One of my sisters isn’t coming to Christmas this year. And I’m kind of relieved. See, all four of my sisters and I decided we’d go to my mom’s house for Christmas. Laura’s husband is in Afghanistan, so she’s coming with her two kids and maybe two dogs. Tammy lives by my mom, so her whole family will be there. My younger sister and her husband are flying in from Las Vegas. (People actually live in Las Vegas. It’s weird.) I’m going with my two kids and my dog. And Brenda was initially coming up from Florida with her two kids. Her husband was going to be working. It was going to be a great Christmas because we would all be together which rarely happens. Until Brenda’s husband lost his job and found another in Texas and then he was going to come up too since he would have a break before he started working. And that’s when I stopped looking forward to our big family get together.
See, Brenda’s husband is an abuser. I’m no longer softening it. They’ve been married for years and he’s progressively gotten worse. Or maybe not because it’s hard to tell what the real truth is anymore. For years I was a sounding board for my sister’s complaints…starting with his controlling behavior. His accusations. His anger and threats. The first time she told me he hit her, she made excuses for him. His drinking hard alcohol, which he normally doesn’t do. His stress. His whatever. I told her then she should get out, but he apologized and promised and for a while, things were better. She asked me not to say anything. The next time he hit her it was worse–worse threats, worse anger. She hid outside in the bushes at their house while he searched for her, yelling to her that he was going to kill her. Finally pushing her into the living room furniture, breaking a table. Still she stayed. The day she called and told me that he had been arrested, I was grocery shopping. I listened without talking while she described how he had tried to kill her, really meaning it this time. He had ripped off her underwear and choked her with it. She had a burn mark across her throat because of it. I went home, shut myself in the bathroom, and cried. And then I called my older sister and told her everything. Said I planned to go to Florida to get her. We told my parents and made a plan. But Brenda found out and begged us not to come because this was finally his wake up call. He was going to get help and things would be better. That was a couple of years ago, and things aren’t better. They’re just different. Four months ago she called because she found out about his cheating. She finally was going to make a change. I was ready once again to do whatever I could to help her out. Then three days later, after he begged and cried and made all the same promises, she decided to stay.
I know my sister needs help. Her kids need help. My brother-in-law needs help. But at this point, I don’t care about him. I don’t like him. I don’t respect him in the least. I told Brenda I couldn’t pretend to be happy to see him. I told my mom that I was afraid I’d say something at Christmas and makes things worse for my sister. And maybe I don’t have the right, but I’m angry. I’m angry at my sister. I’m angry that she continues to stay and that she doesn’t see her own worth and that she’s doesn’t acknowledge how it’s affecting her kids. I’m angry that I keep trying to help and she won’t let me. I don’t agree with her choice to stay. I don’t agree that instead of coming for Christmas, they are driving to Texas to stay in a hotel because they sold their house and haven’t found a new one yet. I find it all so unbelievably unbelievable. But I also know that statistics say it takes at least 7 attempts before someone actually leaves an abusive situation. She’s trapped in something that is too hard for her to get out of right now. But when she does, I will, of course, be there. My anger isn’t blame, it’s just anger. Relationships shouldn’t be that way. My once independent sister is someone I don’t really know anymore. My nieces will have scars from living in an abusive family that even they don’t understand. It shouldn’t be. So, selfishly, I’m not-so-secretly glad that I won’t see my brother-in-law next week. But I’d trade the holiday to bring my sister home.