Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Real Rant

So I couldn't decide whether to write the cute story of Parker's first shave and Mollie's first surf or my rant to my sister in law first. I decided to go ahead and get the rant out of the way. I apologize and wanted to be up front with everyone that this would be yet another pissed off post to my sister in law. But as I tell this story over and over again, people seem to find comfort in it. I mean we all have weirdness in our families and it's so comforting to know that we all have it (and that there is someone else who has it worse than you at the moment).

Five years ago we decided that our summer vacation would be to rent a cottage in Sandbridge. It's a cute little area south of Virginia Beach (although technically in the city of Va Beach) very close to the North Carolina line. For lack of a better description it's the Virginia Outer Banks--a narrow strip of beach with the Atlantic on one side and the sound on the other and I don't think it's every more than a mile wide and it's about 7 miles long. There's one little market--that makes homemade donuts every morning, three restaurants--one of which is owned by my friend from high school and has a dodgeball tournament every week during the summer. I went there growing up and it's some of our happiest times as a family. Going now I see high school friends, their kids and their parents. It's a pretty magical place to me and I've been able to share that with my family and I think we are making some pretty special memories as a family. We keep thinking we should go somewhere else--explore the country, but alas, we spend two weeks as a family where everyone is happy and together. So in the end we'll keep doing that as long as they'll do it!

Ah but of course I digress. So we decided on Sandbridge for a number of reasons, not the least of which was a solid amount of time to be near my niece--my brother's daughter. In our fantasy, she would come to visit, my sister in law would take off of work, they'd come spend time with us in a no pressure situation and we could grow closer.


The first year they did come for Mollie's birthday dinner. I don't think they ever went to the beach with us and Nancy certainly didn't take off any work. Don't even suggest that she leave Emily with us.
The second year, she had many excuses and was able to meet us twice for dinner.
The third year, she said it was too painful to come to Sandbridge because off the coast of there was where Billie killed himself. So we met once for dinner and came to meet her at her pool.
The fourth year, last year, she met us once for dinner and then we stayed extra so we could see her (and my other niece and step sister). We saw her once at her pool. In her defense, she does try to be sweet--on her terms.
This year, I emailed her a week before we came down. I know I should have written and I planned to but I ran out of time. I emailed her for two reasons, 1) I didn't want to have a discussion without some thought on her part--ie I didn't want her to just say unequivocally "no" without thinking about it and 2) I'm a big chicken.

So here's how the emails went:

From me:
Hey Nancy,
Hope you and Emily are having a great summer. We are coming down Saturday for two weeks. We'll be in the same house in Sandbridge. I know in the past you've said that it was too painful for you to come to Sandbridge. I hope with time and space that you will be able to come down this year. Sandbridge was one of the places that Billie was happiest and I'd love to be able share that experience with Emily.
If not we'll make arrangements to meet for dinner.
Hugs to you and Em,
From Nancy:
Hi, Hester - I feel like that is a personal topic about the area of his death that I am not comfortable communicating via email.
My Reply:
I had planned to send it to you in a hand-written letter but I ran out of time. I wanted to give you time to think about it rather than ask you over the phone. I did not expect a reply in that tone.

Please take some time to think about it and call us if you'd like once we get down to the beach.

After we had been at the beach for a full week, she called. Now to those who live a quiet life we are known as the Louds. If you call, please expect pandemonium in the background. So anyway, she calls. She says, "Emily and I don't really have plans tomorrow afternoon. We have a membership to the Cypress Point Pool, you could come meet us." After a few more "pleasantries" we hang up and I tell her I'll call tomorrow when I know what our plan is. This of course was a lie on my part because I'm not leaving a beautiful beach day with good friends to go to her hot fucking pool so things can be on her terms. So I called her on Monday and apologized for not coming on Sunday because it was a beautiful day on the beach and we rented a kayak and watched dolphin playing off the beach. We are going to Shogun (a halfway point between the two of us. 20 minutes if that from her house) on Wednesday night and would love to see them, we're going about 7. Her reply, "7 on Wednesday is very late during a busy work week and we can't go all the way out there for such a late dinner. Call us and we'll try to find another time."

I did not call her back.

Anthony still clings to the fantasy that she would let us take Emily for the day. HA! My mom stayed in Va Beach (she should be living in Ohio) to see Emily and Nancy deigns to see her once a month or so and has let her take Emily something like three times in the last 5 years.

What would you do?

Here's the letter I would like to write (the italics are things I think but probably wouldn't include since she would just stop reading):

Dear Nancy,

{I'm not sure I want to continue our relationship. In fact, if you did not have Emily, I probably wouldn't have spoken to you in five years. I'm not sure anyone has really drawn you a picture of what life looks like outside your self-centered bubble. My parents never will for fear that you won't let them ever see Emily again. Do you realize have deigned to allow us to see Emily six or seven times in the last five years? Do you realize how truly hurtful you are to your family? Yes, because you are the mother of my brother's daughter, you are our family like it or not.

As I write this I'm wondering if aunts have any legal rights to sue for visitation. I think I might just look into this. My parents won't sue for grandparents visitation rights for fear they'll lose and then lose their month visits they currently get. But I've got really nothing to lose. I could call your 80 year old neighbor as a witness who researched and called Dad to ask him why you look at him like he's going to rape you or steal Emily. I could just have a male judge try to interact with Emily since she won't speak to or look at men--even her grandfather. Do you know Parker used to burst into tears after everyone of our visits because Emily wouldn't speak or look or interact with him? Did you try to get her to? No. So I've got a lot of evidence on my side that she would benefit from spending time with our family. I could bring Daphne and just let her tell the judge how much she loves spending time with HOS and YaYa. How much she loves YaYa Day.}

Six years ago we made a conscious decision to spend two weeks in Sandbridge to be near Emily. We felt if we provided the place and the time and the open flexibility, you and Emily would feel comfortable spending some quality time with us. We knew you and Emily loved the beach so we thought it was the perfect place. Also, some of my happiest family memories, and some of the best times Billie and I ever had as brother and sister were at Sandbridge. When I think of those times I think of happy Billie. I want Emily to know her father had a happy childhood. I know you like to think he didn't, but you are wrong. She should know some of the funny things that happened and some of the great memories of fishing early on Sunday mornings for spot, cleaning them and then frying them up with lacey cornbread for breakfast. She should have the opportunity to relive some of those things with us and make those memories.

Maybe that's part of my problem. You won't let us make memories with Emily. Why is that?

So the third year we came to visit, you finally mentioned it was too painful for you to come to Sandbridge because it was where Billie killed himself. That was five years after he had died, but we were willing to accept that and try to make other arrangements to see you. Now in our fifth year and the seventh since his death, I suggested that perhaps enough time had passed that you could come to Sandbridge so that we could share some happy memories with Emily and let her know the place where her dad had some of his happiest memories. So why is it that this suggestion resulted in your digging in your heals and making it so we couldn't see you at all?

{And why is it you won't allow my mom, Billie's mother, to ever speak of her son to Emily?

Why is it that you tell my parents a good time to drop off a present and then don't answer the door?}

Lots of people lose their spouses at a young age. It's sad. It's very sad. I fortunately have not lost my husband so I don't know how sad it is. But I've lost my brother who was the same person who was your husband. Yes you were obviously closer to him than we were at the time. Yes he and I had had our problems. But when Parker was born and he discovered the love of that little boy, something melted in him and we became closer. When you all got married, he became kinder and more loving still. I really liked who he was when he was with you. I will always fondly remember the trip you all made for Parker's birthday to NYC. I will also always remember what an amazing trip to Hatteras we had that last time with you and baby Emily and Billie. I'm so glad we had that time with him. He seemed content. {I also remember that you tried to keep him from coming to dinner with us that last night and tried to make him feel guilty for coming with us.}

{Only you know what happened and what changed in the last month of his life.}

I won't have a conversation about Billie with you. The last time we did, I agreed to disagree with you about his death. You would like to believe that we his family did some irreparable damage to him as a child. I know that this isn't true. I am steadfast in my belief that the more successful Billie became, the harder it became to be him, until he could no longer stand it. I also know that he is at peace. He came to me in a dream and showed me.

So Nancy, here it is. I have no interest in having a relationship with you. I would like to know my niece and spend time with her. I would like to be able to share the Old Family with her and the Sullivan family--her family, her cousins. I will continue to make an effort to see her. And every time you thwart me, I am going to write her a letter about the memory she didn't get to share with us. When she's older, I'll reach out directly to her. And if you tell her we didn't want to see her, then I'll just give her the letters. Sadly it sounds like a moving script doesn't it.

We'll be in Sandbridge next year from July 16 - July 30. We'd like to see Emily. I will happily come pick her up and she can spend as much time with us as she likes.


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