gonna take a sentimental journey

i gotta say, i’m pretty much in awe of siblings that actually truly get along. it seems there’s a small group out there – somewhere up north, closer to Vermont – i’m told.  in my age group – mid 50’s plus – i have heard some pretty awful, and profoundly sad stories between siblings: brothers and sisters; sisters and brothers, brothers and brothers, sisters and sisters. i’ve heard horror stories. maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe it’s an age difference thing, maybe it’s the competitive collective that’s thrown together.

The vying for attention, the need to obliterate each other, compete with each other… and then, in my case, the ‘add on’ of a mother who quite enjoyed pitting us against each other. it gave her a sense of power, being in control. she would tell my brother all sorts of nasty mean ugly shit about me, and then tell me all sorts of nasty mean ugly shit about my brother. and then she would deny that she said it, or … she would laugh, saying it was a joke, funny. it’s a miracle we spoke to each other at all. my therapist said she didn’t want us to like each other because if we did, we’d probably not like her.

profound shit.

calculating. and yes, limited. and while she – my mother – was generous, it was my father who was all for fairness. if one child got, then both got. my mom certainly played ball differently. she wasn’t fair. she wanted to be loved, to be the center of attention – which is much different than being kind and generous.

i am in awe of women – mom’s – who want their children to like each other, love each other, become friends. what a huge massive gorgeous blessing.

i have toyed with writing about this – sibling rivalry – for a few months. every time i start to write about it, i stop. it’s dark down there, much lurks – shame, guilt, sorrow, and sadness. and so i stop and push it under the rug, along with that relationship.

but just recently a good friend of  mine went through a horrible and nasty  experience with his older brother – when all was said and done, the brother decided (he was the executor, had power of attorney and … their mother lived with him and his family) that my friend would only get a small (teeny) gesture of a memory of his mother: three of his mom’s cookbooks and his father’s perry como sweater, packed (and arriving) in a small crushed carton. all the good jewelry and beautiful art work and bulk of the estate went to … his brother, his sister-in-law and their three children. my friend had no children. the phone calls and email exchanges between his brother and him were classic rivalry, to the point where he – my friend – was told in an e-mail that his mother “didn’t really like him very much, he was the black sheep of the family, and caused more hurt than joy.” How awful those words were. How painful and devastating to my friend, his brother’s need to cut & dig deeper and hurt more and open a wound that had healed over the years. all because my friend had asked for ‘some tokens of the memory of mom.’ Fortunately, my friend had a letter, written a few years prior from his mother. He had just opened in a play in new york, and his mother was so proud, so filled with great joy that her son – the one who could’ve ended up in the correctional center – had made such a spectacular name for himself, he cherished that letter. She wrote, “… You found your way out of the darkness, you found your joy. I am so deeply proud of you and your talent. Be proud of yourself, pat yourself on the back, and lift your head high. I am so proud to be your mother.”

had he not had that letter, he would have believed his brother’s words. he would have felt like shit, tormented. he would have asked himself: what did i do? what could i have done? how should i fix it? it would have eaten away at him, this whole hideous sibling rivalry thing.

through yoga and meditation and therapy, and some good friends, he realized he was trying to get his brother to like him, to love him and that was never gonna happen. never. and the more he wanted it, the more obliging he was … kind, and generous and giving, “here, you want this…take it… it’s yours… here…here … more…” and the more he gave, the more his brother took. and the more that circulated just like bad air.

so, at the end of his mother’s life he ended up with a few of her cookbooks, and his father’s perry como sweater.

right then and there, he decided to just stop, it was time to move on. close the door, that chapter … and embrace his gorgeous life, and the goodness that was right in front of him. there are days, he says, that he still wonders why his brother hates him so much. was it because he didn’t visit enough? call enough? was it because promises were made on all sides that were broken?because he chose to not have children? to follow his own path. to be his own person?

there are days he wants to hire a lawyer and go for the jugular.

there are days he misses his family.

when all of that comes up… and it does … he breathes, he feels sorry for himself for a moment or two, and then pushes on.

a couple of months ago i got a box in the mail – a KEEN shoe box. i hadn’t ordered anything from KEEN, nor had ken. on closer examination – at the return address – it was from my brother.

our relationship (or what was left of it) disappeared in the horror and messiness as my mom’s dementia took hold; everything – everything “her life” related – was moved, packed, shipped, reorganized, and redistributed.

there were, just like my friend, only a few significant things i wanted, asked for.

emails were exchanged, emotions were tested. i would like… no you can’t have. my mom’s wedding band, along with all other jewelry (except for the pearls, which i had) went to my niece, and sister-in-law. the two small wood (metal) cuts that i wanted were withheld for monetary evaluation, as they might be worth something.

and that was that. i threw my hands up, gave up, stopped asking, and stopped begging. i felt dirty. and shameful. and to be really blatantly honest, brutally honest, i felt as if i was being told: she was not your mother. we took care of her at the end of her life, so therefore nothing of hers can be yours. you – amy – you don’t matter.

that was two years ago.

what i have found out recently is that i am not alone in this experience. there is a boatload of folks out there who are in the midst of sibling hell/rivalry. a gigantic huge massive CNN poll of people….

okay, back to the KEEN box.

I open the box and in the box are the two wood (metal) cuts and a post card:


We were unable to find any significant ‘value’ for these other then the sentimental value they have for you….so here they are, down the road, if you do discover otherwise, i certainly hope you will think of  your niece and nephew (i’m leaving out names)!!!


what does that mean? significant value?

i think about how we (you know, THE BIG COLLECTIVE WE) treat each other badly. we are often cruel & nasty and we wonder why the world at large is so fucking cruel and nasty. we are often greedy, and unkind and batter each other emotionally & physically and we wonder why the world is filled with so much hatred and violence. we would rather make someone feel unwanted & insignificant so that we can feel bigger and better and more powerful. we treat each other with contempt, and punish each other over and over and over again – a reminder that growth & possibility & evolution is unattainable – and we wonder why there is so much bullying. we wonder why people feel small and unloved. we judge people, criticize people, and we wonder why people feel god awful about themselves.

we can be very unkind.

and good god, we can be so very unforgiving.

significant value, what does that mean?

for me it means declaring my life is invaluable.



Category: Uncategorized 67 comments »

67 Responses to “gonna take a sentimental journey”

  1. Dolores

    So much pain in it all. I’ve been down the Alzheimer’s road. It’s a horrible road, lots of dark, scary, places. It’s a real soul stealer. I would not wish it on my worst enemy. I think in every family there is always that one person who shoulders more of the burden than the others do, for whatever reason. It’s almost inevitable.

    Bruce, your pain & bitterness is palpable. I’m sorry you had to go through it all. I’m sorry your wife and children had to go through it. I’m sorry that you & Amy don’t speak because of it. The value of things cannot replace the value of a brother or a sister. I certainly don’t speak for Amy, but I think she does love you. In the little bit I’ve read in her book and her blog about you, I’ve only felt her missing you. I wish you both peace. I hope and pray that someday you find it together.

  2. Carrie

    this is my first time on this site. I stumbled upon it and this post title stood out. For the record, I am 29 years old. A youngster. I have a mother who is stricken by post polio. My husband and I care for her, she is far from dead, but my siblings are already andgry that I am here “staking out my claim.” Yet they don’t call, or communicate unless it is to tell her how awful she is. They’ve even sent her to the hospial with heart palpitations after screaming at her and following her with their car while she was driving her wheelchair outside.

    I don’t know how comparable my situation is to this one if only this:

    I care about my siblings. I do, but when people can’t be kind to one another, perhaps they need a break. Completely. Not scanning each other’s blogs for dirt or info, or looking for reasons to rehash.

    And Bruce, I’m not judging, I do the same thing, but I’m not honest enough to comment. I just read and judge my sister, hating everything I view as a lie or martyrdom. She does the same thing to me, but i don’t blog about her. I made a few posts about my mom being sick and I was worried that it may be the end and she wrote that it was hilarious. I don’t approve her comments either. I ended up deciding to privatize my blog to stop the onslaught of negative comments, but hers is still open and I go there, waiting for a slap in the face just so I can be angry.

    It sounds like the two of you long to talk to each other but are hiding behind the internet. not wanting to be hurt. I have no desire to talkt o or forgive my siblings. (I’m working on my inner peace and being Christlike, but i have a very long journey ahead of me)

    Still, this is not a forum for communication toward reconciliation. I have to tell myself that I look for these things because it doesn’t matter what they do, I want to be angry. I hurt for my mom, I hurt for my lost relationships, and I want to blame someone. So I blame them and look for justification for my anger. It is sad for me and it is most definitely sad for everyone in my cyber stalking boat. There are so many reasons to take things the wrong way, or knowing that your sibling is reading your blog, not write the way you want to or write specifically for them.

    I hope you two and my own family and I get to heal and even if we are too toxic to each other to have actual healthy relationships, I would like to one day say and mean I forgave them and wished them well.

    Good luck to all of us.

  3. Jane

    @ Carrie – if this is the first time on this site, you picked a doozy of a day to check it out. I hope you read some of Amy’s other posts and the replies. You will find out why she has such a loyal and loving fan base!

  4. Debra DeAngelo

    Bruce. You are being a dick. Worse than that, you are CHOOSING to be a dick. Just stop. You may have really good reasons for being a dick. But you can still CHOOSE not to be.

    Being a dick will not ease the pain of losing your mother.

    Being a dick will NEVER improve your relationship with Amy.

    Being a dick will ONLY make your anger, resentment and bitterness worse. That’s all it will accomplish. You are digging in your own wound and you don’t see it. Worse yet, you are wounding someone else.

    If you really resent Amy, and see no hope of ever appreciating her or having a relationship with her… walk away. Close that chapter and walk away. Your mother is gone. Nothing binds you to Amy anymore. Unlatch the anger/resentment/bitterness, leave it on the curb. And just walk away from it.

  5. Hollye Dexter

    Amy is one of my very closest friends on this Earth, so I’m not just a “cult” member. I actually know her heart, and it is a good one. The best.

    Many of us have complicated relationships with our mothers, as you both did. You said you gave up two years of your life “willingly”. It doesn’t sound like it, from the tremendous burden of anger you’re still carrying.

    If it was a selfless act on your part to care for your mother at the end of her life, you would not still be throwing anger and blame around. You would be content with what you were able to give to Bea, and the ways you were able to be there. Knowing you did and gave your best should give you some amount of solace.

    Amy relationship to Bea is just that- her relationship, which you are in no position to judge. Amy’s story and truth are her own.

    I know Amy very, very well, and know her to be an unflinchingly honest person. She is honest about her own shortcomings and mistakes, and honest in her relationships. She is a truly beautiful soul Bruce, who has reached out and inspired so many people all over the world, including me. I am so sorry for you to be missing this beautiful sister from your life. I’m sorry that you can’t see beyond your own bitterness and judgment, to see her for the good hearted and generous woman she is.

    You have an amazing sister, and you can’t see it. That is heartbreaking.

    She dealt with your mother’s illness differently than you. You were there more. You chose to be there, remember? That doesn’t make Amy the villain.

    Bruce, you are entitled to your feelings and your perspective, but this bitterness and resentment is going to eat you up. In trying to vilify Amy, you are actually hurting yourself. That kind of negativity is unhealthy for all involved. And I know personally that your judgment has caused her great pain. And to what end? Is this what you want? Is this how you want to feel until the end of your life?

    I hope you find peace Bruce- truly. And I hope one day before this crazy ride called life is over, you’ll realize that you were blessed with a beautiful sister, and she was always right there, if only you’d let her be.

    I wish you the best, Bruce.

  6. Carrie

    @ Jane I will. I like her Voice. 🙂

  7. Donald Sanders

    59 responses! Holy crap! You are justifiably loved. Now you may understand why I carry on so much about the Freaky Family. I absolutely adore my wife’s family and they adore each other. They are wonderful so I don’t have to worry about bad things like these except for on my side of the family. LOL
    Love this entry!

  8. Joe

    love the title reference

  9. elizabeth geitz

    I am several days late in coming across these blog comments. I am an Episcopal priest and personal friend of Amy’s; let me state that up front. I cannot help but view all of these blog comments from my lens as a priest. That’s what I am. That’s what I do.

    Amy and Bruce, you are both God’s beloved children, created in the very image of God, whether you believe in God or not, call God something else like Divine Other – you are both loved and precious in your Creator’s sight. As such, you are both unique, with different gifts, strengths, and foibles – as are we all. I believe in my heart, that until each and every one of us can view ‘the other’ whoever the other is, with the eyes of God, then there is no hope for any of us.

    It is the only starting point I have ever found for being able to forgive someone who has hurt me deeply and profoundly. I know something about forgiveness. My own mother committed suicide 20 years ago. My two brothers and I are fortunately very close, but we all have very different views on what occurred and why. I know that I have been sustained by them – in very different ways by both of them, but sustained nonetheless. I pray for that for the two of you – somehow, somewhere, some way. And yes, I believe it is possible. Because I believe.

  10. Julie Mihaly

    @Madgew- Did it ever occur to you that my comments were a response to the topic of this blog? They were not an invitation for you to offer your input or advice to me, or anyone else, personally.

  11. madgew

    @Julie, you validated Bruce writing to us each separately and when you say “My saying this doesn’t mean that Amy’s not entitled to her feelings or to her share of her mom’s estate, but shit- having someone actually be there for us when we start to check out is what we all hope for, isn’t it?” I took that as an invitation to comment as I did. Enough said.

  12. madgew

    My tribute to my friend Amy.


  13. Robyn Hatcher

    WOW! Reading this is so painful! So glad to know that Bruce knows “THE TRUTH” about how someone feels. Since almost every psychologist will tell you that “THE TRUTH” about another persons’s feelings is impossible to know. All those years of scientific research are useless cause Bruce KNOWS!

    Hmm… Amy not jumping at the chance to come and stay with you, Bruce. I wonder why.

    Amy, kudos for taking the high road on this discussion. I fear he doth protest too much!

  14. Mary

    It hurts to see you agonizing over the “relationship” with your brother. I think back to the lunch we had with Karen & Frances when you opened up to us about how torn you were with your feelings surrounding all of this. We all started to share and hoped that listening to our stories might in some way take some of that pain from you. The tears started welling up when I scrolled down your blog to see over 60 messages from others throughout the country (world?) who have sent messages of love & support. No matter how alone one might feel dealing with their personal family situations – how comforting to know that much is routine shit shared by so many others; to know in our hearts that we are not awful or hateful or selfish or anything else a struggling sibling may say. Your brother may not even really be angry with you – sometimes it is the siblings (or others’) feelings of inadequacies that rise up & cause the throwing of insults. Perhaps in their most vunerable times, their loved one may have happened to share that they loved the sibling (you!)more or were more proud of the sibling’s accomplishments. It could be these things driving them to their “insanity.” Not you. Love you…very much – so do all your friends….always, always know that!!! Mary

  15. Herbert Hoover

    Amy, any derision of your brother in your book is understated. I read your brother’s foul ranting on political message boards for years. He personally attacked women and children with some of the worst language imaginable. He advocated the abortion of black fetuses, because they were “unpopular”. His demaeanor and language would make sailors blush. You are a true hero for having survived as his sister. God Bless you.

  16. Henry Harrison

    I can’t tell you how much your words have meant. Your story of your brother’s treachery and selfishness simply prove everything many of us have known for a decade.
    Many of us have been attacked by your brother’s spiteful words over the years. No one is safe. Children, minorities and anyone who disagrees with him is fair game. Your brother once advocated abortion for all minority children because they were “less popular’.
    You have my sympathies Amy. Growing up in that environment must have been difficult. You seem to have overcome those obstacles and moved forward. GOOD FOR YOU!

  17. Henry Harrison

    God Bless you dear.
    I know your brother. My friends and I dealt with his foulness for nearly a decade on political message boards. Your brother advocated abortion for black women because adoption for “their kind” was less popular. He attacked other posters children and families with the most disgusting accusations. Don’t blame yourself. As one who knows, you have my sympathies.
    Good luck with your recovery and God Bless.


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