What is the right thing to do here?

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-21-2003
What is the right thing to do here?
16
Tue, 09-18-2012 - 4:12pm

Hey everyone. I was hoping to get some input on a situation I have. My dad emailed me today and told me that my brother's wife has thyroid cancer. She has been given a good prognosis and it will be treated surgically very soon. Here's my issue. I am not now, nor have I ever been, close with my brother. In fact, he's really just a stranger to me. He is my dad's son from his first marriage and thus my half brother. He is 15 years older than I and so between age difference and the fact that he went to live with his mom by the time I came along, we didn't grow up together. 

My brother was never interested in having a relationship with me. The only times I generally saw him were the obligatory family get togethers. We never had a problem between us, we just didn't have a genuine relationship, which was ok with both of us. I haven't seen him in seven years and I live about 1,000 miles from him. We don't communicate. Two years ago he found me on facebook and we started having casual conversations and laughing a lot. Things seemed good. One day he tried to start an argument with me over politics, which I neither brought up nor appreciated. After trying to shy away from the topic unsuccessfully, I told him that I didn't want to argue over what ultimately amounted to personal opinions. He stopped speaking to me. I don't mean there was an actual estrangement, just that he no longer communicated with me through FB. He's done that very thing to my father in the past as well. 

Now that my SIL has cancer, I'm not sure what to do. She is a very nasty, rude woman who treated my parents like crap throughout the years, though she was ok to me. I have absolutely no feelings for her and to be honest, no feelings for my brother. He really is a stranger to me and I'm not sure I would recognize him if I saw him on the street. I've had two major surgeries in 4 years. Neither was a life saving operation but he was aware of both and never even emailed me to ask how I was doing. I'm fine with that and didn't expect him to do otherwise. 

My question is what do I do? What I want to do is send him an email saying that I heard about SIL, that I'm sorry and ask him what is going on treatment wise etc. I'd like to ask him to keep me updated. If he didn't I would send an occasional email to ask about her.  I don't want to call him to be perfectly honest . However I don't know what the protocol is here. I want to try to do the right thing but in truth, I don't feel that I owe more than the email . I'm sure that sounds terrible but I'm just being honest. To me he is not really family and has never indicated that he has more feeling towards me than what I have for him.  Again, I know that sounds harsh but I feel this way for a reason. What do you think is the right thing to do?

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iVillage Member
Registered: 11-21-2003
Mon, 09-24-2012 - 10:25am

I got a reply back from my brother and he seemed to appreciate it. According to him the cancer was caught extremey early and all is expected to be taken care of by the surgery and some medication. No chemo or radiation needed, or at least that is what has been predicted by the doctor.  

Sultan, to answer your questions, it's been 7 years because I don't live anywhere near my family. I left my home state years ago and moved about 150 miles away. Then a few years ago I moved about 1,000 miles away. My parents are no longer in my home state either. We don't travel for the holidays although we do see my parents a few times a year when they come through our state on their way south for the winter and back north for the summer. My dad doesn't see my brother much either. Maybe once a year since they moved away. 

With regards to the SIL, she is a very rude, insulting person who used and used and took and took with out ever giving back. Now I haven't been involved in the situation for a long time but I remember incidents from years ago where SIL would make nasty remarks to my mother over things. Twice she made fun of the way my father dressed in front of other people at my parent's x-mas party. He wears khakis and button downs so that was a head scratcher. They used to have holiday dinners at their house and every year my mom would bring a dessert. They would refuse to eat it and even stick their fingers in it ( a cake ), smoosh it with their hands, right at the table in front of everyone. She was also overheard loudly saying that when my parents die the house would be all theirs. I know some of these sound annoying but small. However, she's been in the family since 1985 so after that many years of constant insults and slights, it gets old. She's just childish and mean. My brother would just smirk when she would say or do these things. My mother despises her and my father greatly dislikes her but tolerates her. The thing is she was always decent to me when I was growing up. I don't know if she actually liked me or just didn't pick on kids/ teenagers lol. Anyway, thanks everyone for the advice. I asked my brother to keep me updated about the surgery and we will see how it all goes from there. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2008
Fri, 09-28-2012 - 7:54pm

You send flowers + card to the hospital.  Listen, do they deserve it? Probably not.  But you're the bigger, better person.  All that matters is that YOU know you did the right thing.

I disagree.  If the OP doesn't FEEL like sending flowers and card, then it is not the right thing to do. 

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