Family

I don’t even really know where to start, and for some reason I am not feeling like a very inspired writer today. Every word is work.

For those who missed it before, it’s important to note that my husband is from Kenya. That’s where all his family lives. So I’ve never met my mother in law.

That changes next week. My Mother in law and older Brother in Law are coming for my husband’s graduation ceremony! I’m very excited to meet them, but also super nervous.

I will have to be more together than I usually bother being…. all the time…. for two whole weeks. I think I have to get rid of most of my pants, because they are full of holes, or don’t fit. I also want to have more than two functional bras, so I don’t have to do laundry super often. So I need to go shopping, which is dreadful. I need to learn how to stay awake during the day. My husband caught me napping on the sofa a couple days ago, and actually asked me if I was going to do that with his family around, and explained that that “would be so embarrassing.” Now I’m particularly worried about that. I really like to sleep, and it’s sometimes hard to stop myself.

But I’m also excited, like I said. I’m meeting them years earlier than I expected I would get to. I really want to make a positive impression on the woman who raised such a strong willed, clear headed, incredible husband for me. I tried talking to his mother on the phone once, but I couldn’t really understand what she was saying, between her accent and the poor connection, and most of what I did catch, if I recall correctly, seemed centered around God, and being effectively agnostic, I had no idea how to respond. What, for example, is the correct response to “God bless you,” when you haven’t even sneezed? Is it just “thank you” or “God bless you too” or something completely different? I think she said that on the phone (it was years ago now, so my memory is pretty fuzzy), and know I felt extremely lost for words.

I’m looking forward to showing them around the San Francisco Bay Area, a place I love. I think they will really enjoy it too. It’s hard to know what things they might want to do, since my husband insists that we not plan ahead. Men are mysterious creatures. He thinks everything will sort itself out and be great. I know that unless we have some options ready for them to choose from, their whole two weeks will go by and they may not get to see everything they might want to see, which I think would be really sad.

There is one major dark cloud though, and that is my sister’s attitude. She and my husband don’t really get on well. For example, his first experience of her was overhearing a phone call she made to me when she found out I was dating a Kenyan. Not knowing that he could actually hear her quite well, she went on and on about AIDs testing, and how there are a lot of AIDs cases in “that part of the world.” Once my sister starts talking, it’s really hard to get her to stop, and often if you try to stop her, she just hammers the point more, thinking you don’t get how important it is. So that happened. He was not favorably impressed.

She has issues with him which I am not completely clear on, but which may include 1. she once had a boyfreind come home from Kenya talking about how he fell in love with a girl there (not Michael’s fault), 2. she thinks my father likes him better than he likes her because “he always wanted a son” (not Michael’s fault, and not true), 3. she thinks my husband is “an emotionless robot” (that might be his fault, he can come off that way sometimes. He’s just very understated). I’m pretty sure she had decided not to like him before she ever met him or heard much about him. Also, I’m married and she isn’t, despite her being 9.5 years older than me. Add to this that she is bipolar and occasionally suffers from her own paranoid interpretations of situations, and the picture gets pretty volatile.

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Now picture a room. Make it dusty and disused. It’s a bedroom. A bedroom whose occupant moved out soon after moving in. A bedroom with stuff in it, some hers, some mine, some my mother’s. My sister does not live in that room, and hated it so much that she moved in with her boyfriend to get away from it. Does she love this room? No. Does she spend time in this room? Never.

Now picture a woman, traveling across the world, her very first plane ride, excited to see her son graduate from a top university. What would you give her to sleep on, a sofa, or the unused bed? Would you put her in the living room, or in a bedroom?

My sister is convinced that my mother in law will go through her things and laugh at her. So my sister wanted to move all “her” stuff out. It turns out some of the stuff she wanted to move out and take with her to her place in San Francisco were some boxes of family photographs. Yes, some of the pictures are of her friends. But other pictures are of my mother’s childhood, or pictures that my mother wants to keep from when my sister was an infant…. My sister already sorted out all the pictures enough so that there are none of me, but she wants the pictures of our dead grandmother, who I’m not sure she even met. Everyone knows that anything that goes to San Francisco is unlikely to ever come back. The long and short of it is that my sister spoiled part of mother’s day by trying to take these pictures away. My mother successfully convinced her it would be ok just to put them in the closet. Really though, why would anyone rifle through unlabeled, unexplained photos of strangers? That sounds really boring.

While I’m on the subject of mother’s day, I need to complain about something else my sister did. She ignored me. She was barely more subtle about it than a kindergartener would have been. It was just me and her in the room. I look up at her, gesturing with a head of lettuce, “how much romaine do you think we need?” Nothing. She looked away and pretended I hadn’t said anything. When I passed her in the kitchen, all she did was raise one eyebrow in apparent disgust. I’m annoyed, but not especially mad. It was hurtful, but ultimately not surprising. She is 35, but often seems to forget and act like a 5 year old. Whatever. I’m over it….

In fairness, she was inconsistent about ignoring me. When she felt like it, or when my parents were around, she acted almost like nothing was wrong. And she made a pretty great lasagna.

So what would you do? Put the mother of the man you love into an unused bedroom? Or do you think it’s reasonable for my sister to make a big fuss?

My sister feels righteous about her moods. She thinks that because she is bipolar, she has a right to be moody. And maybe she does. But she broadcasts her every mood a bit too much, and seems to make no effort to fight against the paranoia. Every time she has a bad thought, she seems to just accept it as a real truth. She assumes the worst, and lets everyone know how terrible she feels they are being towards her. Maybe that’s her right. But it makes it uncomfortable to spend time with her, and the whole family feels it. My husband avoids her, my parents find her tiring to be with, and I’m a little bit scared of her.

Once, back in 2013, we were actually pretty close, or getting close. We did things together. We had good times. It was nice. But then I ruined it. All I wanted to do was help her. I told her that she might consider trying to reign in at least the display of her moods a little bit. I thought that if she just understood how her volatility cuts her off from the family, she might be able to repair relationships a bit, and be closer with the people who love her. But she took it as an attack, thought that I wasn’t respecting her condition enough, and that I just didn’t understand her the way she thought I should. She actually told me that it had been a mistake to confide in someone so young, and that it was a mistake to think I could ever understand. Since then she has barely spoken to me, and I’ve been too afraid to spend time alone with her.

Sorry, this post was all over the place. Here are some flowers from my garden. I find these ones especially exciting, particularly the love in a mist, which is my favorite.

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22 thoughts on “Family

  1. I have a twin sister just like you in the bay area. Unfortunately like you she took psychology 101 in college and tried to ruin all my friendships declaring me “insane” for using a Boston accent and teaching it to my friends. She was not allowed unsupervised in college anywhere after that; and her college bill kept getting higher. She was and is not worth educating with her unreasonable behavior. She is too large of an expense to this nation. From her operating a prostitution ring at 13 to running over boys in my dads car in high school with her jealousy…some sadly are too expensive to let roam free in this world…..sad isn’t it. They never change; we did try.

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      1. that’s also going to be one of the options I offer. I was also thinking of taking them to Chinatown, Japan town and North Beach…. sort of a one-stop-shopping version of world travel. I was also going to offer to take them to a space and science museum to see a moon rock or whatever, if they are interested in bragging about that. My husband has given me no real clues as to what they might be up for.

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  2. I am sorry that your sister is being so difficult. My mother is a lot like that. She has depression (and has since I was a child), so it’s often hard for us to get along. It’s gotten marginally better as I’ve gotten older, but she’s definitely more of a friend than the traditional mom-type.

    We must remember, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot control the actions of others. We can only control our own actions. If your sister is mad or moody, that is her prerogative, and you just have to let her be. Obviously your parents aren’t upset by the presence of your in-laws, and that’s whose opinion matters aside from yours and your husband’s.

    As far as your mother-in-law saying God bless you… I have never known how to respond to that either. I went to Catholic school from K-12, and I still don’t know how to respond to it.

    I hope you find lots of fun things to do with your in-laws. I have always wanted to see Alcatraz. Perhaps they would enjoy that!

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  3. I have so much to say and not enough time! First, I’m so excited for you! Even with cultural differences, a MIL can be a great asset. A little understanding and a pinch of salt can go a LONG way. Take it from someone who has a MIL who some would call. . An aquired taste lol. I won’t pretend to know your sister but I will say I know people who use and abuse thier emotions to get thier own way. It isn’t fair to you or your family. But luckily, it’s her problem not yours! I know you aren’t religious, but when you feel particularly disconnected try mediating and “regrouping” in your garden. No phone no hubby just you and flowers! And yoga! Lol. If anything… try to make her as comfortable as possible. Even when you feel silly asking if she wants or needs anything POUR IT ON. Not only do you look like the best decision your hubby ever made to her, your hubby will look at you in a whole new way! When my mother in law comes, I always try to remember *Thank God I don’t have to do this every day*. Plus it impresses them lol. Anyways honey. Congratulations to your husband, and to you for supporting him throughout the journey!

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  4. Oh yeah the God bless you thing …. Two choices. … say thank you very sincerely with a sweet smile. … or fake it and say it back! Its her way of saying thank you. In my experience people usually do that when they are trying to express deep gratitude. She probably doesn’t speak much English so she is trying to express herself the best she can

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