When family members don't get along: do you have a story?
In a few weeks my sister Joyce will arrive in Toronto to promote her new novel Labor Day. This is big news for a number of reasons. She's the only person left from my family of origin. She'll arrive just in time for my birthday. She lives in California, too far away for weekend visits. And the last time she came to my city, 14 years ago this fall, we had a fight of monumental bitterness. She cried (hysterically, I said at the time); I clammed up. Not long afterwards, she told me it would be best if we didn't speak for a while. "I love you, Rona," she said. "But I can't bear the pain of being with you."
While the silence between us dragged on, I was writing a monthly column about my life as a woman in these times. My struggle with depression, my working mother's guilt, my hard-won discoveries about marriage and friendship...I shared all this with the readers of Chatelaine. Not a word about my sister. Just the thought of her was torment because, in spite of everything, I loved her.
When Hollywood families can't get along, everybody wants the details. Remember all those breathless dispatches about the Spelling family? Latest twist: Tori Spelling's cruelty is to blame for the death of her father, Aaron---or so Candy, the grieving widow, has told anyone who'd listen. But when we can't get along with our own families, it's embarrassing to tell the truth. If we were loveable, good-hearted people, wouldn't our nearest and dearest want our company? Wouldn't we want theirs? Are we the only people to be plagued by a silence in the family? In fact the problem is common enough that there's a website, estrangements.com, designed especially for people at odds with a family member.
Today I couldn't be happier that Joyce is on her way to Toronto. What changed? For starters, we both reached our 50s---the wisdom years. We both realized we didn't have forever to set things right between us. And besides, we missed each other.
Healing that rift was among the toughest challenges that either of us has ever faced. I've been thinking about family feuds ever since. How do they get started? (The trigger often seems to be the death of a parent.) What's the impact on other relatives? How do some people make amends? And why do others conclude that the relationship is over?
Do you have a story or an insight to share? I'm listening.
Posted by Rona September 29, 2009 @ 11:43 AM. File in Family ties