I remember watching one of those news shows, like 48 Hours or Dateline, where they were talking about a pair of brothers who were being reunited after 50 years or something like that, and the whole time I kept thinking “How does that happen? How do you get estranged from a sibling like that?” The concept seemed so foreign to me. One of those things that only happens to other people and in extreme circumstances. Only, I guess that’s not true, as I am now officially a member of the “Other People.”
You don’t need to know the details, although I know you’d like them. You’re a nosy bunch. It suffices to say that actions have been taken, words have been spoken, legal documents have been filed, and government agencies have intervened, and in the end, I’m down another sister. One more to go and I’m the only child I always wanted to be. You would have thought that when my sister Parrish died, the remaining family would have rallied around each other and formed a tighter bond. For a while, we did. But the aftermath of drama and grief is really only temporary. Life resumes, old resentments return. Sibling rivalries never die.
When we were younger, my sister Parrish and I went through phases where we wouldn’t speak to each other. We fought like professionals. She broke my arm when we were kids. I laid in wait for several years to return the favour. We stole each other’s clothes and drugs in high school. We called each other names. We blamed the pile of unwashed dishes in the sink on each other. We had divergent life philosophies. She honoured Timothy Leary and Jerry Garcia, I worshipped Elvis Costello and Giorgio Armani. Eventually the animosity stopped. We grew up. We mocked each other teasingly, and we were friends the day she died.
Now, my youngest sister and I are at odds. Only things have gone too far for us to ever go back. The friction between us, between her and the rest of our nuclear family, has rubbed things so raw you can see bone. Things have been said. Heinous accusations have been made. Lawyers have been hired. Wills have been changed. Actions have been taken from which there is no foreseeable recovery. It’s not just a spat. It’s not just a sibling rivalry any more. It’s no longer kids teasing each other. It’s not repairable. Along the way something broke. The fracture was almost audible when it happened, like the snapping of bone or the sharp crack of a wind-shield when it is hit with a skull. And there is no cast or crazy glue to repair it. Other people have been hurt, and the field of debris is so wide it’s like someone set off an IED at a family gathering and everyone has a piece of shrapnel sticking out of their body.
So, how to go forward? Once the lawyers are out of the way and the government agencies have laid down their rulings, how does one proceed? It is possible that my mother and my other sister Reese will find a way to forgive in the future. They are better and less bitter people by nature than I. But for me, there will be no happy family holiday parties with all my kin around. There will be awkward family traditions acted out short one member of the cast. There will be events that Dave and I do not attend. I will not see my nieces and nephews graduate from school or get married. I will not be on the invite list, but I will send a gift. There will be whispered conversations wondering “What happened? How did things get to this point?” There will be people, like you, thinking to themselves “This only happens to other people.” I guess you can add to your list of cocktail gossip tid bits that you actually know “The Other People.” Congratulations.