Whew. So we are back from Pennsylvania where we visited my mother-in-law and her husband last week and over the weekend. The trip was much better than I thought it would be in some ways, but much worse in others.
Sam was a total delight. He was a trooper until about the last 45 minutes of a 9-hour drive both ways. At that point I am usually ready to lose my mind, so I can’t blame him. He loved being on a huge farm with corn fields, cows, milk trucks, tractors, an antique fire truck — a little boy’s dream. He played, explored, learned new words (“wild mustard” and “dandelion” are my two favorites), and just had a blast with his grandma and grandpa.
So that was good.
The not so good part: family. It’s a long and complicated story and probably not a very unusual one. Drew and his brother haven’t talked to each other for more than a couple of months. Many reasons for this — plain old forgetting to pick up the phone, but mostly there is a rift between them because of how they are dealing with the declining health of their father. Again, this is a long story too and I don’t want to go into the nitty-gritty. Tim has always been closer to his dad who struggled throughout his life with serious mental illness. Drew deals with this by cutting off contact with his dad. Tim is still in the thick of it and feels like his brother should be too. You can see where this can lead to conflict.
To me, it’s almost unimaginable to not talk to your dad, no matter what he’s done to you. It’s also unimaginable to not talk to my brother. But I come from a very normal, very close, very boring family. I’ve been working hard at not judging the situation, but finding compassion in my heart for all who are involved.
The plan this weekend was to bring the two boys together. Drew agreed. Tim agreed. Things were looking up. I guess in my mind I imagined some sort of a tearful reunion, where both brothers would realize that their shared history and family are stronger than whatever is going on with their dad and that they really need each other to get through what is coming.
I was wrong. So. Very. Wrong.
They did not talk to each other all weekend. At all. They barely looked at each other. It was apparent that Tim is going through something — or a couple of things. But is that an excuse to be rude and ignore your family? I don’t know. Again, I am trying to shut down the anger I feel and turn it into compassion, but it’s hard. And he is not even my brother. I mean, we are all going through something, all the time. If you don’t want to talk about it, fine. But when someone extends an olive branch, the least you can do is reach toward it, even if you don’t accept it right away.
I was sort of surprised by my own reaction to all of this. Drew did not seem to be surprised by the outcome of the weekend, but it made me really sad and angry. I was willing to talk Drew into meeting with him, risking my own family peace… Maybe the risk was worth it, because we can say that we tried. I’d like to think that the rift is temporary, but I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely forget this weekend.
I am working on forgiving it.