Lack an all-knowing term in the immediate family. We lose electricity—at least there is the sun. Lose hot water—pretend we are in the polar bear club. Plastic cups from fast food chains as glassware. Sink broken, termite infested floors. Curtains drawn. Fire scorched wall remains after using the uncared for fireplace. TV gigantic and always on glaring and blasting—a perfect getaway.
We visited Kentucky for Mother's Day weekend this year to meet my niece's newborn baby. A joyous occasion for the newest addition to our family. And it is, but there's always that other part, the lack. The lives of people who have been in and out of jail, in and out of drugs, completely removed from any functioning of normalcy. Numbed out to extreme levels. My sister's boyfriend had just been released when we arrived. He's a nice man who is always laughing and never hesitates to help out with the house or the car. He's family. Drug charges, I assume, but it's not like any of us sit down and discuss at length what is really going on. If we did that, then there might be some hope of pulling out of this into the living and the hopeful. Logan, my son, begged me to sleepover, and I kept telling him no. He's 9 now, so I finally told him: "We love them very much, but they do things that are illegal. If the cops come here, while I'm not here, they can take you away and I don't want anything bad to happen to you." Out of context, this statement sounds like one of those terrible lies a parent says to a kid to scare the ever-living crap out of him / her, but not the case here. Truth all the way. My children cannot be left alone with my sister and the people she shares her life with.
I can't help but think I'm a cash dispenser when there. It's not like I'm rich or anything, but I play into the role of their assumption of me being well off because I am a teacher and live in a pretty house and have kids and I don't have drug dealers and talk of doing time in my home. I am the one who pays even though I am juggling my own finances because of being a teacher and living in a pretty house and having kids. I love sharing and paying for others when I'm able. It makes me happy to do that with everyone, but with them it feels like I'm not even there. I'm relegated to the one who will make sure we eat at the chain restaurant outside of the mall. I don't understand why my sister has no money. The house is paid in full and she works as a manager at Wendy's. She really should have more money than me. We all assume what others have, when in truth none of us know what the real deal with anyone is. Except, she's my sister and I know. Lack. Not functioning. Emotionally stunted beyond words. It always amazes me that I live this life and she lives that life and we grew up under the same roof. How can two people born into the same family, born from the same exact people turn out this way? But then I remember, I have my own difficulties in staying present and feeling like I'm good enough. I have not lived a straight and narrow life, thankfully, but I also have raised myself into functioning and thriving adulthood. That's what I really wonder—how did we veer into these seemingly opposite ends? I have tons of theories and insights, but how?
That weekend in Kentucky, I got violently ill on Mother's Day morning. The violently ill, typical. I grew up with constant migraines and once I moved out, they vanished but when I returned for a visit I always got one and really sick. Never mind the rheumatoid arthritis. So much sickness banging in my brain. An explosion erupting consciousness. How do you know that the physical illness is a wake up call in all that dysfunction? Pattern of going to Kentucky: stay as short of a time as possible. Never stay at the house, no matter how much it costs to stay at a hotel. Try your best to enjoy and appreciate your family. Bam. Sick every-single-f'ing-time.
Things I still love doing with my sister: singing Prince songs in full, especially "Adore" at crazy squeaking volume with no accompaniment, watching ridiculous movies and laughing our asses off, looking at each other and saying how much we miss mom. I really miss mom.
I don't hear from my sister when she feels she's screwing up. I suspect drugs again, but who knows? Fear, lack and more fear keep her from fully connecting to me. I just want to hug her and tell her everything is going to be okay and that she's stronger than she thinks.