Is That Santa In The Room Or The Proverbial Elephant?

Our family Christmas started with the Merrill family – our brother, his children and ex-wife – arriving late on the 22nd.  Their arrival was originally scheduled for 5:00 p.m.; however, in true Merrill form, they hadn’t gotten on the road until 1 or 2:00 p.m. that afternoon – as you can guess we live a good six-hour drive away.  Anyway, they arrived, said their hellos and promptly went to bed – even our brother who is the epitome of the night-owl…very strange.

All woke up the next morning, Kim – our eldest sister and hostess of the gathering – started putting out a buffet of items for breakfast while I started my list for the baking.  Our brother  – formerly an alcoholic and claiming to still be in the program –  looked like – can I say it? – hell, and looked the way he did when he was drinking – smelled like it too.  You know it’s funny, alcoholics drink vodka under the guise that it doesn’t have an odor.  Uh…I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it does.  You end up wreaking of sour potatoes and it is truly the worst of all the ‘morning after’ alcohol smells – it’s just plain putrid.  This odorless rumor is one of the many reasons, the other is that it also looks like water thereby making it a great cover in water bottles – you’re only kidding yourselves.

To many of you, I know I must sound very cold and heartless.  I am quite the opposite I assure you.  It is just that I have been round and round with this particular addiction – both with him and my ex – and suffice as to say, I am at my end.  Please read Excuse me but is my thinking messing up your drinking?  I know that I should be more patient, but after the many experiences and those especially experienced this last weekend, all I can say is stick a fork in me, I’m done.

Does this mean that I love him any less?  No, not at all.  Loving him or his family has never been the problem.  However, you cannot make a person seek out and stay sober.  They must seek and keep – or hold on to – their sobriety their selves.  And the actions of my/our brother is not the surprising part of this past weekend.  The surprise, the awakening from our denial were the actions of our niece.

Our niece, Chris, we had hoped, would have been able to overcome the dysfunction of her parents upbringing and follow her own heart and grow into the woman that we knew she could be.  However, what I witnessed – even as early as grade school and on into her tween and teen years – was her ability to manipulate.  This was a skill she learned from her mother – possibly a skill learned by both parents.  But seeing that her mother had primary custody and coupled with what I would hear repeated by Chris and her brother from the time they were tiny tots , I can only guess that their mother was the sole teacher in this bag of survival tricks.

Every time there was an issue with the landlord it was always the ‘mean old landlord’ and that he just didn’t understand.  It was always some sort of ‘misunderstanding’ with the bank for the bounced check.  Or “but I told you that  the rent would be late, don’t you remember?”  Or some variation there of.  Anyway, my point isn’t to show how horrible their mother is – she is actually a lovely woman, just a bit irresponsible and immature.  The point I want to show is just what these children learned.  Now their son, David, seems to have turned out quite the opposite and quite responsible – however the jury is still out since we don’t get a chance to speak with him much or see him.

With this family there is a HUGE elephant that they have been living with for a great many years.  My brother was on his way to ‘Tent City’  – a place for the homeless – when nobody would take him in as he had used up all of his friendships with the church, as well as outside the church.  All were ready to allow him to hit ‘rock bottom’ in the hopes that he would finally get the help that he needed.  The church did pay for his treatment at a facility so he could get sober and he did stay sober for all of maybe 20 days.   His ex was the only person who took him in and for that I am grateful – tried to talk her out of it – but am grateful, we all are.  Now,  I am well aware of the percentage of relapse; quite frankly I don’t care at this point.  All I know is that it’s breaking mine, my sister’s heart and, most importantly, it has broken his family apart.

What I saw in my niece was not what I had hoped.  All these years I told myself and my sisters that she was very well-adjusted and was going to get through all this just fine.  After this weekend, however I have serious doubts.  Of all the traits to inherit she had to inherit our mother’s stubbornness; and she  is a stubborn woman who is bound and determined to learn on her own.  So, if ruining her life in the process is what it takes to learn life’s lessons, then so be it.  Again, she clearly has learned how to manipulate people for what she wants.  Which is why I know she doesn’t talk with me, because I call her on all her all of it and she knows I can see right through it.  Her mother is too gullible or just simply has no backbone – I personally think it’s the latter.  Being a parent means doing the tough stuff and being the ‘bad guy’, neither of which mom and dad want to be.

This weekend showed nothing but feigned love – with their sugar sweet I love yous – minimal  “family time” with their aunts (me, Kim and Elizabeth); almost as if it was timed as if to say, “ok… I’ll go and spend 20 minutes with them now, then 10 minutes later… then you can…”  Now, to start the drama and with perfect timing, our niece dropped the bomb that her boyfriend was spending Christmas dinner with us.  Really?  No ‘heads up?’  Personally?  I think this too was all in ‘the plan’.  Let’s wait until the last-minute, just before dinner time on the 23rd, Ann is in the shower – perfect timing and I’m sure I can play them like a fiddle – oh, the drama and the dysfunction.  But, did anyone force her to take responsibility and apologize to her aunt for the disruption?  Nope, all spoke for her, Chris.  This girl is an ADULT and should be talking for herself, thank you.

Anyway, it all went downhill from there.  Fact is, I saw the true colors of a great deal that I never expected to see.  Some bad and some good.  On the flip side, my sister Elizabeth – you know, the “Princess”?  I tell you, there is a lot I could learn from her.  She was cool as a cucumber the whole way through; me?  I wanted to pound something – or someone.  And polite?  I mean, she knew that this boyfriend of Chris’ was an ass, but she was just as cool as could be – man, nobody could ruffle her feathers.  Watching her that night, I knew that I was in the presence of greatness.  There was so much I could learn from her.  Boy did she know how to work him.

By Christmas Day, all went on regardless.  We opened our stockings; and I gotta tell ya, Elizabeth really gets the shaft when it comes to Christmas presents and stocking stuffers.  Everyone’s was OVERFLOWING – bag includes presents as well –  and hers was just a smidgen in comparison.  And, I must add that if it weren’t for her and Kim we really wouldn’t have stockings, presents, any of this.  I’m embarrassed to say this – I really sound like a loser, but our little gathering is all due to them, everything.  Yea, I joke about the ‘Princess” part – ok…maybe it wasn’t all ‘joking’ – but, I’ve learned something and was pleasantly surprised.  It was something that truly outweighed much of the bad for I gained a friend in my other sibling.  One that I was never sure would happen.  Our relationship is quite complex, but is one that I hope will continue to grow for she truly is a woman whose focus is giving and who knows how to do it in style – a quality I definitely wish to learn.

Bottom line, I know that we, our parents children/grandchildren, can get through this, just not sure how at this point.  And I know that Chris is just young and is at the age where she just thinks she knows everything and is immortal – I mean isn’t that what your twenties are for? To know it all? Or think you do?  Then you have all your thirties to worry about it…haha!

We will get through this, but right now, this week?  It sure seems bleak, I feel like I’ve lost half of my family.  As for my oldest sister, I know that she feels even worse than I do.  So how to fix this mess?  Any moms/dads out there that can give suggestions?  I’m open.

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3 thoughts on “Is That Santa In The Room Or The Proverbial Elephant?

  1. The family that plays together stays together. Another way through this is to start over with today allow your family to be who they are and accept that, don’t let them get to but certainly don’t give them control over your emotions. Think of the prayer of St. Francis. And acceptance is the answer to all our problems, today, when I am troubled, it is because something is not fitting.
    God loves, I love you, Love yourself.

    • Thank you Jimbo for the thoughtful comments, advice that I will truly take to heart. I love you too and know that all will work out as my niece and nephew will need to find their own way in this thing called life. As for my brother, he will have to find his way – perhaps its rock bottom and fear…don’t know – but I pray that he will. Thank you again for taking the time.

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