When it comes to communication styles. my three oldest siblings take after Mom’s side of the family, Ian & I after Dad’s. I know that because, even though Ian died at eleven (I was seven), he asked questions, which indicates he was at ease with basic communication. The three oldest are not. A difference that took center stage today at our local farm market.
John & I arrived around 10:30 a.m., hoping to find Jon & Ang whipping up their world-class omelettes, although happy for a luscious ladling of Jency Cooper’s incredible bread pudding if they were not.
As we strolled from the roadway to under the beautiful canopy of oak trees, I mentioned to John about a fellow whose back was right in front of us, “Looks like the back of Mike.” Dag-na-bit, if the bloke didn’t turn around & it WAS my brother! Who lives in Australia.
For the first time in my life, I started hyperventilating, my knees went wobbly & my head spun. But when Mike talked to me, you’d have thought it was a regular old Saturday, with nothing astonishing unfolding. “We took a chance we’d see you here,” he said.
It would have been knee-wobbling even if they were Candy & Dave, who’ve been known to show up out of the blue, but Dave & Candy actually LIKE me, don’t have shattering issues with me. Mike & Kerry don’t & do. And it would be different if they’d arrive yesterday, but they got in on WEDNESDAY, staying with friends all of a 5-minute drive from our house. My brain was reeling.
Mike’s host assured me, “Yes, they’ve been in town, but I assure you that you’ve been on their radar, tagged for a get together.” That made sense to him – they’ve been in town for four days, but I should feel great because we are on their list of people to see.
And it would have been fine & dandy with our mother & with Mim. I find it weird. Besides, they’ve been clear as crystal over the past twenty years that I drive them – especially Kerry – right around the bend.
Kerry wrote 40+ years ago that when I enter a room, she wants to exit it because I am so rude; in the last direct communications we had, twenty some years ago, she informed me I was the most psychotic person she knew. She has not given me any reason to think that she is currently of a different opinion. Less than two years ago, neither Kerry nor Mike contacted me after our sister, Mim died, not even after watching her online memorial tribute, a special collaboration between me & their Sydneysider daughter. Not a peep.
Yet, here was Mike acting as if everything was right as rain. There I was, trying to shift in literally a heartbeat from being wholly absent to literally in my face – too abrupt a shift without risking stripping my emotional gears.
Mike invited us out to breakfast on Monday. Pick us up at 8:30 a.m., go to Daddypop’s. Accepted, but realize will have to decline. It just doesn’t work for me. I understand that it does for them & that they might not see where I am coming from.
The difference between me & them is that I would not have a good time being out with someone I don’t like. I love them, just as I love Peter & loved Mim. The feeling is clearly NOT reciprocated & that is okay. Can absolutely understand how being the way I am would drive them, being the way they are, right up a tree. I wish them well, are glad that they wish me well, but accept that we do NOT do well together.
I actually went through something similar with my oldest brother, Peter, about fourteen years ago. For a period of about six months, he’d take me out to breakfast every few weeks. Finally, my curiosity got the better of me & I asked him, “I love going out with you, but am wondering – I’ve never been your cup of tea. Are we working to establish a relationship that hasn’t existed before -or- have your discovered something about me to like that you didn’t realize before, because I’m still me.”
My question did not go well.
Peter stormed, “There you go! Why can’t you just accept going out to breakfast for what it is? But, no – you have to have a 40-page dissertation!” And I realized he was absolutely right – I do need to understand what’s happening when someone who has never been able to be around me without emotionally fidgeting is suddenly reaching out as if s/he enjoys my company. And if they don’t enjoy my company, why would they bother with slapping on a mask & acting for 90 minutes as if they do?
A friend suggested, “Maybe they are trying to open up a new beginning, a fresh start.” Let’s see… They arrived on Wednesday, are going back to Australia on Tuesday (?), were planning – without seeing if we were free – on breakfast with us on Monday. Sounds to me like someone squeezing us in, not looking for a new embrace of love & familial friendship.
As I sense it, our differences are not personal – they’re rooted in personality. Where I say UP, they hear SIDE WAYS. Where I say purple, they hear bright Kelly green.
I’ve worked darn hard to get to a place where I am okay with them being them & me being me. I could develop a here & now relationship with Peter because he made it clear it was something to which he was open. Mike & Kerry have never shown the slightest interest, which is okay. Why hang out with someone you once considered the most psychotic rude person you’ve ever come across? I sure wouldn’t.
I am grateful to Mike & Kerry for asking us out. It’s true that they might feel totally different about me than they’ve expressed over the past 44 years & that breakfast on Monday could be a glorious new beginning of the sort of relationship I’ve craved all my life. BUT my reality is I just don’t have the energy to take the risk.
John & I thank them for the invitation. We are happy they had a nice visit with their son & his wife in Georgia, plus one with our nephew in North Carolina. I hope they got an opportunity to visit with Peter & maybe even get in one with Pam. We both wish them a great stay in Bryn Athyn & safe travels home. But today’s experience drove home that they be them & we be we & the chemistries can too easily blow up in our faces. We appreciate their outreach, yet must regretfully decline.