You Can't Pick Your FamilyI am the eldest of 4 children. I was born a year and a half after my parents were married. The 2nd child, my half-sister was born 13 months after me. Her birth was the result of an affair between my father and another woman. Take a moment and do the math. The ink on my birth cirtificate was barely dry when he knocked up his lover. There were some allegations of the pregnancy being a ploy to steal my father away from my mother, but I suppose that it hardly matters.
This was the mid 70's and divorce had yet to reach the popularity it gained in the 80's. My mother chose to stay with my father, largely for my benefit. I spent most of my childhood resenting her for this decision and I can only think she must have spent many long nights second guessing it herself.
For the next 5 years, I had to share my parents with a sister every other weekend. Knowing nothing else, it seemed natural and I accepted it as children do. My innocent questions about this arrangement were answered with the same exasperation one would expect when asking why the sky was blue.
When your sister isn't with us, she's with her mother.
Oh, well ok, then. That makes sense. Does she have another daddy too?
No, dear. Your daddy is her daddy.
Oh, well alright then. Daddy is her daddy too, but she has 2 mommies? Do I have another mommy?
No, son. You just have one daddy and one mommy. Now be a good boy and go outside and play.
Awkward . . .
During these 5 years my father was spending every spare dime of our family's money to wage a bitterly acrimonious custody battle to win primary custody of his daughter. It took 3 attempts before he was awarded custody. My mother stood by and supported him through all of this, even testifing in court on his behalf. I've read the transcripts of these procedings and I'll just say that "Kramer vs. Kramer" hasn't got anything on this.
Both sides fought dirty and my father's lover routinely filed false allegations of abuse, neglect, etc. anonomously or through her friends and family. Consequintly, HRS (predecessor of the infamous Dept. of Child Services) was constantly barging into our home and threatening to give my 1/2 sister's mother full custody of her and place me in foster care, in addition to throwing my parents in jail. Of course these allegations were completely false, but the authorities were legally obligated to investigate every claim. So whenever a new case worker took over, we were faced with the threat of being pulled apart. It became rather common place to me and it was only years later I understood how insane and frightening a time that must have been for my mother.
So my sister came to live with us and visited her mother every other weekend. Her return from her mother's was always a difficult time, usually lasting 2 or 3 days. It seems her mother, a spiteful ***** if ever there was one, spent most of their time together indoctrinating her 5 year old daughter to believe that we all hated her and her mother and only took her away from her mother to be cruel. Based on my 1/2 sister's bitter and lasting hatred of me and my mother, and my father to a lesser degree, it seems that children do indeed have fertile brains.
My mother did her best to love this girl as her own, but it must have been so hard to not see her husband's infidelity when she looked on this child. There was always tension between my mother and 1/2 sister. It weened and wained, but never subsided entirely. My 1/2 sister was quick to tell my mother how mean she was and how much she hated her. It must have felt like a knife twisting in my mother's heart to open her arms to this child only to find heryoung and innocent heart poisoned by her own mother's spite. It wore away at my mother's good intentions and finally there was an icy gulf between them that was obvious even to my young perceptions.
I didn't take kindly to my 1/2 sister's constant emotional cruelty to my mother. Even after my mother tried to explain how I shouldn't blame my 1/2 sister for feeling this way, I held the grudge. I found little childish cruelties to inflict upon her. I resented her threatening my place as the full time child as well as the pain I saw in my mother's eyes. I vaguely grasped the knowledge that this was my father's fault and he should be the one to pay for it, but I was only a small boy. My father seemed unassailable and even the thought of turning my anger on him left me feeling helplessly confused. This girl, though, this mean little girl that made my mother cry, I could deal with her on my own level.
It wasn't long before we were bitter enemies and our sibling rivalry continually escalated until we literally hated each other. It was the half formed hatred of children. We often put it aside to play together. There weren't any other kids in the neighborhood. Our truces were always short lived though. Usually no more than a week or two at most.
My father somehow managed to avoid taking one side over the other. He was dear old dad and we all loved him. He never stepped in to disapline my 1/2 sister any more than he defened my mother from the emotional barbs his lover had filled her daughter's mind with. It has taken most of my life to find a balance between the anger his narcisistic egotism awakens in me and my love for him as my father. Yes, he is flawed, but no more than I. It is a difficult balance to maintain, but as I've grown into adulthood, I find more value in attempting to heal the wounds we have caused each other than to continue living in pointless spite.
That was life, and at the time, it seemed perfectly normal. There's another chapter to all of this, but it will have to wait for another day.