My sister just got married. It was a lovely wedding – the bride radiant, the groom nervous. The groom’s parents beaming. The bride’s mother cried as her daughter pledged to love, honor, and cherish ’til death do them part. A year ago, I never would have imagined how things would play out.
This has been an extraordinary year for a friend. As 2008 dawned, she was waking in the middle of an alcoholic nightmare and suffering from a huge hangover. She’s also has bipolar disorder. Her parents had loaned her a car, and when they discovered that she had been driving under the influence (again!) with three children in the vehicle, they immediately took the keys and confiscated the car.
Despite having two highly marketable degrees, she was working for less than $10/hr at a dead-end job, not really able to support herself and her daughter. The combination of debilitating diseases had wrecked havoc on her life. In a little over four years she had been fired, dismissed, or quit under duress from more than twelve jobs. She had been hospitalized three times with a blood-alcohol level of .40 or thereabouts (you read that right – about 5 times the legal limit!), her daughter had been taken into custody by a state, and she had spent a month in a treatment program. Yet she refused to take the medications and continued heavy drinking.
Well, for a while. Lately, she has been incredibly successful in turning her life around. In March, she enlisted in the Montana Army National Guard. She is in the middle of her training to become a helicopter mechanic. I am surprised that she was accepted with her medical history, but the opportunity is terrific. The Guard is paying off her student loans and she will be a full-time employee when she completes her training. She should therefore always have the medication and counseling that her mental illness and addiction require – and it seems she’s taking them. The days of dead-end jobs are behind her. Before leaving for basic training, he boyfriend asked her to marry him. She is being given another chance at a bright future for herself and her daughter.
This is the story of my sister. I wasn’t at her wedding because I, like my mother, wasn’t invited. In her world, my mother is the ogre that tried to ruin her life. Her stories of her childhood now include a morass of abuse, neglect, torture and trauma – but none of it is real. She actually told me my mom is evil, and that everything in my life that’s wrong can be drawn back to mom. And it’s utter bullshit.
My sister is well loved by family, regardless of, and in fact, in spite of this horrible year. She gets into fights with my mom because she feels some odd combination of longing to be just like mom and abhorrence of that exact desire. My sister is her own worst critic, and instead of focusing her energies on making herself better, she’s just changed her reality to better reflect who she wishes she was – and it’s ironic that the one person she wants to be is the same person she has so effectively cut out of her life – our mom. When I said my mom cried the night my sister got married, I wasn’t lying. I’m pretty sure my dad cried, too. Neither of them were at the wedding, tho, as my sister has banished my mom so completely.
But it’s a new year, and I hope that she does well. I do love her, and I’m glad that she’s found love. I hope it can last the rather expansive reality check that’s headed her way, but like most love, I think it can. Her husband is a good guy, even if he can’t see the forest for the trees most days.
I life my life without regrets, always have, always will. I accept what I do for my choices, and that my life is what I have chosen it to be. My sister is forcing me to choose between her and my mom. I choose my mom, my dad, my other sister, my nephew, brother-in-law, cousins, aunts, uncles and the whole brood that expands and covers a good portion of the country. I will not let them go for the sake of pretending that what my sister has done is ok, it’s not.
I will gladly buy her all the Lincoln logs she needs to build a bridge and get over this, even if I have to take up a collection to get the necessary abundance. I want my family back, but I want it back in one piece, not divided by the imaginative machinations of a deluded little girl.