Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thoughts on my baby sister

Since receiving the news about my sister's assault, very little else has been on my mind.

My first memory of her was before she was even born. I was nearly 7 years old, the oldest of 3 at that time. Understanding that Mom was growing a baby in her belly was such a surprise to me, but a delightful one, because I knew I'd get to "help" with the new baby. My brother and sister already called me Sissy, so I felt very special. When she was brought home from the hospital, I nearly burst to hold her. She was so pretty --- a thick tuft of RED hair, which was unlike any other member of my family. She had the prettiest dark blue eyes, which I did realize was common with newborns at the time, but she kept those pretty blue eyes, and they're two of her greatest assets, physical beauty-wise. I think we all fought to hold her or to play with her, but she was a Mama's girl. I have a picture of me trying to rock her and she's squirming out of my arms, as usual, to run to Mama. That used to hurt my feelings a lot.

I remember the day she took her first steps. I remember when she had strep throat and had little blisters inside her mouth which caused her cheeks to be all poofy. It made her even cuter, if that was possible. As I said, she was a Mama's girl. It took until she was nearly 6 to get her off her pacifier, and she never made it all the way through kindergarten. She'd cry for Mama and Mama would go get her and keep her at home.

Throughout her childhood, she was cute, gangly, and funny. She started cheerleading for a community football team when she was about 5 or 6 years old, and she continued to be a cheerleader throughout high school. She was actually a Varsity Cheerleader for the same team that Emmit Smith and his brother played for. She was one of the popular, beautiful girls.

She was always tall and thin and pretty. I was always short and fat. She was always demure. I was always outspoken. She says she idolized me during her growing up years, but I didn't know anything about that. I always thought I embarrassed her and she was ashamed of me. I know this to be the case at some points, because we would ask me not to say anything "bad" (curse) in front of whichever boyfriend she was with at the time. They were always gorgeous, too -- almost always from a wealthy family.

She said that coming into my bedroom and poking through all my "big girl" stuff was the supreme highlight of her day -- that my room was always so cool. She said she loved it when I'd cut or style her hair, or put on makeup for her. She said that when I'd take her and my sister out to the movies or something, just us girls, it was a very special experience. I didn't know this until she told me in the last few years.

I'm seven years older than she is, so I was out of the house before she even became a teenager. When I was 16 and she was 9, our father died after a long bout with lung cancer. After that experience, she became nervous, paranoid. When my Mom began dating, she would repeatedly ask them if they were going to be crossing any railroad tracks or going over any bridges -- clearly scared to death that something would happen to her. Naturally, this event affected us all in some way -- different ways, as we were all different ages and had different relationships with our father, and mother, for that matter.

I learned later that she had been discovered to be drinking during her high school years. I think this was discovered by my Mom when she found a stash of empty beer cans in my sister's closet. This was when my sis was the only one still at home, so she had a lot going for her. Mom would indulge her by buying designer clothes (jeans, shoes, etc.). She had to have everything just so. My other sister and brother and I agreed that she was incredibly spoiled and that Mom was crazy to do all that for her.

Later I learned that my sister had male "friends". My mom at one point told me about a man who lived nearby who was so nice to my sister -- he gave her money for no reason other than she was so sweet. At the time, I was definitely disbelieving, but having nothing more to go on, I couldn't really dispute it. Then my sister moved out to California, to live with my brother and his then-wife. While there, she took up company with a much older, married, rich man, who kept her in style, apparently. Got her modeling jobs, took her to Vegas, NYC, etc. Got her an apartment, paid the bills, paid for schooling in Graphic Arts. It was during this time, around 1991, when I'd start to get phone calls from her late at night, her crying, saying she'd been drinking and doing a lot of cocaine and she wanted to stop. She would have been about 22 then. I encouraged her to seek help, to get into AA or some other 12 Step Program and get herself straightened up. I was in Al-Anon at that time, due to the fact that I was married to an alcoholic myself. She would always agree with me, but to my knowledge, never did anything about it.

She grew tired of "not being allowed to date" by this man who was footing the bills (imagine that!) and he basically kicked her to the curb. She got a boyfriend immediately, and together they moved to Toledo, OH for some reason. That's where she met current ex-hubby.

They began to date. And in February of 2003, she called my mother, crying, hysterical, saying he'd shoved her and threatened to kill her cat. She needed help, and off my mother ran. Now, just the day before my baby sister called my mother, I called my mother to ask her to come visit me for the weekend. I had left my alcoholic husband and was getting a divorce. I was very upset, scared, and grossly in need of care, but mom said she just couldn't do it. Which was typical of my mother. But when baby sister called, mom got a plane ticket with that much notice, and headed up to Toledo. This also was the weekend of a terrible blizzard (we're from FLORIDA, for God's sake), so driving back was dicey, at best. Mom moved sis home, lock, stock and barrel. Then she proceeded to get her set up in an apartment, with another girl, ON THE BEACH.

Fast forward to March -- my sister breaks the news to my parents that now-ex-hubby has tracked her down in Florida, and they went to the Justice of the Peace to get married. You can only imagine the disappointment we all felt -- her marrying the guy who she said was abusive to her and threatened to kill an innocent animal. Never mind all the money my mother spent to go get her, move her, set her up, etc. Sister and hubby move back to Toledo.

Over the course of time, I get calls from her occasionally, saying he's beating her or shoving her, threatening her, punching holes in the walls, etc. I always tell her to come down to my house (then in Memphis) and we'll figure out what to do. Always she'd say she would, and then an hour or two later she'd call and say she'd changed her mind, they were working it out. This got old, of course, but I could never turn down my own blood, especially my beloved baby sister.

Then, the inevitable happened -- she had a baby. A beautiful baby girl, who continues to be astonishingly beautiful. She turned 8 years old on Friday. This child worries that her butt is too big. An 8 year old! At some point my sister told me she thought having a baby would fix things. You know -- the oldest line in the book. Needless to say, nothing got fixed.

As time went on, hubby began playing the stock market, and hit it big with day trading, so they moved back to Florida, bought and renovated my mother's house, and lived there -- neither of them working. Apparently, her drinking got worse and worse. Even her daughter knew something bad was going on. She'd say mommy smelled funny, or mommy acted funny. She was always on guard and always trying to protect her mother.

Finally, FINALLY, after nearly burning the house down leaving candles burning and passing out drunk, she was admitted into an alcohol rehab facility for women. This was in September of 2001. Early September of 2001. She seemed to be making progress, but after the events of 9/11, she wanted to check out "to be with her family". Though no one wanted her to do that, we could understand a little bit that with all the unknowns, it was at least understandable. So she went home.

They, as a family, moved back to Illinois, where they'd lived before moving to Florida. Somehow (HA!) they'd gone through all the money they'd had and hubby needed to go back to work. She starts to drink again, and at one point, AT HIS URGING AND WITH HIS SUPPORT, she became a stripper. Yes, you heard me -- a STRIPPER. One night she got into a fight inthe parking lot of a strip joint she was working at, and got beaten up badly. She was taken away in handcuffs, to the psych ward of the hospital, where she'd already been a visitor several times, after drunken fights with hubby. She claimed she "didn't do anything", but I would bet pretty much anything that it's very very rare for someone to be beaten up for no reason. This was maybe 2002.

I encouraged my mother to go get her, and bring her back to Florida because she clearly could not be around husband and the people she was associating with. So down to Florida they go, and he files for divorce. Sister gets a job, and things seem to be going OK. But she starts to "go out" after work -- be gone for hours. The divorce papers are drawn up to say that their daughter's residence must be within 25 miles of her father's union hall, period. Sister signs this without benefit of counsel, or letting ANYONE ELSE read the papers. This means she has to move back to Illinois.

Mom moves her back in early 2003. Spends a small fortune getting her set up, because hubby threw away all kind of stuff from their house -- like kitchen things... dishes... glassware... clothes... you name it.The divorce becomes final. Sister starts dating. Ex-hubby doesn't like this, naturally, because he's a controller. Boyfriend is babysitting one night while sister is at work. Ex-hubby shows up, sees him in there, knocks on the door, and when boyfriend opens it, ex-hubby begins to pummel his face, blacking both eyes, and worse. He snatches niece, and drives her, drunk, to a bar, interestingly enough. He thinks about what's happened, and decides he'd better WALK to the police station to file a complaint of assault and battery against boyfriend.

I get the call -- sister and niece need me. I need to babysit niece so sister can go file papers, etc., so I call in to my own job and take emergency leave. I go up there, and whenever ex-hubby calls, I take niece and leave, going anywhere to be away from that home because I'm petrified of what he'll do if he comes there. It was a week from hell. During this week, a very special friend of mine died, which only made it worse.

Fast forward -- a few months later, sister says she's pregnant with child #2, and ex-hubby is the father. She also tells me, I remember, that they remarried. Now she says she didn't say that. In any event, what can you do? There's a baby on the way. We hope for the best. Baby comes, and she's beautiful, but I can't stand to be around hubby, who, btw, wasn't present at the birth and left the next day to go out of town for OPTIONAL work. I brought sister and new baby home from the hospital. I stayed up, with new niece sleeping on my chest, all night long so sister, who was still in pain from the C-section, could get some sleep. Oh, and I was a six-month newlywed at that time, really missing my husband.

Within a very short time, she announces yet another pregnancy, and had a little boy 11 months after the 2nd girl. Now she's complaining again about ex-hubby, how he treats her, won't give her enough money to get more than a day's worth of food. She begs me to come visit. My brother, sister, mother and I chipped in to buy her a new computer, because we want to be sure she is able to stay connected to us, and her computer is old and on its last legs. I agree to take it up to her, surprising her. This is last October.

While there, things are tense. She and ex-hubby, with whom she still lives to this day, had a fight, because she was drunk, from beer HE had bought and given to her, and he'd thrown something at her, missing her but cracking the windshield of her car. On the Saturday of that weekend, I witness the following: phone (which is difficult to hear on at best due to static and crackling) rings, it's for my niece, the ex-hubby answers it, and gives it to her. I can see/hear her, and she can't hear what the person on the other end is saying. She finally hangs up the phone because she can't hear them. She takes the phone to her dad to tell him that she couldn't hear on the phone. He said to her in an angry voice that she needed to leave the phone on the hook so it could charge up! Actually, that wouldn't happen, because it was a crappy phone. Had nothing to do with the amount of charge on it. The phone rings again, and niece, as instructed, left it on the hook. Hearing the message as it was being left on the answering machine, it was the girl who called, calling back. Ex-hubby came around the corner, hollering at my niece that she should answer the phone when it rings! I stood up and told him to hold on a minute -- he'd just told her to LEAVE IT ON THE HOOK -- she couldn't do both. He gave me a glare that told me that if he could, he'd light into me like white on rice.

The next day, it's time to leave (couldn't have been soon enough), and my sister begins to apologize for the condition of the house. I tell her, in front of him, that considering she has no help, I think it looks fine. Ex-hubby gets REALLY pissed and says "What do I look like?". I replied, I think with great restraint, "Not much in my book." He then starts in on me, saying I don't listen, that I can't tell him how to behave with his family, etc. I argue back and finally, after a few minutes, realize he's growing more and more angry and may actually decide to hit me, so I left. I see my sister out in her driveway, which is where she went when she heard us start to fight, and I take her by the shoulders and tell her "He's going to KILL you one day, and maybe these kids, too! You need to leave, get your act together, and cut your ties with this man." She begs me not to talk this way in front of the kids. I tell her the kids already know something's wrong, and it's her responsibility to care for her children and protect them from harm.

My hubby and I leave, and are about 10 minutes down the road when I get a call from my mom, saying sister called her, after calling the police to have hubby removed from the house. She wants us to return to help her pack and help get them out of the house. We turn around, and we help them pack. We take them to our house, and deliver them to our parents in the morning.

Fast forward 2 months -- just after Christmas, sister returns to Illinois, because ex-hubby has been calling daily, sending her $$$, and violating the restraining order she swore out against him to keep him from hunting her down. In other words, same song, 15th verse.

Now my mother and stepfather are probably at her home by now, because of this rape allegation. Every one of us has wondered if this is a real or exaggerated charge. It really really sucks to think like that, but experience tells us that what she says is not terribly reliable.

On the one hand, I want to go hug my little sister, pet her, tell her everything's going to be alright. And I want to get her kids out of that house, because I don't want them to think things are supposed to be like this. I hope that at some point I'll get the chance to keep these children for a while, to show them what a "normal" family is like. I don't know if that will happen. I hope it doesn't happen through the court system, but maybe that's the only alternative.

My mom plans to insist my sister get rehab, as long as their insurance will allow her to stay in. Problem is, she's not married to ex-hubby, so it will be dependent on what she can get through Medicaid, unless she continues to do what she's been doing and pretending they were never divorced, therefore committing insurance fraud.

So there are my thoughts about my sister. One big jumbled up mess, and I've left quite a bit out. I don't know quite how to think about this or how to respond to it. I can't go be around her ex, and I don't know that I can be around her. I want to see the children. I hope I can help care for them. I want my sister to suddenly wake up and be alright. And I want to believe that fairytales, like this, can come true. But I'm a realist, and know that's not going to happen.

If you're the praying type, say a prayer for my very sick baby sister, and for my whole family. We need all the help and support we can get.



Anonymous said...

Hi, I've read some of your blog. It sounds really sad, but it's lovelt that you're reminiscing.
But I haven't read all of it and don't completely understand-what happened to your sister?
I'm sorry if this is too personal a question!

Wrkinprogress said...

Thank you for reading and asking. I guess if it was too personal I wouldn't put it here. My sister has at least an alcohol abuse problem, and probably abuses other substances. she also seems to have some kind of mental issues -- possibly bipolar disorder and/or a personality disorder. She can be the sweetest, most creative person on earth. When she's doing OK, she's a wonderful mother to her children. The problem is that she's not able to maintain her stability.

Let me know if I didn't answer your question, and again, thanks for writing. :)