By brother-in-law gave me a great gift by living long enough for me to redeem myself.
Our relationship was always tainted by my judgment of how he lived his life. Looking back, I can’t recall that he singled me out for judgment. Because of the difference in our beliefs, I’m sure he was appalled at who I am and how I am, but he pretty much kept it muted in my presence.
I wasn’t so discreet.
I gritched and griped at every opportunity. I carried my antipathy like a banner behind the scenes of our lives. It read, “Sure, I’ll be nice to you. After all, you are family. But I don’t have to go the extra mile. Until you change, I’m going to have to …”
My lowest point in our relationship was after his last stroke. I wanted to help my sister. Although I wasn’t in the best frame of mind, I wanted to ease her responsibilities and give her a backlog of support to last until I could visit again. Problem was, I just didn’t seem to have it in me to recognize his limitations and let him off the hook. In fact, I made it worse. His stroke has destroyed any embarrassment or shame he had held in his life. He was willing to tell the truth in our discussions. And of course, in my mind that truth was the validation of everything for which I had held him responsible in his life.
His truth did not increase my acceptance of him. It only increased my irritation.
And so I went home ranting and railing.
Somewhere in the next month or so, I settled down; partly because I got a bit closer to my own center, and partly because I again began to read Dr. Amen’s books about the different aspects of the brain and how they work for us. I gained more understanding about what made him tick in this new life of his.
And most of all, I recognized ONCE AGAIN that the behaviors that irritate me most about anyone else are the things that disturb me about myself. I realized that many of the things that I didn’t admire in my brother-in-law were aspects of myself that I hated. They were the perceived character flaws that I saw in myself and continually hoped to change.
I looked back at all of my responses to him and about him in the past months and wasn’t a bit proud of myself. AARRGH!
Humble pie for me. I became anxious to see them again. Not only did my sister still need help, I needed to change how I dealt with her husband. I needed to make peace with myself over the situation whether he noticed it or not.
I made it. Before he died we spent peaceful hours together. We laughed at our similarities and lightly bemoaned our grievances against ourselves. He willingly went on rides with me to give my sister time at home. We did his errands. He carried his oxygen bottle into Starbucks and bought me coffee. My sister was able to leave him in my charge, knowing that we would be in harmony.
Do I like him more now? Maybe not. Do I understand him better? Absolutely! Am I happy with the way he lived his life? Not really, but then, neither he nor my sister need my approval as long as I keep my disapproval to myself and let it dissipate with his passing. (That judgmental thing is on my list.)
And I will be eternally grateful to him.