Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Big Kiss-Off

Almost a year ago, my youngest sister Carla was diagnosed with a brain tumor. [See my December 08 post:] The whole experience was horrifying, naturally. Martine and I went into over-drive, set up a caringbridge site for Carla. I tried to visit as much as possible, tried to keep her feeling how much love was pouring in from friends and family. Martine and I both tried to stay in pretty constant touch. This was our sister after all.

Her situation was desperate -- at that time, we were under the impression that she had months to live. She was about to turn 40 and had a daughter who would be 2. We'd never been close -- which I suppose is not surprising given the 6-year age difference -- but that didn't matter to me. Her husband had a lot of anger against my parents and our family in general, but again, this was my sister, so I tried not to let that get in the way.

Still, understanding Carla's choices in this past year has been particularly difficult. From the very first day that Jean-Paul and I visited Carla in the ICU, it was clear that there was a sense of entitlement from Carla's husband and mother-in-law: that somehow we Trelauns had done something very wrong and that it was our turn to pay. There was a protracted drama concerning payment of the medical bills, which somehow were believed to my parents' responsibility. There was quite a bit of ugly blaming. It wasn't the first time that we'd heard the rejection of the Trelaun side, but this time she made it clear that she wanted nothing to do with us (unless, sadly, it was money).

Which is so the opposite of how I would do things -- I'd want everything, everybody I could possibly get around me, to get me through that experience, the more love the better -- but have made my peace with what she wants. Even though I think it's stupid and not a little related to the fact that there is pressure on her brain stem.

Since I'm a Pollyanna, I can say that good things have come of her total rejection of the Trelauns -- I have my parents back in my life in a better way than ever. The pain of Carla's illness compounded by her terrible behavior (partially excused by her brain tumor) and that of her husband (no acceptable excuse) has been very hard on them. In light of all of that, I sucked up whatever bullshit problem I had with them, and have come to see them as they really are: remarkable, generous, delightful, inspiring. Yes, crazy, but who isn't?

Since sometime early in 2009, there has been little contact from Carla. The pattern was, for me at least, that when she was hospitalized, there would be a flurry of phone calls and texts. I would go to visit, keep her company, take her things. As soon as she was home again, a pall descended - total silence. There was an unpleasant email interaction with her husband in May, after he was unspeakably rude to my parents. Then nothing. Not one word. Friends would ask me how my sister was and I had nothing to tell, no idea what was going on with her.

Martine has been the good one, reaching out repeatedly, trying to sustain some connection. And thanks to her, we now know where we are. Wednesday morning, before leaving to take Joe to chemo, this is the email we received from Carla. Martine had written to say that she'd be out visiting from the East Coast and was there a time she could stop by to visit.

I don't think that I'm up for any visiting. As Ariane put it so succinctly in her email to Sidino some months ago, she hasn't had a relationship with me for years and has come to accept that. I too accept the fact that I have not had a relationship with my family members and I also take responsibility for my part in creating that fact. This year has been full of struggles and hardship for us and my focus right now is with my family, that being Sidino and Elizabeth.

I think that I am better served focusing my energy and strength on my treatment and getting back to some semblance of normalcy (as much as we can achieve that.) I really hope that you can respect my decision and choices as I do not have time to dilly-dally. The neuro-oncologist estimates my life expectancy at around 2-3 years, though there is no way for her to know exactly of course. The current chemotherapy is actually shrinking the tumors and I thank God for that, but there is no guarantee as to how long that'll last. I've been in and out of the hospital many times in the last few months and I don't know what I would have done had it not been for Sidino's vigilance, love and care.

So we're done. My mother responded with beautiful email about how they of course respect her choices but that she will always be their daughter and they love her. I haven't written her a word. The words I'd like to say fill my head all night and wake me up in the morning, but for now, I'm not sending them to her.


Abi said...

I hope that underneath her words your sister is not angry. I know how that feels, to be angry at someone that you actually love, it is almost impossible to deal with and will just eat away at someone's insides. This is so sad. I hope that you have had some sort of closure or if you haven't that you will get it and that if you're angry that you're letting yourself be angry. Being angry at someone with cancer doesn't mean you don't LOVE them, in fact, I am starting to believe that expressing anger means you love them MORE. Ugh, I am so sorry. yuck and LOVE to you

Joe McCray said...

I don't know that I will ever understand these seemingly ongoing hard feelings among, what in my experience are three beautiful young women and their phenomenol parents. Carla's cancer is tragic and, one would think, family unifying. That it is not is mystifying. That it is so probably is a comment on my own dimness of wit. There is a tendency in these situations to float some mind-fucking platitude, but here I go. What, exactly, was all tht love, help, concern and commitment in the Liberty Street years? Thouigh I'd ask. Joe McCray

Ariane said...

Joe McCray - thanks for your comment. Please, you make me laugh: dimness of wit? Hah!

This is a mystifying experience for all of us, that's for sure. I've given up on understanding it and for now am just going along holding the family and friends I have as close as I can, always, every day, giving thanks for the remarkable upbringing I had on our beautiful Liberty Street.

Much love to you and all of the McCrays. XOXO