Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Legacy

This post is continued from the last, published on 12 November 2008.

The rumpus continued. From the grandson there was a bit of 'Don't you push my sister!' From the youngest daughter there was a lot of 'I'm not having a door slammed in my face!' From the eldest daughter, there was a little of 'Don't you tell me how to bring up my children!' Both sisters were rude to each other. The youngest was rude to my aunt. The youngest sister shouted that she was going home. My husband turned to me, smirked and remarked that no one could go anywhere until he had moved his car. A few minutes' silence ensued, then my youngest cousin came into the living room and sweetly asked my husband whether he would mind moving his car. It was a change of tone worthy of a Bafta.

As soon as my cousin had left, we comforted my aunt, in the kitchen, whilst we made some tea. (Woohoo, a cup of tea, at last!) My other cousin and her 2 children eventually joined us, in the living room, for a few sandwiches and snacks and we all tried to recover from the stresses and strains of the day. It was a day of tragedy and of comedy. In the end, in spite of the seriousness of the situation, we had to laugh.

Apparently, my younger cousin had reproached her niece and nephew, as she blamed them for the fact that her sister was returning home, to the Midlands, earlier than my younger cousin had hoped. She had pushed her niece, who had slammed the bedroom door in her face and the whole thing had escalated from there.

The oldest sister and her family had travelled down, from the Midlands, on the previous Tuesday morning and were intending to leave on the Saturday, mainly because the teenage children had engagements that they didn't want to miss. My younger cousin was annoyed because, for the first few days after her father's death, she had been left to support her mother and deal with the funeral arrangements alone. Paradoxically, it seemed that she was also suffering some pangs of jealousy, since the arrival of other members of the family, because her mother was no longer solely reliant on her.

The younger sister lived close by, was in the throes of a divorce and had a 5 year old daughter, who was 'a bit of a handful', by all accounts. I had a certain amount of empathy for my younger cousin. My aunt is unable to drive, so when my uncle had become too ill to drive himself to and from the hospital (a 50 mile round trip), the responsibility had fallen on my cousin. My aunt hadn't even been able to shop without her help, because the nearest supermarket was a few miles away.

My older cousin resented the fact that her parents had been persuaded by her sister to leave the Midlands. She felt abandoned and that her sister had deliberately sought to isolate and exclude her. I had more empathy with my older cousin, because I felt that her younger sister had been manipulative and controlling. The younger sister had moved from the Midlands, to the seaside, a few years ago, after getting a temporary job. She had eventually married a local man and had a child. When her marriage had broken down, she had persuaded my aunt and uncle to move to a house close to her.

As my aunt looked back on her own life, a disturbing pattern began to emerge. Her mother (my maternal grandmother) had died after giving birth to her. My grandfather had remarried, but his new wife had refused to take on all 3 of his children. She accepted the 2 older children, (my mother and my other aunt) but the aunt relating the story was handed over, as a baby, to be brought up by a maiden aunt.

My aunt explained how she was often hit so hard in the face, by her aunt, that her nose bled. She was dragged around the house by her hair and hit across the back of her legs with a walking stick. On a few occasions, my late uncle had been physically abusive, during the first couple of years of their marriage and mentally abusive up until the end of his life. He was jealous and possessive. She wasn't allowed to have regular contact with friends and relations after her marriage and sometimes, she wasn't even allowed to speak to anyone on the telephone.

When they moved to the seaside, my uncle chose a house, in a small town, with no proper bus service. Once again, my aunt was isolated and under his control. From the limited contact I had had with the family, and from the remarks I had heard during the argument, after the funeral, I suspected that my aunt's youngest daughter had inherited my uncle's possessive and controlling nature. There seemed to be every possibility that she was stepping into his shoes.

My uncle purposely left no will. He kept my aunt in ignorance about his financial affairs and the running of the house. He bragged that he wasn't short of money, even though the family assured him that they had no interest in it, because it didn't seem to have made him a happy man. They loved him, in spite of his faults. It seems that he may have been prone to exaggeration, in some respects, however. It appears that he may not have left a great deal of money, but he may have left some other sort of legacy, instead.

My aunt understands the potential dangers of the situation in which she now finds herself. She wants a relationship with her youngest daughter, but she doesn't want, or need, another tyrant in her life. She intends to move to a smaller house, in a more suitable area, as soon as the market improves. I suggested that she should make enquiries about joining some sort of local club, or voluntary group, so that she would have an opportunity of making some friends and wouldn't then be totally reliant on her daughter for company.

To a certain extent, my aunt is finally free to make some sort of life for herself. I can only hope that, after so many years of bullying and isolation, that she has the courage to take advantage of the opportunities presented to her.


softinthehead said...

What a sad story - hopefully you aunt is strong enough to do all those things, although it may be difficult after a life of having someone else making all the running. Thanks for sharing.

Mean Mom said...

softinthehead - It is sad. She is quite determined, at the moment, to make some changes. It is unfortunate that she is stuck in a house, which is far too big for her and not convenient for any amenities. I hope that the housing market improves very soon.

blogthatmama said...

What a difficult time for your aunt, Mean Mom. Does she admit that she's been pushed around and is in danger of it continuing? I really hope she can now lead the life she wants.

Mean Mom said...

blogthatmama - Yes, she does. She has, during the past week, told both of her children that she doesn't intend to be pushed around by them, like she was by her husband. She seems to have things more under her control, now.

aims said...

Oh MM! I had to close my eyes and take a moment for myself when I read of your aunt's abuse.

First of all - bless you once more for taking the time and driving the distance to be with her. You and your husband are very special people.

I was somewhat relieved to see from your comments that she is starting to make a stand on her own.

I too hope that she can now find her own wings - dry them out - and fly on her own.

I hope you remain in contact with her. She's going to need a friend who doesn't push instead of what she calls her 'close family'.

The Boisterous Butterfly said...

I feel very sorry for your aunt and I hope she finally has the courage to stick up for herself and make a life of her own and make her own decisions. She's been in abusive relationships since she was a child and deserves something a heck of a lot better now. I hope you can somehow keep an eye on her, even though you are so far away. I know it isn't your responsibility, but still I would hate to see her life repeating in this way. Those kids probably picked up some odd habits during their childhood too, with a father like that.

Suburbia said...

Poor aunt. And I moan about so much less! I do hope she finds some happiness, she certainly deserves it

Maggie May said...

Mean mom....... I read the last two posts in one.
That is a sad story and I do hope your Aunt can build up a life of her own and have some enjoyment in her old age.
It is dreadful the way that these possessive people can control some one like that.
I always think that funerals *can* bring the worst out in some relatives.

Mean Mom said...

aims - I thought of you when my aunt was relating her story.

I will certainly stay in contact with her, now, instead of relying on my mother and aunt for news. Funny thing - I never realised how much I was 'put off' ringing her by her husband. He was charm itself to the rest of us, whenever we came into contact with him, but we knew a little of how he could be, in private. It just 'creeped us out'.

auntiegwen said...

Your poor auntie, here's hoping she enjoys the rest of her life

Mean Mom said...

the boisterous butterfly - I didn't know the full extent of her experiences (well, I'm sure that I still don't). I certainly didn't know that she had been mistreated at times by her aunt. She cared for her husband during his illness and still didn't have a kind word from him.

I will stay in contact with her. We would like to stay with her in the summer, but I'm not sure how that would go down with her youngest daughter, yet. We might have to stay close by, so as not to cause too much trouble.

Yes, you're right. Their father didn't set a good example, so it may not just be the problem of inherited characteristics.

suburbia - Oh, I know what you mean. We all enjoy a little moan. I haven't been able to tell my aunt's full story. There were some things I left out, because there was just too much to fit in. My aunt really is due some happiness.

maggie may - It is such a sad story, but I have left a couple of things out, so, in fact, it is worse than I have been able to convey. I may try and fit these things into another post, if I can think of a way to do it.

Yes, funerals do sometimes bring out the worst in people. Weddings can be a bit of flashpoint, too. They'd all been under a dreadful strain for such a long time, though. My uncle died a horrible death. Even he didn't deserve to suffer in that way and it was so awful for all of them.

Jennysmith said...

What a fascinating blog. Reminded me so much of my mum's family. its amazing what families can do to each other. they can crush the life out of you.

was just "passing" - will visit again. Jenny smith xx

Mean Mom said...

jennysmith - You're very welcome! Yes, you never know what goes on behind closed doors.

Rose said...

You gave your aunt some very sound advice, Mean Mom. What a sad story! I do hope she can find a way to be more independent and enjoy the rest of her life.

Up until this revelation, I could identify with some of the problems here. My husband's sister became manipulative when my mother-in-law became ill. He and his sister still do not speak to each other, ten years after his mother's death.

Mean Mom said...

rose - That's so sad, but we don't choose our blood relations. People coming from the same family can be so different from each other. There are plenty of unscrupulous people around and they are all related to someone. Avoidance is often the best policy, as some things just can't be excused!

scrappysue said...

we are all so alike with our family dysfunctions. i wish your aunt all the best for this next phase of her life.

Mean Mom said...

I could write a book about my dysfunctional relatives, but it's probably best that I don't!

The sisters are OK with each other again. The youngest sister, who flounced out of the house, at the funeral, had to see her doctor, because she was 'falling apart'. She is a little better now. My aunt is very lonely. It is a very sad situation.