In July of 2009, DH still wanted to bury his head in the sand, despite all of the Truths blowing up around us like fireworks on Independence Day. The little boy who had opened his mother's unbirthday card and cried was the same little boy who felt obligated to attend his sister's birthday party that year. Just two weeks after NMIL had sucker-punched him in his emotional gut, we came back for more.
I was well aware at that time, of the gossip being spread about us. I didn't have to stumble upon some blog or read his mother's Facebook page to know exactly what they thought of me - they had already made that perfectly clear. Needless to say, I was much less than thrilled about showing up at NMIL's house, where every one of her roadies could whisper behind their hands about us, given my awareness of the situation. I was even less thrilled when NMIL called DH a few days before his sister's birthday to ask him if he could invite his friends to her party because "there aren't going to be a lot of people here this year and your sister is going to be so sad!"
I had to roll that one over in my mind several times before I could figure out what felt so wrong about it. I came to the conclusion that I didn't like NMIL making SIL's happiness DH's responsibility. I tore it apart, piece by piece for DH so that my thoughts on the matter might be easier to swallow. I told him that his mother's theories were wrong for a couple reasons. She was, first and foremost, telling DH that the main requirement for a good party is the size of the guest list. And I argued that a huge party does not equal a good time...it quickly turned into the old "Quality, not quantity" argument. I, personally, would rather enjoy the company of a few people who genuinely care about me, than that of one hundred people who don't. I told DH that his friends showing up at his sister's birthday party would be completely inappropriate, AND would do nothing to make her feel more loved. I reminded him that the shindig my parents threw for him boasted no more than eight people (myself and DH included in that number) and he still felt validated and loved. I assured him that his sister was not so different than him that she required an exorbitant number of people to allow her to feel the same.
"She's like you, DH" I said. "She just wants to feel loved." And having all the people in the world at her party wasn't going to accomplish that for her. I believe, in the forsaken depth of her emotions, SIL is aware of that too. On a superficial level, she probably does think that her worth is reflected in the number of relationships she maintains in her life. DH and I have had many talks about how he misappropriated his own self-worth into the bank of relationships he had procured. I reminded DH that his and his sister's value did not reside in the amount of people they called "Friend."
I told DH that it wasn't up to him to make it all better for her. "The only thing we can do," I said, "The only appropriate and healthy thing to do, is to go there and show her our true love and support." DH agreed, but I couldn't shake the thought that he still felt responsible for his sister's feelings. My thoughts only seemed to make DH choke, no matter how tiny I cut up the pieces. It is true, I didn't want to go to the party. In fact, I was dreading it. I did not want to put myself in a situation where I'd be surrounded by people who weren't aware of the truth and didn't want to be made aware of it. I did not want to be surrounded by NMIL and her cronies.
I went because I had to. I went for DH. I went because he loves his sister. I went because I recognized that she was an innocent bystander, just like DH was for so many years, and she didn't deserve to be ignored because of her mother's nonsensical-narco-nonsense. I went to show our support for her, in spite of what her family had done. I went, Dear Reader, because I wanted to tell her that we are happy she was born. This is not to say that she should not also be held accountable for her actions, or that she can use her FOO as an excuse for her own bad behaviors. But, I fully recognize that SIL has an inner child that was very badly hurt too, just like DH, and that child is not undeserving of compassion.
I know she didn't want me there. I also know that she is too blinded by her mother's jaded view of the world to See that I want her to have a deep, meaningful relationship with her brother. At some point, Dear Reader, she'll have to own her dysfunctions too, just like my DH is doing. If she doesn't, she'll remain stuck, in them like her NM.
The party was typical. NMIL took photos of herself and her two children, as her way of proclaiming, "THIS is my family." She purposely took DH and SIL aside and asked one of her friends to take photos of the three of them standing together on the deck, so that the world would know, indeed her children would know, that her family did not include me, and in turn, that they were HERS. It was as much a statement of possession as it was a warning. DH seemed oblivious to the dynamics, and SIL smiled for the camera, probably feeling more at ease that things were "back to normal" if only for the length of time it took to snap a few photos. I felt out-of-place there and that was what NMIL intended. It was the same photo she took every year, minus her divorced (second) husband. She was not about to change it up, particularly if that change meant having to accept me as DH's life-partner. The symbolism of keeping me "out of the picture" is not lost on me.