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Archive for October 20th, 2009

As I have shared on my blog, my birth family is not a part of my life. I only stay in touch with my sister, but even with her, it more about me doing things for her than a reciprocal relationship. In many ways, I feel like an orphan. I have no expectation of anyone in my birth family doing anything for me. I have made my own family through close friendships and, to a lesser extent, through marriage. Hub’s family has its own dysfunction, but I can count on them for some important things that I would never ask from my own family.

Three of my closest friends grew up in dysfunctional families that were nowhere near as insane as mine. (Let’s face it, though – I am not going to meet that many people who can “compete” with the insanity of my birth family.) While all three of them had less than ideal upbringings, they still have their parents in their lives and invest energy into those relationships. So, I guess I just assumed that their parents offered them some form of nurturing. I was shocked to learn just how off base I was on this.

One friend’s sister was so abusive that my friend has cut off all contact with the sister. The mother has taken measures to try to force a reconciliation, or at least a peaceful coexistence, between the siblings. My friend feels like she must scream for her mother to “hear” her, but the mother continues not to listen.

I found out from friend #2 that the only birthday cake that she has had in the last 10 years is one that she bought for herself for the sake of her kids. That broke my heart! I knew that her family did not make a big deal out of her birthday, so I have taken her out to dinner and a movie for her birthday for the last two years, but I was floored to learn that her own mother, who is in her life daily, couldn’t be bothered to buy her a birthday cake. (Money is not an issue for this woman.)

Then, I learned that friend #3’s mother is actually an insensitive b@#$%, too. She lives one street away from my friend. My friend is a single mother who contracted the H1N1 virus. When she called to tell her mother that she was home sick with the flu and had no food in the house, her mother’s response was, “It’s not your turn.” The mother was dealing with some drama with another family member, so she could not be bothered to drop a loaf of bread off on her daughter’s doorstep. Can you believe that?

None of these insensitivities would surprise me coming from my own family, but I was shocked to learn of these in my friends’ lives. Perhaps I am more open with my experiences, and they were not ready to let me know about this level of dysfunction in their relationships. Or, perhaps I just assumed that other people would not put energy into these types of relationships because I don’t. I don’t know – I am just reeling from the shock of it all and understanding why they invest in a friendship with me. (By the way, I dropped off bread and medicine for my sick friend as well as frozen dinners and cookies for the child. It wouldn’t even have occurred to me to say no.)

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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