dealing with adult siblings

BMW 3-Series (E90)

BMW 3-Series (E90) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

… except for me.

Since my Dad’s death back in the fall of 2008, Mother has, in one way or another, gifted vehicles on all the licensed members of my immediate family. DNOS got the ball rolling when she asked for Dad’s car (mostly to make sure that Mom didn’t give it to our brother, CB, who behaved in a most heinous manner in the days following Dad’s death). She drove it a bit but ended up selling it in the end.

Which resulted in Mom buying our nephew, N1, his first car. He’d been promised Dad’s car and when he found out that DNOS had sold the car, whining on a toddler level ensued from both the boy and his mother, my youngest sister, Baby.

N1 promptly wrecked the first and second car he received due to his Grandmother’s guilty conscience, so she bought him a BMW, used, causing Rob to remark,

“What do I have to fix around your Mom’s house the next time we visit to get her to buy me a BMW?”

The beemer came to an untimely end within weeks. The State of Iowa decided it had enough around the same time Mom did. The state pulled N1’s license and Grandma closed her car loan office.

At this point in the story its cars 4, immediate family benefiting from free cars just two. CB, Baby and I were still free car free.

After N1’s infamous visit to CB last fall (his reward for losing his driver’s license, dropping out of high school and wrecking 3 cars was a holiday in Cali), CB was forced to decamp back to the mountains for some life rebuilding. Of course, he needed wheels and naturally, Mom mailed a check.

Cars 3. Siblings 2 out of 4. One grandchild/three wrecked vehicles.

Not long ago, Mom and I were chatting and she admits to me that despite vowing to close the Bank of Mom/Grandma, she lent money to Baby and N1 for … cars.

“Seriously?” I said.

“Well, Baby’s car engine blew up and without a car she’d have to move back in with me. That’s not happening.”

“But what about N1? He lives with his Dad. What’s in this for you?

“The temp job at the plastic plant worked out. It’s shift work. Without a car, he won’t be able to hang onto the  job,” she said. “It’s the first job he’s had.”

“I guess spending the winter moping in your Dad’s attic is an inspirational vision quest sort of thing,” I replied.

“And he has a girlfriend.”

Who lives in his Dad’s attic with him. Or so I am told. Only way to salvage some manhood in such a situation is full-time employment and a car.

Although Mom insists her latest bit of largesse is no gift because she required both Baby and N1 to sign contracts stipulating repayment, I have my doubts. Baby still regularly grocery shops in Mom’s pantry and has no end of cagey excuses to try to con cigarette money from Mom’s purse. She wouldn’t have to do either if Lawnmower Man wasn’t drinking up her paycheck now that he is “too disabled” to work. And it won’t be long before N1 has some emergency that will cause him to skip a payment.

“You’re going to be a Great-Grandma before you know it,” I told her.

“Oh, I better not be. I had a talk with him about that.”

I didn’t ask for details. It’s giggle-worthy enough to picture my 80-year-old mother giving the birth control what-for to my 18-year-old nephew without them.

Now however, it’s everyone has gotten a car but me. When I pointed this out to Mom, she stammered a bit because it honestly hadn’t occurred to her, and it wouldn’t. This is just one thing on a long list of perks afforded my younger sibs that being the oldest makes me ineligible for. Being the prodigal’s older sib is perk free. It is known.

It’s not as if she’s never helped me out; she has. I am not forgetful or ungrateful, but it’s disconcerting to hear her fear for her financial future, knowing that the only reason she won’t retire is out of fear of going broke and knowing that she’s spent thousands and thousands on cars.

And I didn’t get one.

“She couldn’t afford to keep you in the wheels you are accustomed to,” Rob said.

“Well, that’s your fault,” I countered.

“Indeed, I spoil you.”

He does at that, which is interesting because I wasn’t raised to be such a woman. I don’t have expectations of jewels, luxury holidays where I don’t prepare a single meal or even the latest techie toys (which judging from my clusterfuck experience with my smart phone’s voice navigator today is just as well). My Dad would be quite pleased with how modestly I live. His eyes would wiggle like one of Santa’s elves if he knew about the cars though, but when they met up again somewhere in the future, he won’t say a word to her about it. He spoiled her too.


Image by via Flickr

So N1 is home. At least I think he is. He hasn’t checked in with anyone. Not me or CB or our mother. I guess that is typical of a teen but he owed a bit more to his uncle than that considering what CB has lost in the interim.

He is not well. Things are not falling into place. I think the final straw was when xSIL expected him to spend Thanksgiving with her sister and brother-in-law, the people who fired him and are evicting him in seventeen days. He didn’t know until the meal was practically on the table. A meal he cooked. He went back to his apartment and waited until they’d eaten and left before he returned, and I can’t say I blamed him. That would be way too much sucking up for me to stomach and I am inclined toward a cooler head than my brother.

Things have gone down and down the hill some more since then.

Yesterday he called DNOS, who took his call inadvertently. She was polite, as only she can be, and short. He was offended, but when he told me about it, I reminded him that she has not forgiven him and he shouldn’t have expected much. Her staying on the line even was something of an olive branch for her, a brittle one, but a branch.

“He’d been drinking,” she told him.

I tried to call him last night. Left two messages and another this morning before he called me back. I wasn’t feeling well. I hadn’t slept much, worrying about him. When I heard his voice, I could see why DNOS thought he’d been drinking but it sounded more like Ativan than wine to me. It’s a bit sad that I can tell the difference between the demon drink and the overly medicated, but there you go.

“I’m going to fight this,” he said. “They’re threatening my family and my finances and it’s wrong. I am going to occupy my own home.”

CB is quite taken with the Occupy movement and the notion of the 99%. I guess that is my fault for posting so much about it on Facebook and putting ideas into his head. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s every really been different from it is now in terms of where the wealth and power were concentrated. It’s just that since WWII, the 99% has been bought off with the idea of upward mobility and the notion that anyone can live the good, or at least the better, life. They blinded us with stuff and made it easy for us to acquire, but they can’t do that anymore and people are awake again to the fact that life mostly is hard work, sacrifice and it can really suck. They knew that back in the day. That’s why unions came into being and some decent politicians figured out ways to pass laws to protect workers and put curbs on corporations and banks. I have real doubts that anyone will do anything like that for the 99% again.

He was calmer and less interested in trying to come up with a way out of his dilemma today than he was when I spoke to him two days ago. He sounded defeated and a bit off.

“I was on the internet last night, looking up those other CB’s*. I don’t know who they think they are, taking my identity. I’m CB. They aren’t me,” he said.

He talked a bit about DNOS,

“She didn’t want to take time to talk with me. But whatever. She sounded good. Like she is in a good place in life. I wish her the best and I really do love her.”

Then he talked about fighting and occupying again and how he lived a good life and wasn’t worried about what would happen. If it all ended, he was okay with that. It occurred to me at this point that he might be saying goodbye and I became a little more convinced of this when it was he who ended our conversation by wishing me a good day.

“You have a good guy,” he said. “I’m glad you found someone again. He seems like he has it all together. I’m happy for you. You have a good day now. I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said. “I’ll talk to you soon.”


And that was it. I don’t know if I will hear from him again.

*CB can be a bit delusional when he’s in this mode. People write him off as a drunk with anger management issues, but they did that with Will during that year before he was diagnosed with his illness. It’s easy to mistake real mental issues for substance abuse problems because people tend to turn to alcohol when they begin experiencing symptoms in an attempt to “medicate” themselves. I don’t think they realize that they are doing it and I don’t think those around them do either. I am perhaps more sensitive to this than others given my history, but I also spent more than my fair share of my teaching career working with kids who suffered from mental health issues – some quite severe. You don’t easily forget when you’ve known people who are not right in thought due to illness.

Master Yoda - origami.

Origami Yoda via Wikipedia

Yoda was right. You do or you do not. It’s not a shady issue. Succeed and be rewarded. Fail and suffer the fall-out.

It reminds me a bit of that old saying “no good deed goes unpunished”, which stems perhaps from the idea that good deeds often depend on the favored to achieve success and it’s never a good idea to gamble too much on anything that’s so far outside your own sphere of influence.

DNOS is chuckling like Mrs. Santa tonight because N1 is heading back to Iowa this weekend. It’s been a costly gamble. And not just monetarily. But it’s time to admit defeat and send the troops home to regroup.

I’ve lost yet another day in damage control and I am mightily weary. I have a life and commitments of my own that need my attention and resources. Yet I find that I can’t work up any real emotion over it aside from a heavy sigh. I am not disappointed because I am beyond that where family is concerned. They are who they are. I am not surprised when events end up the same time and again.

But I am not inclined to be sorry either. True. It is do or do not, but you can’t “do” anything until you are willing to “try” something. In some cases, anything.

As I was walk/running at the track today, it occurred to me why I have never won the lottery. If I had that kind of obscene money, I would use it to help people avoid learning the lessons they were born to study and master. I couldn’t help but use my good fortune to give others the opportunity to realize success of their own. Being happy,and really without any serious needs or even wants, for the first time in my life these last few years, I just want everyone to know that same feeling.

Destiny, however, has seen fit to put me in a position that makes it impossible for me to do anything but spot people toward their goals thus forcing them to do the rest of the work themselves. And it’s for the best. You don’t learn anything when life just hands you things, or when people in your life hand you things without requiring anything from you by way of effort. A little help is okay but I think there is also some quaint old saying about the universe helping those more who are willing to also assist their progress with personal sacrifice and hard work. I might be paraphrasing a bit, but I am sure you understand.

Rob, and my mother, both think that I should pat myself on the back for at least doing something because there are those who do nothing and then sit back and nod sagely when precisely nothing else happens. CB, I think, has earned a pat or two himself even with his implosion taken into account. He has less than I do in terms of resources and yet he offered all he had and then some and gained little from it.

But still I think Yoda was on to something. There is no try when try is all you have to offer. If you aren’t willing or don’t believe that something meaningful can result, it’s better not to bother.

Monday Monday

Image by soonerpa via Flickr

And it’s totally wrong. A Sunday should never feel like the beginning of the week even if technically it is.

The phone rang at eight this morning. I’ll give CB props from not calling an hour earlier when his pothead downstairs neighbor woke him with that phlegm soaked hack that makes smokers of any ilk so endearing. Off-hand I can’t recall too many other sounds as unsettling and gag-reflex triggering as someone whose lungs have been used to filter all manner of toxic substance, so while I sympathize with little brother, he could have waited until lunch.

Sunday is the only day of the week I really sleep in. Saturday is soccer practice, and I have to be up by 8:30 at the latest – which still feels like sleeping in after a week of getting up at quarter to seven. I look forward to banking zzzz’s on Sunday. Rob and I even treat ourselves to a longer dvd on Saturday night because Dee has long since been trained to fend for herself on a weekend morning and Sunday just shouldn’t be a “should” or “have to” day.

So I am up, barely, and listening to CB’s recitation of a list of things that are currently causing him stress. I will grant him the right to feel stressed. Losing his apartment and job when he has kids to take care of and in one of the worst job markets of our lives is no joke.

It could have waited another hour … or two. Just saying.

Calming people down and on my feet damage control/spin seems to be my prime directive for the moment. I am good at it. No doubt about that. Twenty years as a public school teacher trained me well. It gets old though. Reminds me of the scene in Jesus Christ Superstar where Christ is being swarmed by the lepers, who are symbolic of the needy and the not able to think for themselves, and he finally breaks down and screams at them, “Heal yourselves!”

Probably I am just feeling that sleep deprivation but working miracles is difficult enough when I am within hug distance but across the phone lines, the degree of difficulty ratchets up.

He did apologize. Admitted that he was overwhelmed and slipped up. I appreciated his honesty and owning it. Not everyone will.

Things are slightly more under control. I have N1 fact-finding this week and with luck by mid-week, there will be solid information on which to formulate Plan … uh … might be D or E by now.

DNOS continues to chuckle and offer warnings so dire I have to hold the phone a full arm’s length from my ear to avoid hearing loss, but I am not willing to write this venture off. N1 is stepping up every time he is asked and CB and xSIL appear to be on the same page – more or less. We’ll call that good.

Tomorrow is actual Monday. The neighbor will rev up the yellow bus in her backyard at some point after 6 AM. Rob’s alarm will go off at 6:30 and by the time mine goes off at 6:45, we might be able to open our eyes to face another week.

Totally Saturday

Image via Wikipedia

It was just a day today. A Saturday. Which means I semi-slept in, took Dee to soccer practice and hit the track while she was on the field with her friends and then came home to hibernate.

Hibernation is necessary on days when it is -21C, but more so today because my ears are enduring slight flu-related complications and sore ears and cold weather are a bad combo. I also needed to spend a bit of time organizing the new smart phone. It’s so small, and yet it’s practically like staffing a small business office with all the different things that need to be set up, activated, loaded, transferred and learned. I am pleased to report, however,  that texting is not the heinous chore I feared it would be.

I practiced my one finger communication skills on N1 today, and I pleased to report that CB seems to have recovered his balance a bit. xSIL helped him get a new apartment, so I am not worried about either of them having to head to the nearest Occupy campsite although CB half-joked that he might. Knock wood for the moment.

And the kitchen tile is officially grouted and awaiting sealer. With good luck, the cabinet guy should be out for adjustments and toe-kicks before the week is over.

Bad news is that Texas has reared her ugly face again and after listening to the Families First GOP debate this afternoon, I am less fond of my native state – and the other 49  – than ever. I won’t recount the whole awful thing but to say that anyone who advocates allowing babies to be born to live short, painful lives destined for early death is too much of a sadist to be allowed in public office.

Oh, and Ron Paul is the most insufferable man I think I have ever had to listen to.

But it was just a day here. A Saturday to be precise.

Anonymous Woman

Anonymous via Wikipedia

Now that many, many members of my family – immediate, extended and rarely interacted with – are reading my blog, writing about what is going on in my life boils down to a choice between discretion and kiss my ass, go write your own blog if you are feeling misunderstood.

Things in Cali are a mixed bag. After literally weeks of N1 not buying into the idea that he was there to explore new horizons and possibilities (key words that really mean “go to college and get a job”), he finally fell in love with The Bay Area and began making concrete plans. Naturally this was a good time for CB and xSIL to have one of their cyclical love/hate, emphasis on “hate”, fests.

Anyone who’s ever seen them together, even at the best of times, says the same thing about them.

“They just cannot be in the same room together.”

But most meant it in a way that implies that these two don’t have feelings for each other and shouldn’t have hooked up in the first place. What strikes me about them – always has – is how little they know of each other or want to know. They have their ideals and are locked in a struggle to cajole the potential out of each other rather than just except the other one for who he or she is.

They’ll never be happy.

What set off the latest row is a long time in the making and precedes N1’s arrival on the scene, but his moving in probably sped things up because it prompted CB to make a serious attempt and finally giving up drinking for good.

xSIL will have none of it and true to their volatile relationship, she decided the best way to punish him was to get him fired and evicted.

She can do that? It does sound a bit Machiavellian, but her brother-in-law owns the apartment complex CB works at and lives in. Her sister rules the BIL like he was her prison bitch. It’s no wonder they don’t have kids because that guy has no balls. Oh, and did I mention that she is the complex’s manager?

I am never certain that xSIL realizes how her periodically blowing CB out of the water is like cutting off her own nose to spite her face, but as of early this afternoon, CB had abandoned sobriety, refused to discuss his wagon tumble with me when I called, and caused N1 to flee to the public library.

All N1’s plans are upended. CB has no job. The BIL knows perfectly well what’s up but refused to discuss it with CB. He got a 30 day eviction notice, and so he and N1 are out on the streets in 25 days.

“CB says he’s not leaving,” N1 told me. “He says they can throw him out.”

And haul him off to jail too , I thought, because that’s the one thing xSIL hasn’t resorted to – yet. But if I know her at all, she will.  She works for the county at the court-house as an interpreter.  She’s sweet-talked this and that law enforcement officer into doing her dirty work for her before, and I warned N1 to not cross her because she’d gleefully toss him under the correctional facility bus too*.

I try to be nice to xSIL, which DNOS feels is a waste of one’s precious life force, but I don’t dislike her.  xSIL is who she is. Just as CB is who he is. The fact that I accept who they are, however, doesn’t mean that I approve of the stupid and destructive things they sometimes do. They have kids. Acting like extras on Teen Mom or Jersey Shore is a luxury that grown ups with responsibilities, and little lives dependent on them, can’t afford.

I have zero idea how this will play out. My main concern at the moment is N1. He is still seventeen. He has no driver’s license. He can’t sign a lease to rent a place of his own, but even if he could, he hasn’t got more than a $100 in the bank.

Even if I could talk him into leaving – he won’t by the way, he wants to go to school in January and he’s been offered a job at a car dealership when he turns 18 in February – there is the question of purchasing a ticket without computer access and getting him to the airport now that xSIL has banned CB from using her car.

I’m a little annoyed with both CB for deciding to have a breakdown right now instead of manning up a bit, sticking with AA, and with xSIL for putting these events in motion without thinking the consequences through for all parties involved. If I have to fly to San Francisco to straighten things out for N1, I will cross the “annoyed” line and land squarely in “hell hath no fury” territory, but I am hopeful it won’t come to that.


Because N1 sounded okay today when I spoke to him. We talked about the steps he needs to take and I think there is an outside chance he might be able to do what he needs to in order to get things lined up. Yeah, there is December to deal with and we’ll cross that bridge then, but perhaps CB will rally and xSIL will calm down. Nothing really is out of the realm of possibility.

It’s sad because I spent over an hour talking with CB yesterday morning and he was upset but seemed focused on taking steps to get himself employed and housed again. His daughters and N1 were his motivation. As I have said before, whatever else his faults, he loves his kids and his family.

DNOS will chortle. She thought the whole idea of N1 going out to stay with CB was a disaster movie in the making, and Mom is going to have a small fit when she discovers what has occurred.  She was making plans to go out there, but a bulldozer won’t push her in the direction of California now.

It’s 10:17 P.M. MT and there haven’t been any frantic Facebook messages or phone calls. Of course, if they are in jail, it will be a while before I hear about it. That’s not pessimism. I am a realist. I look and hope for the best but am always aware that just about anything can head to hell equipped with a sturdy hand-basket at any moment.

I’ll keep you posted.

*My family is trailer park in Arkansas effed up sometimes and I can’t even use the “maybe I’m adopted” excuse – because we all are. There is no excuse.

The only "protective custody" availa...

Image via Wikipedia

At least for a few more weeks according to my older nephew N1, who at my behest called his mother, Baby, last night to tell her  – from me – that ignoring my calls would not make the situation go away. Fortunately, DNOS had already managed to get my rock star sister to take a call and proceeded to royally ream her backward ass, setting her straight on the new world order.

Baby cried persecuted to her son though he informed me that he didn’t believe a word of it, and when I spoke to Mom late Sunday afternoon, the harassing phone calls had stopped.

This was not before she received at least two more after her trip to the police station and was a nervous wreck.

As I chatted with Mom, I called her the traces of anxiety and exhaustion in her voice. This latest incident with Baby being a baby strained her, but unlike times past, she didn’t cave. She’s determined that the Bank of Mom is closed, and she hinted at “other changes”, which can’t be good for Baby. Whereas my dad didn’t believe in punishing us from the grave, Mom is perfectly capable of playing behavior accountant from beyond. Dad was a hammer in the moment, but Mom had the longer memory and could wait patiently for the right opportunity to throw youthful indiscretion squarely back at you when the moment presented itself.

LawnMower Man is on work release, so apparently he was tormenting Mom before or after milking and field work at the farm where he is one of several hired men. My late husband, Will, used to refer to such a set up as “baby jail”. An old high school friend of his wound up in a similar program early in our marriage, and he was mercilessly teased about it.

Between Baby’s broken back and LawnMower Man’s incarceration, they are a hurting financial unit. In days of yore, he would simply phone Mom and inform her that if she didn’t help them out, he would pack Baby up and dump her on Mom’s doorstep. Since the beginning of the year, however, DNOS and I have made it clear that there is no way on any level of hell that we’d allow her to take Baby back. Normally, Mom listens to us not even the littlest bit, but we’ve made surprising headway in the influence department and Baby’s going to have a difficult time getting out of the corner DNOS and I have left her to manuver this time.

“She has the numbers of all the women’s shelters,” Mom told me. “It’s time she got herself out of her own messes.”

Forty-three at the end of the month, she looks a decade older and telegraphs “poor white trash” with her every word and action. No one in the family has an ounce of patience left. If she had  real emergency right now, she had to rely on the kindness of strangers quite literally because anyone who knows her is done with her. She’s played too many people and the chickens are roosting for real in the yard of the possibly condemned trailer she lives in.