As a child, I probably had some of the best summer vacations ever. We didn’t go to Disney World or Paris. We didn’t go to see Broadway shows in New York or go on walkabout in Australia. We did better than that–we had family reunions (the fun kind). My father had seven brothers and sisters, and every other year, we practically took over this little resort in Branson, Missouri.
We would stay a week and have a blast! We got to reconnect with our cousins (I have twenty-something first cousins alone). Our aunts and uncles loved on us and fed us all kinds of goodies including tons of homemade cookies. They probably wouldn’t admit it, but I believe the aunts were always trying to out-do each other in an unspoken but very competitive best cookie and dessert campaign. All the better for the rest of us, my dears! We went boating, water skiing, and we swam practically all day every day–diving off the boat into the lake or jumping into the pool. The worst thing that could happen was to get sunburned so badly you couldn’t swim! We went go-carting and to a huge game arcade and we hit baseballs in cages with mechanical pitchers and played miniature golf. The days were, at least for youngsters, long-stretching adventures set to the scents of Coppertone, chlorine, and chocolate.
Our reunion site moved over time, and we went to some other resorts–there was a place in Kentucky I remember fondly. We rode horses on the trails there, which of course made it a favorite in the annals of my best reunions. But those other places never evoke feelings and memories in me the way Branson does.
My father was very close to his family in many ways, and he actually still is close with those remaining. Our large extended family still gets together, though these days, due to how aged my aunts, my one remaining uncle, and my father are, we get together closer to home. I actually haven’t been to one of these reunions. I did get to Iowa last summer, and my plan was to go to the reunion, but events beyond my control kept me from it.
My summer vacation…those words evoke different images for all of us. For me, a vacation isn’t a vacation unless it involves large bodies of water, rides on horseback on sun-dappled trails, not having to make your bed, foreign languages or at least unfamiliar accents, and lots of bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches on toast with locally grown tomatoes and creamy horseradish. Of course I haven’t had any sort of “real” vacation in a very long time. But that is what I see in my mind’s eye when daydreaming.
My big fat summer vacation and the summer of familial “love”–let me lay out for you what made it more like the familial equivalent of a terrorist attack. Where to begin? I guess at the very beginning.
MCF was planning on spending three weeks in India, and he wanted to send my children to Iowa to be with their grandparents (it’s currently outside of our visitation “agreement” for me to spend that much time with them). He was planning to send them to Iowa to coincide with my family’s reunion. Having been accustomed to being beaten down by MCF’s Gucci wearing barracuda lawyer (for two years I attempted to represent myself in court because I couldn’t afford an attorney), it never occurred to me to do anything about joining them until about three weeks before they were to leave. I now have a wonderful attorney who is representing me pro bono, so I called him up and asked, “What are the chances?” We had a hearing coming up for some other matter a couple of days before they were to leave on their trek at which we could introduce the subject, and so my lawyer more or less said, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” The judge allowed me attend with my children, but there was a whole lot of confusion around the matter of actual dates. I left thinking that I could spend their entire holiday with them. MCF thought that I could spend only the actual reunion dates with them. There were no dates on the court order. So…MCF didn’t send my children at all, which put my entire family into a tailspin (he was found in “technical” contempt for that episode just a few weeks back). I was on the train headed there when I found out they weren’t coming. I got into Moline and my cousin Kathy picked me up there. I arrived at my parents’ house on a Friday.
Now it seems I need to go back even further. On June 9, 2010 my probation ended for the matter I mentioned in a previous post. I was on probation with a deferred sentence and I am to pay restitution to the state of Iowa. On June 9, the county court reviewed files for people finishing probation, and when they found I had not yet finished paying restitution, they found me in “possible” violation of my probation. This is what they do to all offenders, I was not singled out. If I’d been in the state of Iowa, I would have worked out a deal through my probation officer before it came to this to continue my probation until I’d finished paying restitution. But states don’t communicate well over these matters and, all things being equal, there I was with a warrant for my arrest in the state of Iowa.
I found this out around the end of June (my picture being posted in the local Iowa newspaper–I love small towns). I immediately called the Public Defender’s office. The Public Defender’s office contacted the County Attorney’s office to try to work something out where the warrant would be dropped. I told the P.D. that I might be coming home in a few weeks, and could he please help me resolve the problem before my arrival date. As the it drew closer toward my possible departure date, I kept in contact with the Public Defender (read: I hounded them). The last week before I was to travel, however, the entire legal staff was attending a training session, so no movement was made that week, nor did I receive any return calls. I was pretty sure if I were there, though, we could work things out fairly easily.
So, I appeared in Iowa, devastated about my children. Apparently, my brother and sister had pressured my dad not to allow me to visit him and my mother. My brother told my father he wouldn’t allow his son to be at my parent’s house if I were there. So at first my father said “no” to me coming (“Umm, gee, Dad, I’m on the train”). Of course I argued with him (who, me?) and then later, he turned it around and said, “Of course you’re welcome.” Whew. Great way to start a stay.
Hang in there, I’m getting to the good part now! Saturday afternoon, we were sitting at the table, we being my father, mother, sister and I, and my brother walks in (he has a house down the hill from my parent’s home). Now, I hadn’t spoken to my brother in quite some time. I had previously told him I wasn’t going to speak to him, and that he could fuck off until he could communicate like an adult (real mature of me, I know). You see, his modus operandi had been to call me saying all of this insulting stuff and then to hang up before I could respond, and then not answer the phone. Or he would do the same by text.
So sitting there Saturday night, my brother asks me if I don’t have something to tell my parents. I tell him I don’t know what he’s talking about…because I really don’t know what he’s talking about. I finally find out he’s alluding to the fact that I had a warrant out for my arrest. I told him what I’d already told my parents. It’s not like they didn’t know. They saw my picture in the paper, after all, and called me. They knew everything about me being in contact with the Public Defender’s office. So to cut to the chase, my brother called the police and gave them my name, informed them that I had a warrant out for my arrest, and offered my parent’s address. I of course then sat and waited for a couple of hours for them to come pick me up. My poor mother was absolutely horrified, saying she would never forgive him. My father and sister sat and said nothing. My brother said he was doing it to protect my parents. Right.
Two sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house. I accompanied them outside. In that they didn’t handcuff me in front of my family, they were very gracious, and to this day, I am very grateful to them. Actually, they were very very kind throughout. We reached the county jail where the jailer booked me. My father paid a bond of $500.00 (for which he can ask my brother to repay him, as far as I’m concerned), and we returned home. When we drove up, my brother “welcomed” me home and announced to my father that he would never speak to him again. He kept that promise for approximately three or four months, refusing to help my father mow the lawn or anything else he was accustomed to doing in the past. Methinks his claim to have been protecting our parents bullshit, for lack of a better word. If he really cared about my parents, he wouldn’t have stopped speaking to them. He did it to hurt me. Period. I found out later, he’d been talking with MCF a while before the whole unseemly debacle.
To be honest, what happened with my brother didn’t have nearly the effect that being deprived of seeing my children had. My brother’s behavior shocked me more than it hurt me, because I don’t and never have spent my time pondering how to hurt another living being. I manage to hurt people enough without planning through lack of thought and selfishness–I don’t need to add to the misery consciously. And I generally believe that in the long run, a person harms himself much more than he does the person he wrongs. For the people who hurt me, I usually hope for a visit from the Karma Fairy.
As if there hadn’t been quite enough drama with my brother, there was more with my brother-in-law. It wasn’t anything nearly as severe, but it’s affects were much more painful and far more reaching. We were at the table, again (just the image of sitting there makes me ill these days), and I’d just been to my mother’s doctor because, in all honesty, I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to survive having my heart broken (children) once again. Also, I had left Albuquerque in such a hurry that I didn’t pick up any of my medications, so I needed scripts for those, and he also gave me some additional medications to see me through that particular emotionally turbulent period.
The argument with my brother-in-law started because I’d asked a family friend for advice. I told her I believed my mother wasn’t getting the care she needed, and she wasn’t. She was highly depressed and sleeping about sixteen hours a day. My father and my sister don’t believe in depression. They think she should either snap out of it or bloody well lay there all day. I suggested to this friend that perhaps my mother needed some outside intervention. I believed, and I still do, that while my father and my sister both care and have her best interests at heart, neither are temperamentally suited to caring for my mother. Well, this (possibly) well-meaning friend called my sister. And my sister had a cow and decided I needed to be warned to back off. And the asshat she’s married to called me “bitch” several times. I couldn’t really tell you much more of what was said other than he asked me why I wasn’t at the reunion since that’s what I’d come for (d’oh, maybe because I didn’t feel like going without my children?). And I also remember that my mother stood up for me, but my father didn’t. Let that sink in for just a moment, if you will.
That he would let that aggressive asshole yell at and call his daughter names in his home while she was there with his blessing was simply more than I was and still am prepared to stand for. Plus when I returned home my father said I was the cause of all of the familial strife. So these days we have superficial conversations–I don’t care to risk anything deeper. My father is entitled to his low opinion of me. I learned that he’s apparently always had it. I always thought it was my mother’s expectations I couldn’t reach, but now I understand they were his. I’ll clearly never stay in his house again, and I’m okay with that. After last summer, it no longer holds any meaning for me anyway.
It’s my nature, being the empathic person that I am, to understand. I know that my father and mother are dependent on my sister and her husband as my sister is their caretaker. My father feels indebted and grateful to them for their help, as he should. My father told me that he can’t afford to offend them. That is his choice to make, not mine. It’s one thing, however, to try not to offend, and completely another to allow a man to perpetrate that kind of violent behavior on a family member. I’ve come to the conclusion that it sucks getting old, and I simply have to be as graceful and benevolent as I can afford to be and still take care of myself. I certainly know what it’s like to be dependent upon other people–it’s no picnic in the park.
I’m not a silver lining-seeker, but enough time has passed that I’m able to be philosophical about it. Clearly the next time I have a vacation, anywhere I go and whatever I do will beat last summer’s trip. I have a new low to which to compare every future vacation! And I no longer have to feel even the slightest bit guilty about not talking to my sister or brother. Sometimes, when I look at pictures of us when we were young, and all of the above are actually my family photographs, I feel sad for what we’ve become to each other. But I’m okay with that also. It makes me appreciate all of the people who really do love me and who have stood by me all the more.
So here’s to those people, and you know who you are because you’re reading this!
1.) My children (who are not reading this) I hope you will have the emotional tools to be able to deal with family better than I have been able (up to this point)!
2.) My cousins, Kathy in particular! In India cousins are called sister-cousins and brother-cousins because that’s how close they are.
3.) My friends, who are more like family than my nuclear family of origin!
4.) Pete, thanks for the treat yesterday! The talk and the pedicure and manicure!
5.) Lady and Pennie, my lovely furry companions.