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.