Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.
Print Email

Think Mink

Lonely Child

By Mink Stole | Posted 12/14/2005

My sister is 14 years older than I am. She was used to being the only child and the center of attention, and she couldn’t handle having to share our parents with me, so from the time I was born she basically ignored me. She went off to college when I was 4 and rarely came home after that, so I grew up without really knowing her. She got married right after college and, although my parents wanted her to, she almost never came home to visit. She didn’t even come to my wedding. When our dad died a few years ago she came home for the funeral and was very sweet to me, which gave me hope that we could finally really be sisters, but even though I invited her and her family to visit many times since then, they never came. When our mom died last year my sister told me she had never forgiven her for having me, and that now that our parents were both gone she didn’t want me to expect anything from her. I loved my parents, who always wanted my sister and me to be friends, but I’ve tried everything I can think of, nothing has worked, and I’m tired of trying. Does it make me a bad person to give up on her?

Sad Sister

If there were ever a good time to use the old “I didn’t ask to be born” line, SS, this would be it. Your sister blames you for something totally out of your control, and although her rational mind must know this, she’s let her anger and bitterness become such a big part of her that it’s easier to hang on to them than to admit she might have been wrong. This would be ridiculous if it weren’t so sad, but the only person who can change it is your sister, and she doesn’t want to. She decided at 14 that if she couldn’t have her family her way she wouldn’t have it at all, and she’s sticking to it.

You’re not really giving up on her if she’s never been there in the first place. And, since by not continuing to pursue a relationship with her you’re giving her what she says she wants, in a way you’re doing her a favor. If you want, you could write her one last letter telling her you’ll be there if she ever changes her mind, but don’t hold your breath waiting for a response. When a door has been slammed in your face, the only thing you get from banging your head against it is a headache.

 

When I was in my 40s I realized I was gay. Kathy, my wife of 17 years, was actually the one who figured it out for me. She found another man, and divorced me to marry him, but we stayed friendly, partly because we truly care for each other and partly for the sake of our two daughters. She never wanted them to be angry or ashamed of me. I live in another city now, but my partner of several years and I have made several visits to see her and our kids, and they all get along really well.

Now Kathy has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and is deteriorating rapidly. I am very sad about it and, before she became too ill to talk, spent many hours on the phone with her, reminiscing about our life together and raising our kids. I will miss her. But there is one thing that concerns me. Would it be appropriate for me to attend her memorial service? Her present husband has never liked me, and I wouldn’t want to intrude on his grief. Also, I’ve become somewhat famous in recent years, and wouldn’t want to take attention away from the service. On the other hand, I will want to pay my respects. I also feel I should be there for my daughters. Should I go? And if I go should I bring my partner?

Grieving Already

Although I sincerely hope you won’t need my advice for many years, GA, I feel strongly that a memorial service is for those who cared for and respected the deceased to get together to share their memories and their feelings, and should be an occasion for inclusion, not exclusion. It is not the place to fight over who does or does not have the right to grieve. Any unfriendly feelings mourners may have for each other should be put on hold for the occasion. Kathy’s husband’s feelings for you are irrelevant; what is important is how you and she felt about each other. If you’re uncomfortable going as her former husband, go as her daughters’ father. Or go as her current friend. And if she and your partner are fond of each other, he should feel welcome, too.

That doesn’t mean you should play the role of chief mourner; that belongs to her husband and daughters. Tell your daughters you’re coming, but that unless they want you to sit with them during the service, you and your partner would feel comfortable sitting farther back, and at the reception you should maintain a respectful background position. As for your presence being a distraction, fame doesn’t prevent grief, and if you’re really all that well known, people will talk even more if you don’t show up.

Related stories

Think Mink archives

More from Mink Stole

Pick and Choose (4/12/2006)
First of all, homosexuality isn’t like snake handling or Catholicism; it isn’t a cult or a religion you can be recruited for or converted to.

Territorial Rites (4/5/2006)

Family Guy (3/15/2006)

Comments powered by Disqus
Calendar
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter