There is a 16 year chasm between my oldest brother and me. I have a sister who is 8 years older than I and a brother who is 9 years older. We have the same history experienced very differently.
We share a mother who was a Holocaust survivor who went on to commit suicide alongside a man she hardly knew. I was twenty-one, a senior in college and my siblings were all married with children of their own.
Of course our mother had always carried her painful and dark past wherever she went but managed to coast through parenting my three siblings without falling to pieces. When she was hospitalized after her first "nervous breakdown" when I was nine it was the beginning of a long road of having a parent who was never fully present. When my parents divorced when I was thirteen and my father moved across the country I was alone with a mother who spent most of her time in a darkened bedroom with a sleep mask over her eyes. When my siblings began to realize and tell me that I had had it the worst, I felt slightly victorious--proud that I had survived such a complex adolescence.
Throughout the years I have become the keeper and teller of her story. When I began my blogging in earnest two years ago, my posts were mainly about her and her story. Her history. Her mental illness. Her double-suicide. One of my brothers couldn't understand why anybody would want to read about such a painful subject but (maybe with a tinge of the "I-told-you-sos") many people do. I've recently become trained to speak about her suicide and how it leaks into subsequent generations. I am the one keeping her alive.
My sister, now in recovery, was the only one who would talk to me about our mother but only when she was drunk. My oldest brother, who comes from a different father than ours, has an entirely different experience than any of us. And my middle brother, the one above, didn't even tell his kids about how our mother died until they were 18 and 21.
He and his wife are planning a trip to Europe that will include a day in Belgium where our mother was hidden in a private home and then a convent during the Holocaust. When I found out that my sister invited herself along and I wasn't asked to go too, I was crushed. I was angry. This was a trip that the four of us should have done together, alone, united in our shared history and pain. I was reminded that my sister only really liked me when she was drunk and that it seems like a constant struggle for her to give me any of her attention.
The biggest blow was when my brother and his wife planned a visit with my mother's best friend from Belgium (they were hidden together in the convent) after 30 years of not having any contact with her. Again, I wasn't asked to accompany them. This was MY plan, MY project and after so many years of not being sentimental about our mother, at least publicly, I felt like my brother had snatched her story from my grip. I gathered my strength and talked to him about this, tears spewing out of my eyes while we talked on the phone. I had to end the conversation because I was so upset and because I love him so deeply, hated that I was making him feel so guilty.
In the end, my brother just wanted to go to Europe with his wife to enjoy his vacation and go to a country he had never been while making the time to see if he can find the pieces of my mother's past. He didn't invite my sister, she invited herself (she won't be going as it turns out). Logistics figured into his visiting my mother's friend although I still feel as if I missed an opportunity.
I have found out that my sister has just invited my brother to go on a cruise and a ski trip with them. Even though everyone knows that money would be an issue for me, I still get hurt when I'm not asked. I think I'm learning the hard way, at 47, that we drag our family dynamics with us to the grave. I will always be the one stomping my feet saying "What about ME?!" I will always feel as if my sister sneaks around to spend time with our brothers without me included. However, if there is any upside to this, I do feel like I've opened my brother's mind a bit to embrace the complexities of our mother's life. He reads every word I write and maybe he's realized that hers is a story that people do, in fact, want to hear.