02 November 2010

Pastural Perspective

I have been debating about what to write. Generally, these posts write themselves from the logarithmic number of photographs I take. Do I write about what I have been doing? Or do I describe how I have been feeling? One seems inauthentic, the other makes me a bleeding heart bore...

October started with the anniversary of my father's death. I was melancholy but strong with a sense of freedom that made me say 'yes' to a spur of the moment trip to Coronado Island, California, just me and my girl.  I write almost nothing about my daughter here. I feel she is entitled to her privacy but also, I don't want to attract to her any lazy predators. They simply must work harder than that.

When I am with my daughter, everything is right. The pieces fit together so well, with a satisfying "clunk" as they slide into place. Our trip was filled with sunshine, walks, reading and food. For best results repeat. And we did.

I took that sense of happiness and peace with me later that week to meet with the judge regarding guardianship of my brother, incapacitated by severe mental retardation. The judge told me "thank you." There I was wringing my hands, hopeful that he would deem me worthy of becoming my brother's keeper when he stood up, shook my hand and said "thank you." Some people arrive by calling to their jobs. Judge, you sir, most certainly have.

There I was, finally in the role I had always anticipated my whole life. I would be left to fill dad's shoes in caring for mother and Kerry. Of course I will bury them too. Now that it's here, I felt peace. No more unknown in how some of this would go. No chance that my sister might shoulder the load with me. I knew I would do it all, care for mother, empty and sell her house, take over as guardian for our brother, all alone, without my sister. And even knowing it would be that way, especially knowing, I have been pissed. With a capitol P Pissed. Pissed off. Somehow, though, now that it has come to fruition, no hope remaining, there is peace.

I also feel differently about my brother, not our brother, my brother. He is mine now. I feel proud.

I was feeling pretty settled in with things, my birthday nigh, a new me, a new frontier. Alas, I awakened to find myself sad on my birthday. An old feeling surfaced. I don't know when I first felt it, four, maybe. Hope. Dashed. Resentment fueled...

I adored my sister. Thirteen years my senior, she was cute, stylish, she was my big sister! She could show up on my birthday with a Pinto load of balloons, or she could break a promise and never acknowledge me. Usually she was moody and caustic. But catch her on a good high and she was loving and funny, shiny and bright. I, like her, was addicted to Pam's Good Highs! Unfortunately I was four, or twelve and they were rare.

So old is this pattern of behavior, this paradigm of anticipate, hate, hope, and wait occurs at every single holiday, birthday, event and occasion that even after her complete estrangement with my mother and I, the old sick cycle of feelings return.

Look, I am aware of it. I just can't switch it off, or pray it away or talk it gone or knit it clean. Death and addiction to pain takes a long time to process, to die. I said I would not swallow any more pills alongside my sister, and here I was, on a bad trip, and she was no where around. But she never was. At a certain point I didn't need her to be pissed anymore. I could just lather my resentment up each morning as I was shampooing my hair, the pattern deeply in place...

I had actually started to hope that she would remember my birthday! I gently talked myself out of that hope, then anger took over as I inspected the mail, checked the phone. I become a pissed little girl, again, balloons floating out of grasp.

My husband told me last week that in all the years he has known me and watched me go through various difficulties including burying dad, going through PA school, raising a daughter, mother's illness, the sale of my childhood home, and this business with my brother, not one thing has changed me as much as the Estrangement From My Sister.

I am more intolerant.

Hmmmmmmmmm. I know where that comes from....

Mother always tolerated my sister's bad behavior. No matter how little her daughter participated or how awful she acted, mother would always say "let it go, you know how she is." The injustice infuriated me. My parents had such different expectations of me. But then again, once they doled out some tough love to my brother, he committed suicide. I understand mother's position, but it was dysfunctional, as they say, to let the most confused one lead the whole group. It caused an anger in me that all these prayers and therapy can't completely erase.

Once mother was so ill and living in my home, my sister's bad behavior escalated. I let mother know that in my house we discuss our feelings and it isn't always pretty but it seems mostly effective in the long run. In a phone conversation, mother called my sister on her decreased participation, increasing sickness and overall bad behavior. My sister hung up on mother. They have never spoken again.

That was February.

It took some time for mother and I to let her go. We detoxed. I can look back now and see how the combined stress of abandonment and end-stage illness reduced mother to near incapacitation. I cannot believe she lived through it. I have watched my parents suffer over my three siblings my entire life. Mother's spirit is strong. Once I moved her and a team of people began to care for her, she improved. That and a miracle from the grave I have yet to reveal. She was no longer enduring the stress of me alone having to lift her, even her head from the pillow each morning. She continues with pain and illness, but she is better, and she lives.

For me, letting my sister go has been the greatest peace I have ever known. I was blindsided, therefore, when I started my hope/resent cycle about my sister on my birthday.

Last Saturday I sat behind my husband on his motorcycle for a couple hundred miles throughout southeastern Oklahoma. Scenery can only keep my mind so occupied. I am used to busy hands. All those hours as a passenger afforded me time to think. I thought I would settle in and write a post in my head, however, that damn anger kept derailing my thoughts. I could not string two sentences together in all those hours. I just kept picturing a volcano the locals call Resentment, all quiet and grey, cloaking an abyss of hot molten anger.

The next day I took my Anger out for a long hard walk. Hell, I had to, it wouldn't stay home. Foot step after foot step striking the ground. How to organize this, write it, exorcise it...

I am very visual. My feelings decorate my house. Photographs organize my story and creations communicate my song. God speaks to me in vistas...

Here I was, about a mile and a half down the road when I looked up. I took in a breathtaking wedge of fence line, green pasture and hills beyond, blue sky wisped with thin clouds, cows gun metal black in the low autumn sun.

I realized I had been staring down at gravel for miles, watching the ground, daring to miss all this bucolic bliss. And God said that is what anger and resentment has done to my perspective. It cloisters me, tethering me to the grey, sharp and rocky when the green, living earth is abundant and ready to give me room to roam me if I simply live in it.

The earth has always been my best church.

Anger again is at bay. Peace has a big 'ol pasture to graze in. This post frothed forth.


  1. The best read that I have had all month. And ever. Thank you for this post.

  2. Robin... I have been reading your posts for a while... and I have come to a realization that what I thought I knew about you years ago, I didn't really know at all. I should have looked deeper. I always loved you like a sister and am saddened that we did not stay close. You are an amazing woman! The trials and tribulations we go through in our lives are for a purpose. You have grown from it all and become an extrodinary individual... Do not let the chains of the past, or of the future, bind you. Let your spirit fly as it was meant to do all along! I hope that God continues to bless you in all you do. Love you Girl! Loree

  3. What a wonderful deep soul "searching and found" post.
    I've walked the same path in many ways.
    You are amazing.

  4. I love this post more than any other writing you've shared with us. I love the clarification you've found and the peace you seem to have found with the situation and your sister. You are one of the most amazing women I know and I count myself blessed to call you a friend!

  5. Robin,
    I had no idea how the anger had frothed again, though I am sure there was not much I could have done (except not bore you with my petty irritations!). It was your path that you had to take by yourself and you have done it. I admire you so much. You have taught me so much about living through extreme pain and anger and, for that, I am especially grateful. I can't wait to see you and trip you with my wheelchair as I give you a big hug!

  6. This brought up emotions in me I cannot explain, but am grateful for...love you, sweet Robin.

  7. It's as if you crawled into my brain and wrote about my life, the three dysfunctional siblings, the one responsible one - all the expectations placed on me; yet, the monkeys were running the zoo. And the anger, oh the anger - how it courses.

    Thanks you for lifting my head just a bit more this morning. So beautiful, you and your girl - you and your brother, you in charge, carrying out your role and seeing life in vistas.

    You didn't know it but you were healing me on your walk as well.

  8. WOW! That is an amazing post Robin!

  9. Robin...Thank you for trusting those of us who read your blog with such transparent writing. I appreciate you...

  10. I am so glad to hear that you've found such a peace through all this, and also that you had the courage to share it. I've visited that volcano myself, and I think it's very important to allow the beauty surrounding us provide the comfort and serenity we need.

  11. I don't know how to express how I feel after reading your beautiful post tonight. But...I will think of you in the green of that pasture, and love you for your undying love and apprecaition for life and always doing the right thing.
    And hope that I have raised children who would fight to take care of the brother that I will leave behind when I die.
    Sending you a big hug tonight...

  12. I wish I had the words to express how your writing touches me.
    My past is full of these same feelings and I applaud your willingness to share such rawness.
    Hugs dear Robin.

  13. This is a strong and powerful post, Robin...for me it has been hurt and resentment rather than anger, and I finally had to let it go for my own wellness... I still can't give up on the relationship, but it has lost it's ability to hurt me the way it did. Your feelings are brave and honest, and I hope you can find peace...XO

  14. "The earth has always been my best church." Wow. Just wow.


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