One thing I can tell you about our families is that we're very consistent - we're all certifiable. And those of us who claim not to be? We're either in denial, or we just haven't fallen off the cliff yet.
One of the reasons I always craved a large family was because my own family was very small, and very dysfunctional. My mother is an only child, her mother was an only child, her father had one brother.
My father has one brother, with whom he does not speak. His father had two brothers, one who died in the Second World War, and the other with whom he was surprisingly close. My father does not speak with his mother. His mother has a brother who is not usually on speaking terms with her and a sister with whom she as not spoken in over half a century.
I'm 33 years old. For nearly half of my life, my brother has not spoken to me. For about two thirds of my life my brother has either not spoken to me at all, or he has not spoken civilly to me. Indeed, most people who have only met me in the last ten years don't even realize I have a brother - because functionally? I don't.
In fact, if you ask him? I don't exist. Literally. He will tell you he has no siblings. No sister. Nada. I never existed, as far as he is concerned. It is as if my 33 years on this earth were entirely inconsequential.
I suppose, if I am entirely honest with myself, in the grand scheme of the universe, my time on this early probably is inconsequential. But people (myself included) do like to delude themselves into believing that there is some meaning in their lives and that at least the people in their families will find their lives worthwhile.
Frankly, my husband's family isn't much more functional. One example:
My MIL has a sister who did not speak to her for several decades. I doubt either of them really knew why E wasn't speaking to my MIL after all those years, but she harboured so much bitterness that she cut my MIL off entirely - to the point that she even cut her children off from my MIL's children and allowed no contact between the cousins. Until, suddenly, a couple weeks before our wedding, I received a phone call from an elderly relative of my husband's saying that as he was getting on in years, it was his deepest desire to repair the broken branches of the splintered family tree. And he was planning to use our wedding as the vehicle to provide that repair service. He wanted us to invite E to the wedding. I refused, believing it to be wholly inappropriate, and frankly unfair to my MIL. It simply was not the time nor the place for such a gesture. He said he understood and we thought that was the last of it. Until three days before the wedding, he left a voice mail stating, "I'm bringing E. I expect you to behave maturely and appropriately about this matter. Please seat her with us at the reception." I might have thought it was worth it, had E made any overtures toward peace-making at the wedding. Instead, she told my MIL flat out that she didn't want anything to do with her and wanted her to stay away from her.
Good heavens, do I have a point? Why yes, yes I do.
In February, E wrote to me and asked me if I could get her in touch with my MIL. She was beginning to feel her mortality looming and thought perhaps it was time to put the past in the past, despite decades of not speaking to my MIL. My MIL is a better person than me, you know, and she agreed to get back in touch with her sister and they've been exchanging email ever since.
I realized that by the time I am 65(ish) (my MIL's age), my brother will have not spoken to me in nearly half a century. Would I be as good a person as my MIL, I wondered? It's a terrible exercise to take myself through. I used to wonder all the time what I would do if my brother suddenly changed his mind and walked back into my life. But the fact is, he didn't just stop speaking to me. He erased me from his life. He erased me from the planet - from existence. I don't exist in his universe. I never existed.
It made me wonder how he deals with the web of lies he must weave.
He was married once - for a year and a half. I met her, so she surely knew I existed. But he was pissed as hell at her for talking to me, I know that much.
But I wonder, you know? If he meets a girl and she's asking about his life and his family and whatever and he says, "I don't have any siblings" that works fine for a first date or whatever. And it never comes up again, right? But what if she starts asking more questions on subsequent dates... like what life as an only child is like, or "did you ever wish you had a sibling?" or something like that?
And what happens if he and this woman were to become more serious and whatever and ... you know ... he thought about maybe marrying her or something. Suppose, he took her to meet his father. His father who also happens to be my father. I can only assume my father does not feed my brother's pathology by taking down any pictures of his four grandchildren throughout the house just because my brother visits (though it would certainly be MY preference for him to do so - I have no desire for my brother to have any glimpse at my life any more). But suppose this woman sees all these pictures of all these kids and asks who all these kids are? "Why, those are my grandchildren!" "Grandchildren? But your only child has no children!" "Those aren't my son's children, they are my daughter's!"
Can you imagine?
Surely he can't let things get that far while still being in that lie, can he? Because, I can tell you most definitely, if my husband had lied to me about something that fundamental and I found out about it before we got married? I would have called the wedding off. How could I ever trust him again?
So how do you wipe someone out of existence? Really?
I don't know. What I do know is that I decided several years ago was that the only way that I could cope with my brother's treatment of me was to get him out of my life, too. He had been so disgusting to me and my family at a family reunion several years back that I told my father that I didn't want to hear anything more about his life again. And I told him that I didn't want him telling my brother anything more about my life either. Nothing. If my brother didn't want to know about my life, then dammit, I certainly didn't want information flowing toward him. I have since done my best to insulate myself from as much information about him as I can, and yet? It finds me.
It shouldn't be hard to cut myself off from information about him - he doesn't speak to my mother. He doesn't speak to my grandfather or my grandmother. I rarely hear from the few relatives that he's in touch with other than my father who has respected my wishes and never shared another detail about my brother's life with me since that day I requested it.
Well, it turns out my brother had a daughter sometime last year.
And he's getting married next month.
It shouldn't hurt me to hear this (I heard it from my grandmother, don't ask how she heard it, it's too complicated). And I really wish I didn't know it. I spent a couple hours shedding bukets of tears over something that shouldn't matter to me. It shouldn't matter to me, really, but it just emphasizes the fact that my brother would never tell me these things.
It emphasizes his rejection.
I don't know why it should bother me so much after all these years that my brother doesn't talk to me. That my brother is such an asshole. That my brother has never treated me like a human being. But my dear friend, B, put it very succinctly and really got to the heart of the matter, I think. And it's true:
No one likes to be rejected.