Sunday, January 8, 2012

family roles

When I was in middle school we moved up to Redwood Estates.  My aunt and uncle bought a new house and left some of the family behind at the old house and took some of the family with them to the new house.  Eventually all but their middle child ended up living in the new house while the old house was rented out.  When I say "all" I mean their two other children.  And my male cousin had a girlfriend who had three kids.  My girl cousin had a kid.  My sister and her two kids.  My mother and me.  That's what I mean by "all".  It was a five bedroom house.

We lost our driveway in an El Niño storm.  I have a lot of respect for nature.  We were stuck in the house for two weeks without running water, electricity, or phone.  We could hike up the mountain to get to roads so we did get help and what have you.  Eventually they brought in this awesome massive bridge and drove the cars over the pool onto the neighbors driveway.  Then we parked down in this little cul-de-sac and had to walk up a hellacious stair case to get to the house.  The stairs were unevenly spaced, very awkward to walk on, and really shitty to fall down.  They were also slick all year long from the water on the moss.

In losing our driveway we mostly lost the ability to get heat in the house.  Propane couldn't be delivered.  They didn't have the money to fix the driveway for years.  We just dealt with the stairs.  When we wanted to move someone in or out (that happened all the time) we would just open the gate to the neighbors driveway and hope she wasn't home.  She hated us and if we used her driveway much she made our life hell.

One of my strongest memories during my childhood is coming downstairs from my bedroom to see Aunt Vonnie slowly walking into the kitchen with her arms full of grocery bags.  I asked her if there was anything left at the bottom.  She said yes but told me she needed to rest for a minute before going to get it.  Aunt Vonnie is older than my mom by a good ten years.  My mom was thirty two when I was born so Auntie is ~forty two years older than me.  I must have ben thirteen or so.  Let's call her sixty.  So my sixty year old aunt was trudging up these treacherous stairs with her haul from Costco while most of the family sat in the living room watching tv.  There were children ranging in age from three to thirteen, most of them on the older end.  And several adults.  All of whom have health issues, sure... but so does Auntie.  And she's the oldest one present.

I went around the room slapping everyone, regardless of age, and told them to get off their fucking asses and get down to the car right now.  If you want to fucking eat, you get that food into the house.  Auntie isn't your fucking servant.  Go.  Now.  They listened, grumbling all the while.  I pushed and pulled them down the hill then loaded them up and sent them back up the hill.  I carried the heaviest load even though I wasn't the oldest or strongest there because he was a lazy piece of shit.  As usual.  I think he grabbed the roll of toilet paper.  When we got to the top Aunt Vonnie thanked me.  I knew that I was the only one who was going to lighten her load.

It always appalled me the way she was treated like a dog.  She worked from the time she woke up till she finally fell into bed far too late at night.  She cooked and cleaned and did all the shopping and worked and raised many many children.  When my sister makes comments about how she will be the matriarch after Auntie dies she doesn't understand what that means.  She has no idea how much effort it is.  Aunt Vonnie is the matriarch because she is the only (semi-)effective person there.  She is the one who maintains a roof for everyone.  She is the one who ensures there is food.  She hosts because she does all the work and has a stable home.

The last Christmas I invited my family to my home my sister sat here and informed me how it was going to be hard on mom to be passed over as matriarch because it was clearly going to be my sister because she was the one who does all the work.  I blinked.  I looked at her.  I sat there thinking about how many of the holiday meals I have hosted over the years.  My sister hasn't done it once.  I thought about how much money they have all asked me for.  I thought about how often I have been asked to save their asses.

I don't want to be Aunt Vonnie.  I am not going to walk around for the rest of my life muttering about how there is no point in saying anything because nothing ever changes I just have to do all the work for everyone.  I have too many anger issues to take that role.  It is not a fit for me.  I will break too much of my house.

I was told over and over how much everyone was sacrificing "for me".  It was my fault that they had to spend money on me so that I could live.  I owed them for their sacrifice.  Not right away, of course. But they always knew that I had the annuity money coming.  Comments were made.  Selfishness is one of the biggest sins you can be accused of in my family.  It's kind of funny.  It was never being selfish when it came to discussions about Aunt Vonnie's share of the work load.

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