I spoke to my brother on Thanksgiving Day. He is one of few people I had, what I thought, was remaining loyalty to me. Of any of the people in my family, he understood most why I felt the way I do about my experience growing up. He seemed to share at least some of my feelings on the matter, which was reassuring, validating and healing.
He copes differently than I do. His awareness of things is affected by our differing perspectives. Though we agree on many things, his sense of enmeshed propriety toward the people who abused us still curries a sense of loyalty, which I used to share but am working on letting go. I do not fault him for this, nor do I try to change his mind. It is my hope that by respecting his position and not doing anything to manipulate or change it, that I might be returned the favor.
My brother was the only other person from my immediate family that I shared the news of my pregnancy with. His reaction, as expected, was a bit of good-natured ribbing and overall genuine happiness for me. He immediately realized what it would mean to the family, however. Being estranged from my mother, whose every conversation with him would inevitably involve prodding him for information about me, often planting messages which he was expected to pass along on her behalf. Fortunately, I’d been able to avoid most of that from getting to me, by explaining early on in the estrangement that this would neither be necessary nor acceptable behavior if we were to remain in contact.
He does, however, still pass along information about her. I do my best to discourage that, but some inevitably slips through. It is mostly trash talk, his venting of frustration at being still stuck with having to deal with her nonsense since I cut off contact. I sympathize, but it does not change my position on the matter. Our last conversation was most revealing.
I didn’t intend to, but I woke him up when I called to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving. It was nearly noon, but he was still asleep. Perhaps it is because of this that his faculties sort of failed him. He seemed quite irritated with me, not because I woke him, but because he figured I’d be “over this thing with mom” by now. He didn’t use those words, but the message came loud and clear.
He relayed his last involvement with her, which was one of her typical schemes to get him to perform free work on her home. She’s been unemployed for years now, tapping into her retirement early, but still living far beyond her means. Deciding she needs a new roof on her home, she quoted some ridiculously outlandish number from a “contractor” who probably doesn’t exist. Of course, my good-natured brother balked as such a exorbitant amount of money, and offered to do the job for free.
This is typical for her, and shows how the web of manipulation weaves its way throughout my family. I was not surprised to hear any of it, although I didn’t really want to. What was shocking was that he mentioned my father would also be assisting in this task. My parents have been divorced for many years now. Following a revelation of a family secret that my mother had made me keep from my father, he had sworn off all contact with her (or so he had said). Clearly, that was no longer the case, if it were ever true.
It was in that tiny slip that my brother let loose that I realized two things: the first was that by the time they would do this job for her, my son will have been born. My father and brother had both promised to keep this information from her as a favor to me. But as the months wore on, I’m certain they found it difficult to remain loyal to this agreement. At some point, one of them must have slipped.
By his tone, his resentment at being caught in the middle was evident. He was angry with me, and rightly so, I suppose. It was not fair to ask him to keep this to himself. And, based on how he spoke to me, it was pretty evident, she must already know, and keeping up the lie for him was taking its toll. I do not know who broke the news, but in my gut I knew that the cat was out of the bag.
My second realization was that I can expect no confidence from any of my family. That, just as my brother seemed to resent keeping my secret, and my father would reveal himself a few days later as he conjured potential scenarios where my mother would be allowed access to the baby, I realized what a joke they must see me as. There was absolutely no respect for my feelings on the matter, that I had removed her from my life for a reason, and that there would be no movement on my position. I realized that I would forever be in this role no matter how old I got, how much responsibility I took on in my adult life, and, sadly, as I became a mother myself.
It is tough to know that I’ll probably lose my entire family in the end. Knowing that I can’t expect them to do anything but be the predictable beings that they are, will likely mean cutting ties with all of them. It is not ideal, but hopefully these measures of self-preservation will be better than the alternative. I know that I cannot expect to have contact with any of them and not be betrayed on some level. To continue to operate any differently is to reject the lessons I have recently learned (or relearned), and then I’d have no one to blame but myself.