I don’t care if this makes you sad. Almost everything about you makes me sad. I think you’re small. I think you’re a bigot. I think you’re a bully. I’m certain you’re an ideologue…It’s hard not to be impressed by [your] utter lack of self-awareness…
Well, I guess this is what you call burning an already rickety-ass bridge. I told you many years ago that me and my family would be just fine without you in our lives. That remains true today.
The Imposter is made for moments like these. Regardless of how I apply every bit of context to my SIL’s words, they hurt, they successfully made me feel less-than, and they immediately began to work on my memories. I racked my brain. What beyond my early letter to him could make him feel this way, communicate it now after 20 years, and leave him in a position unable to forgive anything?
You might recall earlier in the book I felt confident and lacking the Imposter generally when dealing with my children. How could I have missed my SIL? Of course, regret is not the Imposter. Natural regret doesn’t necessarily raise the specter of the Imposter. It’s simply regretting. Perhaps I have not truly apologized, in my heart, to my SIL? If not, it’s quite probable I quietly continued to hold him in disrepute for 20 years. And this could be so despite efforts to truly apologize and mend a tenuous relationship.
If both of us have been playing along to keep the peace, if you will, we’re pretty damn good at it. Yes, we argue. Rarely has a family event lacked a good argument between my SIL and me. Those arguments begin innocently enough. But there is a point at which when each argument reveals either true innocence or merely a façade of innocence. Motive becomes clear in a few minutes. Are we discussing some matter or are we jousting? But, overall, we’ve kept the peace.
Shortly after my SIL and Emily married I could see I needed to apologize to him, and I did. He says he does not remember any apology. On the contrary, it seems to him that I just piled on disrespect and contempt year after year. I can see how he might not remember. He seemed incredulous then – like, “Okay thanks, but I know you’re just doing this for Emily’s and Sally’s sake.”
In a direct text with Sally after the Facebook tirade, my SIL mentioned a time when they needed to live with us for a while, just after their third child was born. He told Sally that I made him feel unwelcome and that I had problems with his kids. Neither Sally nor I remember it that way. But, of course, he’s entitled to feel how he wants to. Sally assured him in response that we did not feel that way and chastised him a bit for only thinking of himself and not considering what she and I were dealing with in those days – disabled sister, elderly parents, stress at my work, etc.
In fact, as I pondered his memories as he related to Sally, I thought of a time earlier in our marriage when Sally and I and our three little children needed to move in with Sally’s folks. I always thought my father-in-law hated me and us every day we were there. One time, Sally’s sweet mom even had to lock herself in their camper just to catch a breath from the chaos. But they loved us and were happy to help us. Sally and I felt the same way about my SIL, daughter, and three beautiful kids. Like my memory of my father-in-law, my SIL’s memory is on him.
But his disdain for me was brewing over the years. In 2015, Sally and I took our married children on a cruise through the Caribbean. We covered nearly every cost for each couple. Some paid for their room on the cruise ship having purchased discounted tickets on a Black Friday sale the November prior. But other couples, such as my SIL and Emily, were not in a position to even do that. We took care of everything for them.
One of our first stops was Barbados. After a wonderful morning out on the water swimming with sea turtles, we were back onshore and looking for lunch. Ten of fourteen family members were together on the beach (the other two couples chose a separate excursion). Sally and I made a “pit stop” before joining the kids at a restaurant of their choice. Their choice happened to include a $50 per person cover charge to even get a seat in the restaurant. It included an alcoholic drink and a beach chair. We don’t drink alcohol and we did not want to sit on their beach. All we wanted was to sit down inside the restaurant and eat lunch.
Spending money was not an issue for either Sally or me on this trip. But $500 to even get a chance to have lunch seemed ridiculous. I approached the beach “concierge” (i.e. the muscle enforcing the rules). A big fellow. BIG. I cozied up to him for an explanation and clarification. “Surely it can’t be true. You want a $500 cover charge just for us to sit down inside your restaurant and have lunch?” I said with heaping amounts of incredulity. “Yep,” the big fella replied. To which, I replied not-so-diplomatically, “You have to be shitting me.” Unmovable, I told him that we were going next door for lunch.
As I walked away, my SIL quickly approached me and said, with a louder-than-normal voice, “Why do you have to always behave this way? You do this all of the time. Why can’t you respect these people? I hate when you act this way. Why don’t you just go back to the boat!” Sally was standing there. Another son and daughter-in-law were right there. I am told everyone was shocked as the reason nobody said anything. I stood there without saying a thing. I presume my SIL was still lecturing me. I can’t remember.
Without anyone saying anything other than my SIL, I headed back to the boat. I left. The experience assured me of what I suspected for many years to that point – my SIL really cannot stand me.