August 3, 2013 by Dragonfly Diva
Have you ever been in conversation with someone and just totally lost your cool? I mean, like had an emotional response to something the person said to you, a response that you could not put the brakes on? One that just exploded out of you and there was no turning back?
I had one with my brother-in-law a couple of weeks ago. The conversation is one that has been going on for months via email, about him bringing my niece, nephews, his new wife and her daughter to our town for a visit. Something simple right? Well its complicated by the fact that I’m a plan ahead type of person and he’s a “wait until right before to finalize even basic plans because no one else has to rearrange their life for a visit from him” type of person. But, I know that about him so I work with that. Not too long after the July 4th holiday I looked at my calendar and realized that if I didn’t try to get a date from him as to when they were coming out I might be backed into work commitments I could not get out of and I would be stuck. My understanding was that it would probably be later in August, so we still had some time to plan, but not much. So I emailed again.
And a couple of days later he got back to me. He’d finally had a chance to sit down with his wife and plan…and they would arrive in less than two weeks, stay for a total of two and a half days and during that time would go to see a college friend who lives an hour away from us. What? WHAT? WHAT!!!
To help you understand the reaction I had let me share some details. First, this was my sister’s husband and her children. She developed breast cancer and passed away over three years ago. They live in another state – a six-hour drive away. My parents just had my sister and I, her three children and my son are their only grandchildren. We live less than an hour away from my parents, and my son gets to see them and talk to them often. When my sister was alive she called my parents almost daily to tell them something about what the kids were doing, and they visited twice a year. Since her death, while they have visited one or two times a year for a few days, my parents only get one or two calls a year, if that. And now my parents are much older, and have had a very difficult time adjusting to her passing. Their health is not good and as a result they have little in their lives to keep them occupied passed their children/grandchildren.
We’ve tried everything these last three years to help my brother-in-law understand how much joy it would bring to my parents if he would just call more frequently and have the kids talk to them. Hinting, stating it outright, talking to his father, etc. and, no luck. And all the while I’ve been giving him the benefit of the doubt…he was a single dad for about a year and a half, so he was very busy. They all miss my sister as much as we do and it’s hard to talk without dealing with the sadness. Then he’s newly married and they are trying to get ready to sell their separate smaller houses and buy a bigger one. The kids are into many clubs and lessons, so they are busy. He teaches and coaches in the winter and manages a swim club in the summer. So they are busy. I get that, but…even so, how much effort does it really take? And now, he’s no longer coaching and no longer managing a pool so he is off all summer.
I guess it boils down to I feel he should MAKE time to do a family call…once a month? Is that too much to ask? I know he’s not here and he doesn’t see my mom cry because she misses her grandkids and daughter so much. Or to see the sadness in my dad’s eyes. Or to hear their words that go along with those emotions. I’ve tried to convey it to him.
So going back to the original topic here…two and a half days, with a side trip which boils down to a day and a half. For myself, fine, I’m young and our visit relationship goes two ways. They can come here, or we can go there. For my parents…they can no longer travel that far so any visits have to be here.
My reply to my brother-in-law was emotion filled and while I gave him that he’d like to see his frat buddy, my parents won’t be around forever and they miss them all so much and I’m feeling very protective of them, and the only way they get to know what’s going on in their lives is by logging onto Facebook to see pictures and posts and seriously What-The-Heck!!!!
And his response. Wait for it. Wait for it. NOTHING! Seriously! Really? SERIOUSLY! Nothing, for over a week. I was livid, then stewing (the whole I should have kept my mouth shut, I should have swallowed my feelings like I normally do with him internal wrestling that I do), then talking to people – what should I do? Do I let it go? Etc., etc., etc.! And suddenly one day I realized, hey! I’m a human, I have feelings, and I have a right to let them loose once in a while! I envy people who are straight with everyone, never weighing their words or making sure not to say anything that will cause upset. I don’t condone being rude, intentionally hurtful and the like, but I’ve also grown to recognize that I try too hard to make sure everyone else is alright, at the expense of myself. My thoughts, feelings, needs and wants. And this is a perfect example of it.
Since then, the trip got canceled by my mother’s health, and I’ve had another long email conversation with my brother-in-law – which started with his email…”I wanted to make sure you knew we were not coming.” Ugh! My reply included an apology for my rant of the last email to him. Did I get one from him…nope! No I got an “I was pretty mad, the kids did come out at Christmas (yeah I’m thinking, they did because I arranged it, and cause I drove half way to your state through the snow to get them from you, gave up most of my Christmas vacation being a parent to 4 kids since my parents do not have the strength to do that, and yes I had fun but was exhausted, cooked for 7-8 people for a week, etc) and we all came out in January for two days (one day as they went to see that frat buddy). Calls, you might be wondering – try two since January. Sigh.
So what, have I learned here? First I’ve had another glimpse, a reminder that not all people have the same thoughts about familial relationships, or what constitutes the right amount of contact, or time spent together. I feel as though our fears after my sister’s death are true. Our relationships with my niece and nephew are going to be shallower than they would have if my sister had not died, unless we push it…and my parents are not pushers. Heck, neither am I, really. And I learned that while I need to learn how to stick up for myself, and my feelings more, regardless of the consequences, knowing that is way different from taking action as a result of that knowing. Cause I sure didn’t this time. I took what I felt was the high road, and was hurt again in response.
Or is my perspective skewed? Am I expecting too much of my brother-in-law? Maybe the need for apology and change lies in my ball court and not his; where I felt the need to apologize for not talking to him, but instead ranting, and was hoping that an apology from him for not focusing on visiting my parents for once. Maybe his perspective is that we rarely come out to him. Well, the difference is my parents open their home to him and his family to stay there. Low cost trip. When we go to see him, we have to stay at a hotel – and his area is EXPENSIVE for hotels…high cost trip we can’t usually afford.
Today,while drinking my morning coffee, I see the following status post by a friend on Facebook – Stop thinking about what happened and start thinking about what will move you forward. So how do I move forward?