Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wishing For An Intervention

Posted by Anonymous.

I just got off the phone with my dad. Again. And we spent another hour talking about my sister. Again. I can't take it much longer. I know that this is my role--that as the responsible one that has always had a special communication bond with him it is my duty as a daughter to let him get this off of his chest before his hypertensive heart just gives out from the stress. And as the big sister, it is my role to make peace between them and to field the frustrations, interpret the angry accusations and bridge the gap that neither one seems to be able to deal with. Alone they stand with that gap between them, hurling angry words and misunderstandings. And then I enter and I try to shield them from each other and unlock the truths. Calming them down, pulling the bits of love and advice and concern out of the shouting and handing them over to each, like peeling away the sharp spines of a cactus to find the delicious nutritious fruit inside.

But I'm getting sick of it, because this time my sister is just plain wrong. And we can't seem to get through to her and so I find myself lobbing the same angry question at her: "How can you stay with him?" It's a loaded, painful accusation to her. Pointing out his faults. Her naiveté. Her stubbornness. Her mistake in being with him in the first place. That her obvious answers, which we are clearly aware of, are not enough. That the whole story is clearly one of miserable choices, lies, and mistakes.

But the whole story is just so sickening we don't bring it up in entirety too often. And we don't bring it up in polite company. And so I'm here to vent.

Two years ago my sister had a good job as a manager at a small bank. She worked part time at a local convenience store to pass the time, and stuck the money away. She was dating a nice guy who had proposed but she had stalled because she was wanted to wait. She had a nice car, fully paid for thanks in part to a generous gift from my parents. She had her first house which my parents helped her make the downpayment on a few years earlier. I don't begrudge her these things. My parents helped me buy my first car and gave us money to help furnish our first home. They aren't wealthy by any means--working hard labor hourly jobs in a tired rust-belt town years after their bodies should have been given a break--but they're responsible about money and loving parents and so they give more than they probably should despite our protests. All six of their children. And we all appreciate them deeply, except this sister. She has always felt slighted. Victimized. Defensive.

And yet my parents helped her out and helped her get settled. Dad worked 14 hour days and then drove to her house to replace old pipes, replace an old window, and remodel her laundry room without charge before going home to do farmwork. She would come home from the bank, change clothes, and watch TV for 45 minutes. Never offering him a drink or a sandwich. Never thanking him for the thousands of dollars worth of work he was doing for free and paying for himself. Never bothering to ask how he was doing. Just sat and watched TV and then left to go to her second job. She'd complain to me that he was over too much, was doing things without asking her, and was intrusive. He was angry that she was so ungrateful and didn't take care of her house. I intercepted, interpreted, and bridged the gap.

Then that fall a guy moved in. We grew up strictly Catholic and premarital anything was unspeakable. And yet he moved in "as a friend" with "no where else to go" just "for a few weeks". She had a crush on him; he was married. With kids. And a criminal record. And his wife was divorcing him for his criminal behavior. She called my sister to warn her, but he told her the ex was just jealous. The same story covered the ex-girlfriend with another child by him who called with the same warnings. She was just jealous because she wanted him back so they could be a family. But he was tall, blond, tan, charming, a singer, a little wild, and played the victim card. Everyone was holding him down. He was a victim. He just needed a fair shot at life. He understood her as no one else would and she had found a "soul mate". She was completely suckered in.

Within 6 months he had drained her bank accounts. Four months later he had convinced her to refinance her house twice for almost $45,000 and it all disappeared. Then he had her use her car title to get more money. Then a few pay day advance places. Within a year they were in so deep they had no where else to go and nothing to show for it. He was gambling it all away, but we wouldn't know that--wouldn't know any of this--for another month. In January she found out she was pregnant. It was, of course, his. That next week--knowing full well she was pregnant with his child--he had her write checks for thousands of dollars and he cashed them at an unsuspecting bank. A criminal act. The police got involved, and finally, so did my parents.

It all came out in ugly waves. Everytime we thought we knew what we were dealing with another wave deposited more of their mess. And my parents stepped up to clear her name of bank fraud for the thousands of dollars of checks. Tens of thousands for the payday advances and car loans. The house was not salvageable. They owed entirely too much and the bank would be taking it eventually along with the thousands my parents had invested as help with her downpayment. My parents bailed her out as much as they could, more than they should have, but they couldn't protect her completely. The bank she worked for fired her for the bank fraud. Unemployed. Bankrupt. Pregnant with the child of her criminal boyfriend. Soon to be homeless.

The bank moved slowly on the foreclosure so they sat in the house for months, as utilities were turned off around them. Garbage bags piled up in the garage to the point that it was overflowing. They stopped mowing the lawn. His car broke down and so he took hers when he went out, which he did often. They found temp jobs and she opened a new bank account and put his name on it. We all protested and she said it was just easier that way and that we were unfair to judge him. He lost his job within the month. She continued to work 10 hour days with a 1 hour commute each way, catching rides with a coworker so he could take her car and go gamble the money away as fast as she earned it. Faster than she earned it. Bounced checks for $800 each piled up. He left for days on end with her car and her cell phone, leaving her in their unowned house with no car, no phone, and 8 months pregnant; working 50 hours a week in a temp job for money she never saw. Dad came over one afternoon to clear out the truckload of garbage from the garage, unthanked, and hauled it to the dump where he paid $50 to get rid of her garbage. If only it were that easy.

In July the guy came home with a pile of cash and warned her that it was best if she didn't know where he got it and then he left in her car with her cell phone "for the night". He came home four days later, all the money was gone and another thousand had been pulled from the bank. The police showed up a few days later with a check written on her old account from the bank she had been fired from. He had found an old bank book, written it for thousands, and forged her signature. An act, we then learned, he has previously served time for. She swore she had no idea and he swore she was innocent. He was going to "be a man" and "take the fall" which sounds a bit overly heroic for a guy just admitting his own rotten guilt.

And you would think, after all of this, that she would have had enough. That she would kick him out or move out. And we've offered. We have a spare bedroom and private bath with a small sitting room, perfect for mother and child and she can live here for free if she leaves him. My parents offered to remodel their upstairs to put in a bath and small kitchen and she could live there for free if she leaves him. A friend offered to take her in if she left him. And yet she sits in that house with him, hands him her car keys, and says we just don't understand love.

She's overdue with his son who she plans to name after him. The bank is finally kicking her out this week and her baby was due last week. He has criminal proceedings being brought against him this week. My parents continue to offer to let her live with them and she says she'd rather live on the streets. She refuses to talk about it. In an hour long chat yesterday she talked 20 minutes about finding a changing pad for a diaper table, 10 minutes about how nice his parents were to buy her a 79 cent ice cream cone (they just get her, don't you know, and obviously care more than her horrible parents ever have), 25 minutes about labor and delivery and this upcoming baby, and 5 quiet tearful minutes about what might happen this week. Most of those were silence on her end as I tried to bridge the gap.

And tonight dad called me and agonized over his daughter. And I tried to intercept and interpret, but I just don't get it either. I don't know this woman anymore and it breaks my heart.

PostScript: since this post was sent to the Basement, Anonymous has sent the following update -

"She (my sister) was induced and he has pled not-guilty to his charges of 2 felonies so that he can continue to hang out as a free man for a few weeks while the justice system sets up court dates. The jails are full, so he's still lounging around her house when he's not out gambling away the welfare check. This is what my sister's life has come down to. It just kills me! We're from a good family, with hard working parents. We were given the chance to go to college if we helped pay for it--in fact, I'm a professor now and my brother is a computer engineer at an aerospace center! Another sister started college yesterday, my older brother is a farmer with a nice house and 2 kids and a very cool wife, and my baby brother is taking classes part time while he works 2 full time jobs. And this sister was working toward building up money to be able to save up enough to work part time and take paralegal classes. We were given every chance to do right in life and she was doing great up until this worthless waste of a man showed up."


Anonymous said...

I am so sad for your sister, being in a situation where she doesn't see what is going on around her. This man is clearly abusive, if not physically, emotionally. He obviously has convinced her she has no life without him. I only hope she can see a way out of this if not for herself, for her son. I am sorry for your enitre family, only wanting what is best for your sister, when she is not willing to see that. Hopefully when he finally goes to prison, she will reach out for help.

Anonymous said...

I hate to say it but I've had to deal with something similar myself and the bottom line is this...YOU CAN NOT HELP SOMEONE WHO DOESN'T WANT TO BE HELPED. As hard as it is, as mean as it sounds, you have to live your life and allow her to live hers. I'm very sorry for you and your siblings but this has got to be the worst for your dear parents, my heart goes out to them. Your whole family is in my prayers. Good luck with everything.

michele said...

I don't understand it. I never will. I have a couple of those relatives myself. I just don't get it. In the end, I had to separate myself from them totally - I was getting sucked under. I couldn't help anymore. I'm so sorry for the pain.

Anonymous said...

I am also the eldest of 6 children and a nurse. I was just"between" a disaggrement my brother and mother are having. I moved 3000 miles away to get away from this stuff and it still follows me. I love them all but I understand their faults, why do I have to explain it away to them? I hate to say it, but noone else in your family should "enable" her anymore. That is easier said than done, but she needs to learn a tough lesson on her own and not have anyone come and rescue her. Good Luck!!!

CrankMama said...

I’ve had similar experiences but still can't fathom the depth of pain and loss your family must be living with. In situations like this I hate receiving advice but find resources helpful. So in the spirit of do unto others, I'll pass along the title of a book that's helped me understand the women like this in my life…Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood. Stay strong sister!

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry. My sister has put herself in a similiar situation, is about to be evicted from her home and she blames all of her problems on my parents - it couldn't be the asshole she hooked up with. I'm so sorry.

The only advice I can offer is you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped, you can only be there when they come to their senses. Be there for her as frustrating as it is.

E said...

I have a sister (she's 23) in a similar situation, although she is not pregnant (at least not that we know of). We have had suspicions that she may have been pregnant at some point and that she may actually be married. She's about to declare bankruptcy (no medical insurance + emergency care = problems) and she has no drivers' license because she has caused too many accidents and did not have car insurance.

As a family, we have decided to only listen if she deigns to call us. There will be no more trying to find her, no more money, and no more offers of a place to live. Especially now that she has claimed that her most recent ex is out to "get" her.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for everyone (except the creepy boyfriend). The above commenters are correct - you can't help someone who doesn't want the help. I agree that your family has been enabling her, but I don't think right now, with a new baby is the time to stop enabling. She's going to need all the support she can get, even if she resents it.

I hope that having a baby will be the best thing for her. Even though she refuses to see how badly her boyfriend treats her (and that he's a criminal), she may still want what's best for the baby. She may realize that the boyfriend isn't such a wonderful dad and partner after all. I'm hoping your sister has enough of your parents' good upbringing and values within her to realize how important and vulnerable a child is.

Anonymous said...

What a sad, sad story, all the way around.

Having once dated an abusive drug-dealing, cheating, slacker asshole for nearly four years, let me say this:

She is not ready to listen. And until she is, there isn't a thing you or anyone else can do to make her see reason.

Let her know you will be there if she changes her mind. Let her know she can come to you.

Then step back.

Because the more you and your parents try to intervene, the more she will resent and avoid you.

Sounds ridiculous and terrible all at once, doesn't it?

But I've been there. I've been that woman. And I had to figure it out for myself and ask for help. Thankfully, there were many people, including my parents, waiting to to be asked.

I hope she figures all of this out soon. For her sake. For her family's sake. And especially for her baby's sake.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what the worst part of this situation is but I feel very sorry for you having to deal with it.

ewe are here said...

I feel for your family. I really do. This is an absolutely heartbreaking story.

Sadly, there's nothing, absolutely nothing you can do for your sister until she decides, for herself, that she's got to make some changes. She has to make the decision to throw the creep out and ask for help. Pushing her to do so will likely only push her further and further away. The only thing you can do is be there for her if/when she asks you to be and, if circumstances dictate, call child services if you feel her lifestyle is seriously endangering your niece/nephew's health/well-being.

I wish you luck.

Dana Whitaker said...

Again, you can only help her if she wants to be helped. If you let her know that you are all there to support her, and she and the baby are welcome in your homes, the next step is hers. She is welcome, the boyfriend is not. No financial support if she is with him, but you will help her if she walks away.

And then you let her decide. And not doing anything more may turn out to be the hardest idea ever, but it is the only way. Either she will wise up or she will suffer the consequences. It's gut wrenching to step away, but she needs to accept the help in order for it to really be truly helpful.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone's comment that she can't be helped if she doesn't want it.

In my opinion, your concerns right now are your parents and possibly the baby. You should tell them not to spend another penny on her...they'll need their money for when they are retired and older. And if you or your family members find that she is not taking proper care of the baby, you should do what you can to change that.

But you've all done everything you can, or SHOULD. She may be throwing her life down the drain, but you should not allow her to drag all of you down with her. You said in the beginning of your post that it's your role as the big sister to make peace between your dad and your sister. Well, IT'S NOT. Any therapist will tell you that. If you are stressing over hearing about the situation constantly, maybe you should be a therapist to learn how to detach your emotions from the people and to stop enabling her.

Just be there for your parents and that baby.

Anonymous said...

I meant to say maybe you should SEE a therapist (not BE a therapist...if you were, you probably wouldn't need our advice).