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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Today I Made Crabapple Jelly

This isn't really a big deal because crabapples are everywhere and the jelly is easy to make, but it also provides me with quiet time to think. And this is what I thought about:

My brother has denied Tabitha's claims that he molested her. I have two sisters who have stated they believe him and assume Tabitha is lying. One of those sisters has taken it no further. She continues to show love to Tabitha and invite our family to visit. The other sister has ceased all communication with me and my family. Ironically, the sister who will no longer acknowledge our existence used to be my best friend. When she was in trouble, I bailed her out. When she needed a babysitter, I watched her children. When she divorced, I cried with her.

When it became clear that she was no longer talking to us (and it was pretty obvious at my parents 50th anniversary when, while seated in the same room, I asked her a question about her children and she looked at me for about a minute, then turned away and started a conversation with someone else--and I think she put more effort into avoiding me than she put into helping make the anniversary reception a success), I thought I should feel hurt or angry. Instead I just felt tired. And when one feels as tired as I do, it's difficult to care much when someone tries to snub you.

I thought I might feel more when the tiredness subsided, but either that hasn't happened or my body has just decided not to expend energy on this particular development. I'm thinking it's the latter. It was nice, though, that my sister's new husband treated me nicely--even warmly. Clearly he's not willing to take sides in a matter that doesn't concern him. Smart man.

As I thought about this, I realized I no longer bend over backwards to maintain or build relationships with my family members. I used to do that. I wanted those relationships--I think I needed them. But I don't anymore. Well, I want them, but I'm unwilling to exhaust myself in one-sided relationships.

More than that, maybe, I"m understanding that my worth will be discovered by other people, regardless of whether or not my siblings and parents choose to acknowledge it. I believe my mother continues to try. It's difficult to tell, given her deteriorating mental capacity. I know my father cares for me deeply and as often as he's able, he tries to build and strengthen out relationship. My youngest brother tries intermittently to maintain a friendship, but his life is fraught with problems of his own making. I'm content to allow our relationship to remain less close for now. My sisters can't seem to decide what they want. I've decided that's a dilemma that belongs to them. I've made it clear that they're welcome in my life and in my home. I'm not going to shout to be heard. If they don't know that by now, perhaps it's time for them to figure it out on their own.

I'm not abandoning my family. I'm just moving my efforts to a place where I feel more fulfilled and less stressed. I think, for awhile, I strongly needed those relationships. Now, after unsuccessfully trying to build them, I'm understanding that one-sided relationships are not what I'm looking for and I'm willing to stop trying for awhile. As I stated, they're welcome, but I'm too tired to go looking for them when they would never do the same for me.

I've learned a lot about relationships in the past seven years.

I used to believe that the only relationships that last are those bound by blood or marriage. I don't believe that anymore. I have friends who have remained closely in my life for more than seven years. Closely, to me, means they check in with me regularly, or they let me know they read my blog, or they invite me to visit or spend time with them. It means I can call if I have a problem, or a question, or for no reason at all, and that call will not be an intrusion. It means they make time for me because they enjoy spending time together as much as I do.

I've been related to people in my family for much longer than seven years. I don't believe I can think of a seven-year span when even one of my siblings has stayed in touch with me. When I went to college my parents and siblings didn't contact me for an entire year. The same was true when I moved to California. I believe things are better now. I usually hear from my parents (who live three blocks from me) at least once monthly, and some of my siblings will usually contact me a couple of times during the year. I try to call or visit them at least monthly, as well.

But here's the difference: it's very clear when I call my sisters that they have other things to do. Our phone calls last about 10 minutes. I spend time with my dad because we own a business, but much of the time he's gone. I can only tolerate my mom for a couple of hours--not because I don't love her, but because she has become less lucid in the past year and talking to her takes a great deal of effort. Sometimes she forgets I'm there so I just go home.

When I spend time with the people who have chosen to stay in my life for the past seven years, however, it feels different. It's clear we're together because we enjoy it, not because we're relatives who are supposed to stay in touch occasionally. There is a mutual effort to remain close, I'm not doing all or much of the work, and I know they love me because they know who I am, not because I"m related to them. They ask real questions about my life--about me. I don't know when I last heard a question from a sibling that wasn't about my kids. My siblings have no idea what I do for work or what I enjoy doing in my spare time. I'm guessing most of my friends could make an educated guess and if it wasn't correct, it would be pretty close.

I understand there's nothing keeping my friends tied to me and that at any time they could leave. I hope they won't--but they could. But Tolkien Boy told me he's not going anywhere and if I disappear, he plans to find me so he can tell me how upset he is that I would do that to him. And it's highly likely that I would react the same way if he disappeared. And really, why stay in someone's life for seven years if you plan to abandon that person later? That makes no sense. Which doesn't mean it won't happen, just that it doesn't make sense if it does.

And at this point, my jelly was finished. I have lots of lovely, light red jelly-filled jars sitting on my cupboard. Now I have to figure out where to put them away. Since DJ and Tabitha moved home, I'm finding I have no more spare shelf space. It's a problem.


  1. I'm sorry that your family members don't appreciate the massive lottery they won by getting you in their family. It makes me angry that there are people who know you who would give you the silent treatment. I'm glad that you're putting your energy toward mutual relationships.

    Also, I was thinking about you earlier today, because I had the rare chance to spend face time with a friend and she is very genuine, and that is lovely. I was thinking about all the truly genuine people in my life, and how there are not many of those and I think of many of them as family. Which is to say that I consider you family. I hope that you don't mind that I'm adopting you. : )

  2. Sounds like you have some close friends to share your jelly with..makes more space..Adon