Do I send this letter to my sister and risk--what??

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2008
Do I send this letter to my sister and risk--what??
39
Sun, 11-21-2010 - 7:59am

Background: I am in my late fifties, my next sister, call her A, is 3 years younger. She has not spoken to me in several years, owing to a disagreement I and my siblings had with her around the time of my mother's death. She has always been a bit of a problem, quick to anger and hold grudges, cuting people off, etc. She communicates with my other sister (S) as if she is a polite, cordial acquaintance. If I ran into her, she would treat me the same way, on the surface friendly (for other people to see) but beyond that a wall of ice.

Last month my daughter was diagnosed with cancer. She's 25. It's a virulent, fast moving breast cancer. She's getting great treatment, and we're hopeful, but this is the scariest time of our lives, ever. Family, friends, neighbors have rallied round. My other sister (S) informed A about this at the beginning, before we had all the details. I got a short, polite email from A saying she was sorry, we must be devastated, she wished us the best. Since then, when we've found out the full, devastating news, NOTHING. No calls, no emails. Her daughter has written and kept in touch (she's a good kid) so I imagine A must be keeping up with the news through her.

I am hurt beyond measure about this. Previous to our falling out, she and her daughter (she's a single mom) came for Christmas every year, so they were close while my daughter was growing up. The cousins are close. My sister has a very deep-seated anger, obviously. We had a tough childhood, alcoholic mother, yadda yadda. I've written my sister a letter expressing how I feel and asking her to explain her own choice to remain distant. I've been careful not to be accusatory, just to express my pain and fears and how her absence affects us. I've told her she is free to choose how to handle us, but I don't think I can return an offer of simple cordiality as the basis for our relationship. Her daughter is getting married next summer, so I will probably see her then.

Should I send the letter or just let sleeping dogs lie and deal with this pain on my own? I don't know what goes on in her head and I don't want to upset her, but she is my sister and I'd like her to know how I feel, how her behavior has affected me. I'm very confused.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 12-16-2008

I could be your sister.

I grew up with an alcoholic mother, so there is quite a bit of dysfunction on my side of the family.

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2008
I really appreciate your reply, Irishtea, and you've given me a lot to think about, but I probably should have been clearer in my letter about our history. Like you, I have always been the one to communicate and make peace in my family. For years my sister came to my house for Christmas and I listened to her stories of her problems with her work, her problems with men, I cheered with her when her daughter did well in school, I cooked and cleaned (she never offered to help), I was sympathetic and the endless shoulder to cry on. She criticized my children, my husband, ordered everyone around and generally made my kids want her to leave after she'd been in the house for an hour. She insisted we limit the number of gifts we gave our children at Christmas so her daughter wouldn't feel "left out," presumably since she had only one parent present, and then we waited for ages while her daughter unwrapped gift after gift after gift from my sister, from her father and her father's wife, from her cousins back home, etc. When my own first marriage broke up, she called to tell me she believed I had never loved my husband, as she and her husband truly loved each other and she couldn't ever imagine them breaking up (they broke up two years later--and I was the one who listened to her endless phone calls, sympathized, went up to her house to babysit. After seventeen years of this there came a Christmas when I had had it, and when she started badmouthing my other sister, saying that S was jealous of her because she and her daughter had gone on a trip to the Bahamas (she was making good money by then; my other sister has always just scraped by), I stopped pussyfooting around and just told her, "S isn't jealous of you; she's far too busy with her kids to care where you and L go on vacation." From that point on she gave me the cold shoulder, and that was the last Christmas she came to spend with us.

The ONLY time any of us were judgmental of her, or criticized her directly, in my entire memory (other than that one statement on my part) was when my mother was dying in Ireland and we were trying to bring her home so she could be with us, and A's email comment was "I see no problem with letting her die in Ireland. Any medical issues can be handled remotely." Yes, we all did get angry for that, but we ALL subsequently sent apologetic emails, cards, and apologized in person. But after that incident, we were all persona non grata.

Other than that, we have all always been supportive, encouraging, and praiseworthy of her accomplishments and her daughter's.

In the letter I want to send to her, I thank her for the two emails she has sent me int he past five years - one a condolence to my husband on his mother's death and the one to me about my daughter's diagnosis. Both emails were under 2 full lines long. I have sent her birthday cards, Christmas cards, and the occasional gift all along. I have also said in the letter,"Whatever path of life you have chosen, I cannot forget somehow that you are my sister. I am one of the few people left in your world who has known you for your entire life. If this means to you what it means to me, I would hope that we could support each other through the remaining years of our lives. If, on the other hand, this new route you have chosen is the one you wish to pursue, there's nothing I can do about it, but grieve yet another loss."

We don't live in the same country, and I haven't seen her since my mother died. (She did come to Ireland to see her before she died and was polite to us for the most part but refused our invitation to come to dinner and refused quite nastily to tell us where she was staying). We've never except for that one disagreement about my mum treated her like a black sheep, though she refers to herself as "not like the family." From the time she was a small child, she has been volatile and temperamental. Not a dinnertime went by that she did not throw a tantrum and flee to her room, and my mum would always follow to placate her.

I know that in alcoholic families, there is often one child who is the conduit of the bad "energy" and that would be my sister, and my heart goes out to her for that. But our parents are dead, and the poison continues.

I am so sorry you have had such difficulties with your own children. You sound like a very committed and devoted mother, and your children are lucky to have you. In many ways I think my own life parallels yours rather than my sister's does. And when you wrote about those two incidents leading you to put some distance between you and your family, well that decision presages what I think I will be inclined to do with my sister if I do send this letter and I get a cool response or no response at all. I just hate this phony limbo, where she is putting on the act for others, and her daughter, that she is perfectly nice to us and we are sulking for no reason. And then she'll make a parting comment that is really vitriolic. It's very difficult. I do love her, and I do hurt for her own hurt. For her fiftieth birthday, I got her a little statue of an elephant (she loves elephants) and presented it to her on the occasion of my Dad's memorial service, which she was at first not inclined to come to, as she wasn't speaking to any of us. I took her aside and opened my heart to her, apologized profusely for any hurt that I had caused her, asked if we could put it behind us and remember our history and by close again. I made myself very vulnerable and I was near tears, and when I opened my arms to offer her a hug she gave me a really vicious look and said, "I'm here, aren't I??" in a very angry tone. I just stood there. I felt like I had been slapped hard. I didn't know what to say. Then she put on her "smiley face" and said in a saccharine tone, "Thank you for the gift. It's just lovely. I'll put it on my mantel at home." And swept out of the room.

So that is what I am dealing with. Sorry for the lengthy reply. :-(
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-29-2002

My thoughts are with you and your DD at this time.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2009


What a difficult time for your family.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-10-2010
Sun, 11-21-2010 - 11:59pm

So sorry for what your family is going through.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-13-2009
Mon, 11-22-2010 - 12:18am

Oops!

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-24-2008

Thanks for your support, girls.

I did send the letter last night. I followed my younger sister's advice and signed it Love, [my name] even though I hadn't planned to. I suppose if I didn't still feel something for her I wouldn't bother.

When I am rational, I do agree--why do I want this person in my life? But there were times in the 40-odd years that we did communicate that she was nice, and we had a good time together. She and my younger sister were once very close. We're NOT like fine wines--we don't seem to get better as we age.

Now with my daughter's cancer I realize how fragile life is and how important the time we have is, and I guess that's partly what prompted this.

I'll let you know what happens.

Thanks again. I really needed to bounce this off people who were not personally involved for objective responses.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-03-2008

Marjory, First off, I want to let you know that your daughter and you are in my thoughts and prayers. I too, am dealing with Cancer, (Cervical). It's a very scary thing to go through.

I would have replied to your post earlier but everyone else

"IMAGINE" All The people, Living Life in Peace...................., "You may say I'm a dreamer; But, I'm not he only one." "Be A Dreamer and Imagine."
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-10-2010
Mon, 11-22-2010 - 10:24am
grammalu2008 wrote:
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-24-2004
Mon, 11-22-2010 - 12:44pm

Joining this conversation late. First I want to say, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your daughter. You see how fragile life can be, but aparently, she doesn't. Therefore, she's acting the way she acting. You sent the letter. The ball is in her court. If she doesn't respond positively, If anything, the letter will cause her to think about what is going on. She sounds very bitter.

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