Monday, January 02, 2006

Mom and her Sister

My mom, the small blonde, and her sister. This photo was taken circa 1912, when mom was about four. Her sister "E" was 5-6 years older.

They had a love-hate relationship which lasted all their lives; though they had a reconciliation about 3 months before mom died and "E" expressed her sorrow that they had ever quarrelled and become estranged.

What makes people do that? I can more easily understand it when people who are not family argue and decide to call it quits; but sisters? Perhaps if I had one I would understand, but I can tell you that I'd do everything within my power to keep that from happening.

They were best friends for many years, and we went to Ohio to visit "E" and her husband every summer from 1945 to 1961. I was always happy to go there, as my aunt was a legendary cook. I have written posts about her prowess before. She taught me to fish, and how to care for animals. In her middle age, she began to learn "Tole" painting, and became very well-known in her area for the wonderful items she painted: chairs, trays, oil lamps, bread baskets, etc., some of which I now have.

Later in life, they fought over many things; chief of which was their mother going into a nursing home and a Victorian lamp which "E" had given mom and then decided 40 years later, that she wanted it back. My mom was so convinced that "E" would come into her house and take back the lamp, that she packed it up and brought it with her whenever she came to visit me. How paranoid is that?! They both had a heavy dose of neuroses most of their lives. My mom wouldn't get on a plane, was afraid of elevators, didn't trust escalators, thought every man would turn into a peeping-Tom or an adulterer if given half a chance, and both of them were convinced that robbers were plotting their entrance into their homes at every minute! How I grew up without being totally insane is a mystery to me!

You may remember from previous posts that I am adopted. During my childhood, I had a fantasy that I was really "E"s illegitimate child, whom she gave to mom to raise. I resembled her quite a bit, in coloring and facial shape. Of course, I learned later that was not true, E could not have children and we never knew why. The things that children think up or interpret on their own are amazing, true or not. My fantasy of being her child colored our relationship when I was small and after I told mom about it, I think it started to change their relationship too. Mom couldn't handle the idea that I might love someone more - or even as much as she. Isn't that pitiful? Love is wonderful, however and wherever you find it, and for mom to attempt to deny me that in any form was really sad. On second thought, maybe I should be thankful that I wasn't related to them.
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29 comments:

Raehan said...

Don't ever think it was your fault that they grew apart. Get that our of your head. You hear?? Kids say things like that all the time. It is up to the parent to put it all in perspective.

It is sad when siblings don't get along. In my life (my extended family), I've seen it most often with brothers....

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Very interesting post Judy...I think you were lucky that you were not related to them...it's pretty much a 'given' that "The Genes" are more responsible than environment for many many things...that you didn't inherit those 'neuroses' is probably due to the fact you aren't genetically related to them...

I have some very heavy duty problems with my sister, who is still living...and much of these problems come from her being competitive with me...I don't feel that way about her at all....she is seemingly jealous of me, too...and, there again, I do not feel any of that about her...the positions we hold are that she is older than me, she is the 2nd child..and I am the youngest with my brother being in between us....in trying to figure out WHY we have soooo many problems, I think these positions definitely play into it, a GREAT deal...And right now, we are pretty much estranged...again!!! Her doing...this has happened over and over and over...
I am very sad about this, but nothing I do will change how she feels about me...unless I become a different person, and that is not going to happen...as the song says.."I Gotta Be Me"...so, I understand, I'm sorry to say, how these things can happen...and how there are times you have no control over them...
I empathize with both your Mom and Aunt...and realize that old saying 'you can chose your friends and not your family, has a lot of truth to it...Sad, Sad, Sad...of course...

OldHorsetailSnake said...

"...some of which I now have." Well of course you do, along with every other bit of memorabilia put out along the East Coast 50 years ago.

You probably even have that lamp tucked away somewhere.

(This is a sad story, Judy, but sorta funny in a way, too.)

Peter said...

Hi Judy, I reckon some families are just born to disagree and squabble, others of course get along well, as they should.
I omly have one sister, Merle,
as kids we used to squabble but since we have grown up we gwr along very well.
But I know a lot of dysfuntional families!!

Weary Hag said...

I agree with Raehan. Ill-relations between siblings usually starts in childhood somehow and either goes unnoticed or ignored by parents who could probably step in and work around it if they tried. Sadly, I can speak from personal experience.

I smiled a bit at some of the neuroses you mentioned here. My family is loaded with them - and many are in complete denial about the less obvious ones. :)

Though I don't think I can catch up fully this time, I'm sure going to try! Love your posts, your thoughts and as always, the way you express them.

Happy New Year, Judy!

Weary Hag said...

Back again because I've just read "Oldladyofthehills" comment and I must say there is definitely something to the whole 'birth order' thing. My older sister (of the four of us, I am youngest and she, second youngest) has always been rather jealous of me as well, and would go to incredible measures to try to put assunder anything that I've ever gotten enjoyment out of in my lifetime. She lives 10 minutes from me and we haven't spoken in years. My older sister who lives in NYC and I are very close.

Merle said...

Interesting post Judy. I am sorry that your mother & aunt did not get along.
Three of my four children are
adopted so I know a bit about adoption. These kids are now all
grown and have families of their own. But they are al precious to me & there is no difference in how I feel about each of them.

Nancy said...

I hate to hear about families fighting. Although, we our share in my family. MY SIL drives me insane.

Michele sent me!

kenju said...

Interesting comments about birth order; my mom was the youngest of six children, she and "E" were the only two girls. I think they paired up in childhood to protect each other from the boys (who, it seems, led them a merry chase), but as they got older jealousy reared its' ugly head.

To clarify: I did love them both very much. The problem was, each of them wanted me to love them best.

Shelli said...

That was a very poignant story. Someone else said, "sad but funny" and I agree. You probably were special to your aunt and vice versa because she couldn't have children.

I have a feeling that my daughters will end up like that because my oldest is very good at holding a grudge and my youngest has NO respect for her sister, who at times seems to have no morals. Unless the oldest dramatically changes her ways, I don't think that my youngest will ever want to have anything to do with her outside of the required. Oldest has hurt us all, so I can understand to some extent.

Barbara said...

The picture seems to say so much. Look at the body language of "E". She has her arm around your mom but you can tell she isn't happy about it.
It is sad when families fight. Life is too short.

Bhakti said...

Family history is so...strange; or perhaps it's merely the relationships amongst family members that are strange.

I don't understand anyone who values material posessions so much. My Aunt Peg was 86 when she died. Her brother-in-law stole all of her valuable antiques while she was on her death bed. Her brother-in-law recently died. Did he really think he could take Aunt Peg's precious items with him when he died??

I think trying to forge lasting relationships and love is the better choice. There is someone in my family (not immediate) with whom I have a difficult time tolerating. But I try not to cut all ties. That would just be sad.

Very thought provoking post, Judy. Thank you for sharing.

Lisa said...

I agree with Barbara. That picture is worth a thousand words..

utenzi said...

I'd say more than just on second thought, Judy. Third, fourth and fifth thought as well. But it's good that you learned a lot from both your Mom and your Aunt even if you don't have their genes. Perhaps especially since you don't have them.

Hope said...

The birth order can make a difference not only in the personalities, but how parents treat their children. I am one of 5 girls (plus a brother), you would never know we are sisters by looks or lifestyles. My oldest sister's attitude makes it impossible for any of us to be close to her, so I can understand why sometimes blood is not enough.

srp said...

Some families have to waste time fighting, that's a shame. I didn't get along very well with my brother when we were younger but then I was a teenager and he was a four year old. After I left home and there was no one to take the blame for things he did, he decided I was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now, I am older, he is now bigger than me and we get along fine even though he is an A+++++++ personality and he says I am a C- one. (I disagree, always thought I was a B+)
Perhaps that is why we get along. Things roll off my back and I sit back and get a laugh out of his antics.

Greg Finnegan said...

Kenju, thanks for your comments on the Glacier pictures on Prompt Ruminations! It was fun to see them again after a few months!

-Greg

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Hi Judy..
I came back because I found tis a very thought provoking post and wanted to see what others had to say...One thing I forgot to say was,like WearyHag, my oldest sister and I were very close...this is my sister that died last February...and the loss has been even more devistating by the fact that my middle sister cannot forgive me for some slight that truly...Believe Me....in the greater scheme of things was nothing...(I asked her to not come ten minutes early to something, a year ago... and you would have thought I had done something truly horrific...like telling her to go f*** yourself...') Of course I understand it was a big something to her..but it really made me understand that this is a pretty hopeless excersize...which is not funny to me at all, but indeed, very very sad...given that we both lost another sister, and life IS too short. But, she will not be changing who she is, and neither will I be changing who I am...And it's not because I haven't tried over the years...I have..but..again..."This above all, to thine oneself be true......" and that lyric I mentioned in my earlier post.
And what you said about the fact that each of them wanted YOU to love them best..THAT really rings true to me, too. There are some things that cannot be changed. The 'serenity' prayer is a very very profound 4 or 5 lines...and the key line to me is: "...And the wisdom to know the difference.."

Thanks for your post Judy, because it opens up so many thoughts and feelings about some deeply important issues of the heart.

Jamie Dawn said...

What a tangled web. It saddens me when loved ones argue and have such problems instead of spending their years on earth loving each other and enjoying special times together. It's too bad that they had such paranoia over things. How awful to live with so many fears.
You seem so much more "normal." (tee-hee)

WordWhiz said...

Very interesting post. I was also adopted and so I understand your adoption fantasy. Did you ever try to locate your parents? After my children were born, my new-found maternal instinct made my curiousity to much to bear and I wanted to locate my biological mother. I contacted the adoption agency. They required me to pay a fee and be interviewed by a social worker to insure my motives were not less-than-noble. It took over a year, but they located her. She chose not to have any communication with me. Believe it or not, I was okay with that. I'm not too anxious to open old wounds myself. Bury and forget...that's my philosophy. Apparently it was hers too.

brendalove@gmail.com said...

I am just glad they were able to patch up their differences before it was too late. Better late than never!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kenju, Michele sent me today. It's been a while since I visited.

Your post gives me a lot to think about. My sisters and I can fight like crazy some times, and be very hurtful, but I don't want to end up estranged like your mom and Aunt E.

I'm glad there's 3 of us to balance each other out. We're never on the outs with all at once.

colleen said...

Sibling rivarly can go deep and childhood is so foramative that it's hard to shake lose. But I think blood is thicker and after losing two brothers, I see that more and more. I feel grateful that none of us (9 siblings) have ever been estranged from each other (and that's pretty good odds). And now we laugh about some of our childhood fights.

In a way I think sibling fighting as adults is almost like fighting with a part of yourself, because siblings are of you. It's the closest biological relationship that exists. The only way to get closer is to be a twin.

colleen said...

PS I have seen families where a member or two is unbalanced (thinking of an in-law family here) and there are times when you have to have boundaries from that (while remaining open to reconcilliation if the person can change, but usually they don't).

Your mom's older sister may have come in with a personality that allowed what to happen to happen. Just look at her face in the photo.

Karin said...

It always amazes me how family members let the slightest things come between them and cause heartache for the rest of the family. This has been true in both my own family and my husband's family. I just don't get it really. All it does is cause pain to those you love and more importantly to yourself. Why people want to hang onto anger is beyond me.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and commenting.

Tammy said...

Its funny my husbands family is all about grudges, seriously there is no generation in anyone's memory where brothers have spoken to each other. They literally stop speaking to each other and never reconcile, we know this going back 4 generations (including my husband and his brother). Their ancestor must really have pissed someone off big time!! My grudges last about 30 seconds - just don't get holding on to all that anger and frustration. At least you have beautiful memories of your Aunt.
Happy New Year.

Carolyn said...

Those love-hate relationships... yes I know them well. My mother was the 2nd oldest of 5, but the oldest girl. She and my aunt, who was her youngest sister and last born of her siblings, still to this day act like fighting teenagers. It's weird how they never got along and as a result, their own children (us cousins) never got to play or grow up together. I often wish I had been adopted, lol!

Laura said...

Hi Judy, I felt like I was reading about my mom and her sister as well. They tend to go years without speaking,for one reason or another. It's sad they never learned how to simply forgive and forget and move on.
I once sat at the table with them, with my daughter on one end and both my mom and aunt at the other, and suddenly an argument broke out over something that happened wayyy back in the 40's!
Neither of them just ever learned to move on and let go of the past.

I couldnt help laughing over that lamp story tho, LOL!

panthergirl said...

As you may know, my sister and I haven't spoken (with the exceptioni of a civil 'hi' at two family functions) for 8 years. It's completely ridiculous, and I've tried to repair it, but it's the result of her choosing her husband over her family.

Anyway, sister relationships are complicated. I do think it's interesting that you thought she might be your mother. That occurred to me, too.