16 July 2012

In-laws... sigh

Alright, a confession.

I behaved badly at the in-law’s house this weekend. 

It’s kind of a long story, and a sad one, so I’ll abridge it.

My girlfriend’s brother is … mentally challenged.  I would say retarded but the family hates that word.  He is not Down’s Syndrome, just slow, illiterate, low functioning, etc.  You know, retarded.  This never stopped him from meeting women, marrying and reproducing, though.  And his kids?  Also retarded, in varying degrees.  The eldest, a girl, lives with me and T during the school year ~ at least until she gets through high school (or I kick them both out).  She is the most functional of the bunch.  The boy, Wayne, lives with his dad.

So, we were over at T’s mom’s house on Saturday.  T’s sister, Pam, was there too, having her mother color her hair.  The kids were at their own mother’s house for once.  We were chatting about random stuff and eventually the hair coloring was concluded and Pam went to pick up the kids.

When they got back the usual conversation started about how difficult Clark, the retarded brother, is to be around.  How he has a million rules for Wayne about everything, and how he is always yelling at him and is, in fact, quite mean to the boy.  He is not allowed to turn on the tv by himself (he is 15), or get a glass of water by himself.  He is not allowed to open the refrigerator without asking.  He is not allowed to play with toys he has been given because he might break them.  He is not allowed to do much of anything.  And, seriously, it’s the halt leading the blind here.  They are both well below an IQ of 70.

This conversation comes up frequently.  Everybody bemoaning how hard Clark is on Wayne, and nobody choosing to deal with the situation. 

Eventually, on Saturday, it got down to talk of physical violence and how Clark had better not hit Wayne because Wayne is now big enough to hit him back.

This is when I lost it.  Talk about triggering.

I asked why it was ok for Wayne to have to live this way.  Why wasn’t anyone putting him first?  Who was looking out for Wayne if he had to grow up with an abusive father?  There was some backpedaling at that point, but the bottom line is that Wayne doesn’t count for very much in the family.  It’s appalling.  It’s wrong. 

And the thing of it is, Wayne is a much nicer kid than his sister who lives with me and T.  She is sly and secretive and withholding and selfish.  Her much more retarded brother has a sweet nature and an open personality.  He is cheerful and outgoing, she is moody and withdrawn.   

T’s mom started to say how she knew what it was like to live with an abuser.  Well, then, why are you allowing your grandson to go through that, I asked.  Oh, it’s not that bad, she said.  I look out for him, she said.

It’s a total fucked up mess, I can tell you that.

Nobody wants Wayne.  Grandma won’t take him.  T and I simply can’t ~ plus we’ve already committed to the sister.  Pam and her family won’t.  They don’t like the kid.  They are a bunch of snobs who like to pretend that they aren’t related to the rest of the family.  I think that he should be allowed to go live with his mother.  Although, that is probably not the best solution.  She is also of low intelligence and doesn’t always have her own place to live.  I believe that she is living with her own mother currently.

So, yes, I lost it.  I ranted for a minute or two and then stood up, gave Wayne a hug, and walked out the door.  Went and sat in my car waiting for T to come out and drive me home.  If I had had the keys in my pocket I would have left.  On the way home I lost it again, or further, and said all kinds of things that hurt my partner’s feelings.  But, really, at that point I was both crying and shouting and far, far beyond discretion.  Ugh. 

I’m not sure why this situation affected me so much on Saturday.  Well, ok, I had an energy alignment on Thursday, my therapist on Friday, and I think my usual walls and defenses were down.  I just couldn’t bear the thought of that kid living like that. 

So, now I have to apologize to my mother in law for being an obnoxious jerk.  I won’t take back what I said, but the way I said it was inappropriate.  It’ll be awkward, for sure, especially since the woman is nearly deaf and telephone conversations must be conducted at very loud volume.  I’ll probably email my sister in law as well.  We’ll see how long they hold a grudge…

A fun weekend with the in-laws.  How was yours? 

(Yes, this was the abridged version.)


the only daughter said...

So, so. sad. Still, it sounds like you showed considerable constraint, given the givens. My heart goes out to Wayne.

(trivia: my older brother's name is Wayne. He isn't sweet by any stretch of the imagination.)

Anonymous said...

Oh man does that suck. You were right to say something and would have regretted not saying something...but it's all about the HOW you said something. I hate it when that happens - how it could be perfectly right but yet still wrong. Get the apologies over as quickly as possible and hope that maybe because of how passionate you were they heard something they didn't want to hear within themselves. It's hard to avoid the truth when it's being shown to you like that. Here's hoping for a smooth outcome.

At a family bbq this weekend my cousin came up behind me and threw water on me. I lost my mind...because I was being attacked from behind. I ran inside the house and composed myself and came back out just fine. But to everyone there, and there were many, it looked as though I couldn't handle a joke. sigh. Damn triggers.

8thday said...

I read this last night and hoped to come back this morning with something wise and wonderful to say.

Sorry. I've got nothing.

I am on the other side of the spectrum and can't verbally express anger. I would have internalized this whole scenario and let it eat at me. So kudos to you for saying what had to be said. Sometimes I think a little righteous indignation is the only way to go.

elf said...

I'm the apology queen but even I have my limits.

If they are the type of people who hold a grudge, I would never apologize. People who hold grudges even after an apology is handed out are A-1 assholes who don't deserve an apology.

I suppose there's something to be said for keeping the family peace, but sometimes you just have to say 'fuck it' to the family peace.

Of the two, I'd apologize to the mother, but not to the snotty sister.

Good luck with all that. Saying the right thing using the wrong language is still saying the right thing.

e said...

Well, I've decided just an apology to the mother-in-law for the way I said it all, but I am not apologizing for the content. And, surprisingly, my partner said, "Don't apologize for being emotional. In my family that's normal."

And, that's the issue for me. In my family it's not normal to behave that way. I have been internalizing for a very long time. And, I think that some of all of that is just starting to leak out. A slow leak I can deal with, I just hope it's not a gusher!

Jean said...

My mom always told me that we will be judged less by our actions and more by what actions we tolerate in others.

Good for you - not that it probably makes much difference in the scheme of The Crazy that is firmly established in the family dynamic, but you did what many people are too weak to do - stand up for right.
Proud, proud, proud.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am just reading this and it sounds like we are having a lot of the similar kinds of experiences these days. Family! Good God, who invented that concept?? Seriously, you keep me in your good vibes and I'll keep you in mine. Maybe that way we won't go off the cliff all together!

Hang in there.

Jen said...

Yuck, I hope this resolved with ease. Hang tough, you are in the right.