Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Brother-in-Law Blues

A Family Thanksgiving Holiday Tale

We will be having a wonderful Thanksgiving with my Mom, my son and his family, and my sister and her family. My mother-in-law was supposed to be a part of the festivities, but will not be joining us.

This is why -

My brother-in-law – a.k.a. BIL - is fourteen years younger than my husband. Hub went away to college when sixteen. BIL was two. There was not a lot of time spent growing up together. That partly explains why there are no deep ties between them. It does not explain why they are so very different.

The relationship between the two was never great and disintegrated over the past couple of years. Some of the key reasons are easily pinpointed – disagreements about money (Mom’s), politics, and religion are three topics of dispute and dissension.
The two have barely spoken following a meeting a couple of years ago. Hub initially attempted to patch things up. He called. He emailed. He tried to have Sister mediate. Mom could not bear the fact that her two sons did not speak and tried to intervene. BIL ignored the calls and email and rebuffed all reconciliation efforts.

BIL is not a fan of two-way communications. If he wants to talk or email, he contacts you. Otherwise he ignores messages and the messenger. He may return a call or email days later. Or never.

Mom is feisty as ever, living in an assisted living facility near us. We see her more often than hub’s siblings because of proximity. We listen to Mom’s complaints about the other two, whom she says never calls (not true) or visits (maybe not often enough, but…). Mom never learned how to check her cell phone messages. All she sees is the last call received, creating problems with family, friends, and anyone else trying to get in touch with her. But I digress…

When Mom moved to the facility we made an informal family pact that we would have Mom for Thanksgiving, and brother and/or sister would be responsible for Mom on Christmas. Years ago we all spent the holidays together, but as our kids grew, married and had their own kids, and as the family rift widened, it became customary for everyone to go their separate ways on holidays.

We planned Thanksgiving at our home. Everyone will travel a fair distance, but no one minds because Mom was supposed to be here. We are still not living in our home because of Sandy damage, but can spend the day at the house cooking, eating and hanging out. There is no hot water, but space heaters provide heat and the gas stove works.

Arriving home from Denver Sunday night the first thing confronting hub and I was an email from BIL asking if hub would drive and meet him halfway Thanksgiving morning so Mom could spend the holiday with BIL and his family.

I visited Mom Monday and she spoke about how she rarely sees BIL and the kids (she is not especially fond of his wife). The two teenagers are her youngest grandchildren. It would be so nice to spend the holiday with them, she revealed.

I was not going to argue. But I told her hub could not spend Thanksgiving morning driving.

It sounds like such an innocent request, but is indicative of how life with BIL has evolved over the years. Plans are made and the games begin.

All three kids met at Mom’s to celebrate her birthday last January. Sister and Mom decided everyone would go for Chinese food – Mom’s favorite. BIL arrives with his family and, although he had previously been told the plans, decided it was not what he wanted to do and said so. Sister held her ground – something sister and hub rarely did in years past. It was always easier to give in than argue with BIL. Anyway, at the birthday bash BIL did not like the fact that plans were not changed to suit him. He and his kids went to the restaurant and sat, sullen, rarely speaking, refusing to eat.

Hub was first to become estranged with BIL. Over the past couple of years Sister and BIL have drifted apart and communication is erratic and strained.

Tuesday morning BIL picked up Mom and they returned to his home in north Jersey. We did not know until hub stopped by on his way back from a business trip to see Mom. After searching and not locating her, he stopped by the front desk. Oh, he was informed, didn’t you know your brother signed her out?

We live our life and make our plans, but BIL has a knack for placing a wedge between people, places, and activities. Family occasions become a challenge. How will BIL mess with the next family event, meeting or holiday?

Hope everyone has a delicious Thanksgiving dinner 
with people most loved and cherished. Enjoy!


  1. So sad to have that kind of contrary soul in the family. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving anyway.

  2. I hear you! Enjoy your holiday with the people who are there with you.