephews, we are fine with them. They didn’t cause this mess.
Before I go on, I want to say, if you know someone who is estranged from family, PLEASE, please do not throw the “guilt grenade” in their lap by saying, “life’s too short” implying that they should get over it and mend fences ’cause what if someone dies, or whatever. You just can’t know all that has happened. I can tell you, from experience, that these comments are hurtful and it’s just wrong to put the onus on the victims of things you cannot possibly know. Trust me, I can tell people just one story about what’s been done to us by the people in Tim’s family and they change their tune really quickly then. Usually their mouths are hanging open in shock, and forget getting into the things Tim dealt with as a child. And you do not need to tell us, people whose lives were invaded by myeloma in their early 40’s, that life is too short. WE KNOW.
So, let me set the stage here, as briefly as I can, because it’s still hard to get the whole idea without ALL the backround. 10 years ago, Tim was diagnosed with MM in March. His parents went to their VT house in May, as usual, and they generally stayed until September or October. My family was all we had to rely on whilst we went through this nightmare. Our daughter had to be babysat every time Tim had an appointment. He was getting ready for an auto transplant and my mom was driving back and forth, 45 minutes each way, to watch her for all his appointments and tests. Tim’s parents live only 3 miles from us. When he was going to have his hickman catheter placed, under anesthesia, and 4 days of super high dose chemo to start mobilizing his stem cells, his mother said they would come home to be there for that and help out with Olivia. Well, they changed their minds, never told us either, just never showed up. It wound up being the week his brother and sister’s families were going up there for vacation, but, it’s not like this was the first time that ever happened, and, at the very least, they could have called and asked if we needed them or told us they weren’t coming. They just never showed up and we had to rely on my family again and Tim and I went to the hospital alone. He was in so much pain after the procedure and I didn’t even have anyone to sit with him while I got the car. Here we were walking through the parking garage, him miserable and spaced out on pain meds and not one person in his family was within 350 miles of us. My husband felt embarrassed that his family was doing nothing and my family had to keep helping out. What choice did we have? People who found out he’d been diagnosed with cancer sometimes said to him, “oh, I’m sure your family is doing a lot to help out” and he would just kind of let that pass without commenting because, no, they weren’t. They weren’t helping at all.
Now, there is an awful lot that went on in between, including a fight in Oct. of 2011 that ended our relationship with his family as we’d known it, but, here we are, 10 years later, and Tim needs to have thyroid surgery in a few weeks. His mother knew he had an appointment with a surgeon to get the final word on that but went weeks without even calling to see how it went. Tim was thinking about not even telling them about the surgery. Just how many times are his parents going to treat him like he doesn’t matter? Now, in the past, when Tim’s sister had DCIS and had a breast removed, his parents were there for everything. And, 8 years ago, when his brother had his thyroid removed, they stayed home from VT to be there. Frankly, I think we both were a little afraid of what they would decide to do now. It was like bracing for another slap in the face. A few days ago, Tim decided to do the right thing and so he called to tell his parents about the surgery. If we kept it from them, obviously it would create more hard feelings as they would know we did it on purpose. His mother was noncommittal when he told her. They were leaving for VT 2 days later. The next day, Tim called her from his cell on the way home from his oncology visit to update her on the results of his last cycle. She then told him, after discussing it with his father since the phone call the previous day, that they would keep in touch with me via phone the day of his surgery, meaning, they aren’t going to bother coming home to be there for him. I am stunned. These people who claim to be so upset over the estrangement from Tim, don’t care to even be here while he has surgery. So, after a day of talking this out with him, my sister, and a buddy, here is my take: 1. his parents always bring stress and aggravation to any situation they are involved in, so, I think Tim and I are both better off not having them there and 2. we did not need more proof that we did the right thing by getting these selfish, toxic people out of our lives, we’ve had tons of instances to prove that, but this is one more reason why there is no going back and we will not have these awful people in our inner circle ever again. It saddens me, Tim is a wonderful person, a good son and brother. He deserved better than the jerks he was dealt for family members This is just one more time his family has proven to us that, unless we played the game by their rules, which was putting up with the lies, backstabbing, name-calling, disrespect, bullying, fighting, etc. we were not part of their family.
We had enough respect for ourselves to know we deserved better and got out. Oh, and as is par for the course with people like this, they took no responsibility for anything they did to us and blame us for the rift now. In their small minds, and I’ve had this said right to me, “you take this, because it’s family.” Well, to me, that’s not family at all and we were sick and tired of taking it.
So, for those of you who think foolish pride is always behind family spats, you’re wrong. This was not pride that made us separate ourselves from them. This was a quality of life issue. This was to protect our daughter from nastiness and behaviors that were harmful and traumatizing for her to witness. This was after years and years of watching members of his family ruin important milestones in our lives, as well as holidays and vacations. This was 3 people who were living a nightmare called myeloma, and who then saw their own family members add to the crippling grief they were already experiencing with more grief, heartache, and aggravation. Life is too short is right. But for us, that meant that when 2 specialists tell you that you have a very limited amount of holidays, vacations, and milestones left together, you realize that you can no longer tolerate them being ruined by some world class jerks when you’re trying to make family memories for your child. Life is too short to spend it with people who make you miserable and ruin those life minutes for you.
This weekend, I explained to our daughter this latest event with her grandparents. I do not keep her from having a relationship with them and always stress that none of this has anything to do with her. But, she is 19 and she was going to notice that they aren’t there in a few weeks and I want Tim to feel all the support he can get from the few of us that are here for him. I told her, for the umpteenth time, don’t make the same mistake I made so many times in my life. When someone shows you they are not your friend, move on. I spent years being a great friend to several people, Tim’s sister in law was one of them, who were not true friends to me. When my life got difficult, they were gone. Giving the benefit of the doubt too many times translates into you getting screwed by the same people over and over. People show you who they are quite effectively. I wish I had enough self respect then to kick these people to the curb and use that time to foster friendships with people who knew how to be a friend back. I’ve said it many times, this is a lesson I so wish I’d learned many years earlier. I will not make the mistake of giving these jerks in Tim’s family any more chances. They’ve blown them all. If you’ve got true friends in your life, or a family that is there for you through thick and thin, be grateful. Nobody gets through this kind of thing alone. And, if you’ve got people in your life making you miserable, think about rectifying that, and if you already have, do NOT feel guilty. Do not wear the shame that belongs to others. It’s theirs to own, whether they admit it or not.
Life has a way of piling on you. Fate, health issues, and toxic people keep adding to that pile and smothering the joy out of you. You owe it to yourself to be in your own corner and not jump right on top of the pile too. Get out from under it and leave it behind, the things you can anyway.
Nowhere to go but forward.