Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Sister's Life of Crime

Part one, two, three, four of the sister saga.

I'd like to stipulate for the record that my sister became a thief. This isn't something I have brought to your attention yet because I didn't find out my sister's fingers were sticky until I was in my twenties. Since I'm trying to tell this story in some sort of order this fact hasn't been brought forward.

Lemme back up a bit. As I've recounted to you, I moved back in with my parents and sister after leaving my first husband. My sister was fourteen when I first left home. She was now eighteen. Much drama occurred between my sister and mother in the immediate wake of my absence. My mother withdrew into herself and quit being a mother to my sister. Cruel scenes occurred as my mother vented her rage on the only person within reach and still dependent on her. This twisted up my sister pretty good. From the sheltered fair-haired child to an object of unfair rage. It was a jolt. I was the one who took the brunt of my mother's behaviors up until I left. My sister's run-in with the full force of our mother was a shock to her. She decided to accept she didn't have a mother anymore and proceeded to live life on her own terms. She took a serious turn into narcissism. It was all about my sister as far as my sister was concerned. Some say that crisis builds character. Other, wiser folk, say "crisis reveals character". My sister didn't change so much as she committed herself all the more to her narcissistic bent.

This set up the stage for the next clash of the Titans. After two or three years my mother decided to check back into mother-mode. This didn't settle well with sister. Now the rage was coming from sister and directed at mother dearest. Their relationship closely resembled a sibling relationship after this point. They argued and fought and sassed back and forth at each other. It was unclear who had the most power. Actually, it was clear that my mother had surrendered power during her period of self-indulgent depression and my sister refused to hand it back to her. This fundamentally changed their relationship forever.

Sometime during my four year absence my sister decided if she wanted something, it was hers. She started with mom's things. She would swipe articles of clothing routinely. Sometimes she would return them. She was just "borrowing". Well, it was a bit of a shocker to me to start finding things missing. She started stealing articles of clothing. Then my make-up and toiletries would go missing. I finally realized I was being stolen from and started to go hunting for my things in my sister's room and found them often enough to know who the thief was. My mother was useless in dealing with it. Even when I forced a confrontation with my sister in my mother's presence with the evidence in my hand I got no help. My mother had abdicated her role, only I really didn't know that yet. I was just confounded and outraged that there were no penalties for my sister's behavior. I can still see her arrogant look as I was confronting her. Like I was being petty and small for caring that she permanently "borrowed" something from me without asking.

One day I noticed that my sheaf of poetry was missing. As an angst ridden teen I had composed some poetry. Some of it erotic, some of it was actually rather good. I went hunting for it in my sister's desk one day. I was enraged to find it in her things and to also see she was trying to pass it off as her own in one of her classes.

When I was courting Ed, who would be my second husband, we would write letters back and forth because we would not see each other during the week. After realizing that letters from Ed to me, and some of mine to him, were not arriving at their destinations I again went on the hunt. I ruffled through my sister's top dresser drawer and found a half dozen of Ed's and my own letters in there. That means she would go out to the mailbox after I put a letter in there and would steal it and read it in addition to occasionally swiping his incoming letters. All the letters had been opened. This was nothing more than pure voyeurism on her part. I began to despise her again. I moved out shortly thereafter and had as little to do with her as possible for the next five years or so.

My paternal grandparents lived with my parents for a couple of the years during my first marriage. I found out later that my grandmother was vexed by the disappearance of certain of her undergarments, like camisoles, and other lacy things. My grandmother had a nice figure and a love for pretty things. This worked out well for sister dearest because she could steal things that fit from her own grandmother. My grandmother didn't confront my mother because she thought my mother might be the thief. The aunt, to whom my grandmother was writing letters to at the time and sharing her perplexity at the missing items, was certain it was my sister. My aunt was right. For all my mother's faults at the time, she wasn't yet a thief. I had direct experience shortly after this time of my grandmother's missing items so I lay the charge at my sister. There isn't any jury who wouldn't have convicted her given the chain of evidence.

My sister started to steal cash from my parents. Most of it from a little jar that sat on the kitchen counter for years. They called it "egg money" because my parents would sell their chicken's eggs and put the cash in the jar. It was like "petty cash" and therefore careful accounting of the cash in and out wasn't done. My sister would "borrow" egg money. She was allowed to if she put a slip of paper in there with an "IOU". But more often than not it just "slipped" her mind to put that little note in there. Somehow, the cash missing in the jar didn't seem to equal the IOUs. I remember my parents yelling at my sister many times over the "egg money" jar, but she always seemed to have "plausible deniability". They never really got a handle on her cash swiping. She did start to steal cash from other places in the house, too. Like my father's desk. But this was later...and she had a scapegoat for it.

***I also want to stipulate for the record that none of these offenses my sister committed against me were "unforgivable". The only deed that is unforgivable is the one you won't confess to. She has never asked for my forgiveness. So, in the truest sense of what forgiveness is, I am unable to give her something she hasn't asked for. I lived for years without thinking about her "crimes" against me. I made a sincere effort to have a relationship with my sister that was truly sisterly. I didn't revisit the past in my mind until she would do something in the present that looked like what had happened in the past. But it was only after I was forced to realize that I could never have any kind of relationship with my sister that I have re-examined past events in light of what I know now. I don't have any hatred of my sister. She is just a character populating my past that I can study on occasion, but don't feel much one way or another about her. I just want to make it clear that I do understand that what she has done in the past isn't like the "crime of the century". I'm not trying to make it into that either. I'm simply telling how things happened. Cause and effect. A good relationship relies very much on trust. Trust, once broken, needs certain things in order to be re-built. If you want someone to trust you after you've done something wrong to them, the best and quickest way to re-build trust is to specifically apologize for what you did. No caveats. No excuses or blame-shifting. Without that as a will never be able to re-build trust. The best you can hope for is some kind of emotional "truce". This is the fundamental problem created by my sister's acts in the past. They remain unconfessed to the present. She has never "owned" what she did. You just can't trust a person who won't admit their bad acts especially when they were malicious. So these things lay beneath the surface undermining any chance of a truly close friendship to develop between my sister and me. Continuing to violate little bits of trust I would give to her only underlined and highlighted that niggling distrust that remained from years of her betrayals.***

My sister's thievery, and lack of accountability for it, had extremely adverse consequences for my cousin within a year of me moving back out on my own. I'll tell that story another time. This will be the only story about my sister or mother on this blog that I didn't personally witness. But the "witness" has been thoroughly vetted by me. She is in my life. In fact, she lives about six houses down the street from me. (Our families have moved in tandem now to two different states. We've all managed to "slip" my family and are living in peace.)

My cousin is much like me in many ways. We are like sisters. My cousin has direct experience with both my mother and my sister's narcissism. She has experienced everything I have with both my mother and sister. I have an extremely empathetic friend in all this. I have someone who knows personally everything I've been through even though she didn't have to go through as many years of it as me. She's experienced the full range of what I've been through with my family. I have had ways to corroborate my cousin's recollections of events. I have even told her I was going to tell some of her story, as it relates to my sister, here on my blog. She is cool with that. She will be my fact-checker so I tell the story as it happened. Frankly, I'd like it if she told you the story, but I doubt I can get her to sit down long enough to write it up, so it'll be up to me. I do have a copy of a letter she sent to my father in 2005 which outlines her experiences with my narcissist mother. It is quite a well-told tale. Maybe she'll let me share it with you some day. My father rejected the contents of that letter saying my cousin just has a "heart full of hate"...something we all laugh at hysterically every time we quote him because she is about the sweetest person you could ever meet and know. My cousin has been criticized (gently and with humor) by all of us (her family and mine) for taking it too easy on my mom in that letter. Even so, it was rejected by my dad. Talk about a man who refuses to see. Anyway, I digress. My cousin has been neck-deep in the dysfunction of my own family. She's lived it all. It profoundly affected the course of her life.

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