Merry Christmas, but not to me

My 5-year old spent the afternoon at her grandmother’s house which is chock full of bric-a-brac with a large side order of gewgaws, and a heaping helping of curios. Grandma also has a lot of stuff, particularly costume jewelry and chocolate sitting around in candy dishes. My daughter adores visiting.

While I stood in the kitchen waiting for my mother to package up some ham and cheesy potatoes she had overbaked, I caught a glimpse of my estranged sister’s handwriting on an envelope. The sticker-dotted envelope sat right next to the kitchen sink. It looked like a Christmas card.

For a moment, I felt the tiniest ghost of a pang, the flimsiest regret that my sister and I no longer speak. We haven’t spoken a word to each other in over five years. A couple of years ago, I sent her an email and asked if we might discuss in through email why we weren’t speaking. She emailed back, “I’ll call you when I get there,” (there being here–she lives in Japan and was due for a visit to the Pacific Northwest). I emailed back and said, “No, we need to talk before you get here.”

She never emailed me again. She never called me, either.

It’s strange when a person you’ve known literally your whole life (except for those first sixteen months, but I wasn’t exactly a conversational wonder in my babyhood, so that doesn’t count) rips you out like a perforated page in a book. Granted, my anger at her was justified, in my opinion–despite my explicit instructions not to make copies and keep some particularly graphic pictures of my giving birth, she ordered herself copies from negatives and took them back to Japan with her. When I discovered this theft, I emailed her a concise, direct demand to return my photographs. I never got my photos, an explanation or an apology. And that was the end of our sisterhood.
Not that we were very good sisters anyway. If friends are the family you choose for yourself, sometimes family are the friends you wouldn’t have chosen in a million years–you have nothing in common other than a gene pool. For all our differences, though, we were still sisters, sister who had nothing in common, who grated on one another’s nerves and didn’t particular like spending time in the same room from our very earliest days together.

Still. She’s living a life completely outside the frame of my life. She not only cut me out of her life, but cut my children out of her life, too. I imagine it’s easier for them and yet some day, will be more difficult. They don’t miss what they never had, but one day, they’ll wonder why we don’t speak and ask whatever happened to their aunt.

And my explanation will sound so ridiculous: Your aunt doesn’t speak to me because I asked her to return some photos of me giving birth that she took without permission. The deeper explanation is so tangled even I have no idea where it begins and where it ends. You know when you can’t unravel a knot? Sometimes, you just have to cut it out and start fresh.

I guess that’s what we did.

18 thoughts on “Merry Christmas, but not to me

  1. I have an aunt who is no longer a part of our lives. Every once in a great while I will reach out to her, but the response is always the same. What’s that saying about insanity and doing the same thing over and expecting different results? I wish we could move past our issues, but that is not going to happen any time soon. I hope you know you are not alone in this type of situation.


  2. This is a beautifully written post. Isn’t it funny how we care for people who we would never have chosen as our friends if they weren’t our family? It is strange.


  3. {{{ HUGS }}}

    I have adopted some of my own family, instead of the one i got born with, and it has been a blessing. I have wonderful sisters now, a Chinese and a Danish one, which is different from what I was born at, but feels better than my birth family.

    Much better 🙂



  4. I join Karen in giving you a sandwich hug. There is no way through it but through it. I’m attending the second evening of a “mission” at our church tonite–whatever a MISSION is–and the topic is forgiveness. If I hear anything significant to share, I will share. But, sadly, we all already know the difficult truths of forgiveness.


  5. Had to cut out a knot over here, too.

    There were only two boys and a mom in my husband’s family. One of the boys died this year. The youngest.

    All I can say is, it certainly CAN get more complicated.

    I’m clueless.


  6. I have an older brother who completely cut me out of his life over 15 years ago. I was first…then it trickled on down thru the rest of the family. He was mad at me because I missed one of his daughters’ wedding receptions because I was caring for an aunt who was terminal and died a few days later. When my dad died almost two years ago, my two other brothers and I felt the only reason dad held on as long as he did is he was just hoping his estranged son and grandkids would show up. They never did, even with attempts to reach them. They never responded, even when our oldest brother went to their house and stood knocking on the door. There was obviously someone inside, too. Family! What more is there to say than that?


  7. An add-on to that…when our dad’s obituary was in the paper, my husband’s name was inadvertently left out. When my estranged sister-in-law ran across my best friend a few months later, she asked my friend if my husband had died or if I was divorced. Why would she even care about THAT?!? That was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I pray for them…I love them…but I will never EVER EVER understand them.


  8. dear melody,
    thank you for posting this. sometimes we really do have to cut people out of our lives for our own good. and it hurts us. we don’t do it to hurt them, but we do it to protect ourselves and our “own.” so, while you are sad to live without your sister, it is sometimes impossible to patch up a relationship when the other party does not care. it doesn’t seem fair. but we move on and build relationships that matter. i applaud you for your honorable manner in dealing with the betrayal, and for the courage it takes to move on.

    i’m a new fan of your blog.



You know you want to comment here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s