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“Ya Pays Yer Nickel, Ya Makes Yer Choice”

Posted Mar 06 2010 7:55am

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That was one of my late father’s favorite sayings.  It’s a more colorful way, perhaps, of saying, “You made your bed, now lay in it.”

I was feeling bad about the recent family strife last night.  It made me sad to think of my 79-year old Mom, who lost her husband 27 years ago, who has lost three of her children in the last six years, now being treated rudely by my youngest sister.  Several times yesterday, this sister of mine called my Mom, yelled at her, and hung up on her.

Mom called me early in the evening and she sounded on the verge of tears.  And that cut right into my heart.  And I realized, after talking about the situation with Gail, that I could have just nipped the whole situation right in the bud if I had just told my sister’s new husband to “stay out of family business” instead of pushing the issue when he said that I had been a “bad brother” to my sister.

Unfortunately, after years of opinion journalism and radio talk show hosting, I am loathe to let go of an argument.  I asked this individual to detail what it was that made me a bad brother, and he leveled a series of provable falsehoods.  This escalated into name calling.  Several times I tried to back out gracefully, telling my sister that I loved her, that the original reason for our argument — the fact that I politely posted my opinion on the comment section of her blog about atheism — was NOT a personal attack but a statement of opinion.  Here are the 68 words that started the whole kerfuffle.

“This is just my opinion, but I find people who say with absolute certainty that there is no God every bit as annoying and obnoxious as the people who say that not only IS there a God, but HERE is what he THINKS!  Food for thought.  Howzabout we take a page from our own book at allow people to believe whatever they believe without mocking them for it?”

Now, it’s been 48 hours, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and for the LIFE of me, I CAN’T SEE AN INSULT IN THAT PARAGRAPH!!!

She responded angrily, saying that it was her blog and she had the right to post whatever she wanted to post.

I replied again.

You say “you don’t know everything” but you are SURE there is no God.  I sense a dichotomy.  I have little patience for evangelism of any stripe.  Nor do I enjoy mocking those who don’t see the cosmos from my unique cosmic standpoint.  But hey, enjoy yourselves.  You might be right.  But you ALSO might be wrong.  I’ll just finish by saying we of mortal and finite intelligence have as much business trying to figure out the infinite as our dogs do trying to figure out why it’s raining. I just popped in cuz I haven’t checked out your blog in awhile.  I used to enjoy and agree with your political stances when you were a liberal voice for progress.  But having a blog for the sole purpose of mocking others for believing what they believe?  Seems like a waste of bandwidth.  I love you very much, and wish you and NO SKY GUY every happiness.

Again, I search these words for insult, and find none!  This would have been a perfect place to leave it.  But no.  My sister responded that she had been blogging her atheism for a year now (coincidental with the time she started going with her atheist boyfriend — two boyfriends before him, she wanted to join that guy’s church in Illinois.)  She said it was a remarkable coincidence that my sister Becki had looked at her blog and now, all of a sudden, here I was commenting.  And I should have just left it THERE, because the feud between my two younger sisters is legendary.

But then, her new hubby upped the ante by responding and saying that I was a bad brother.  Now, here’s where I should have just told him to keep his nose out of a family dispute.  But I just couldn’t resist.  I had to ask him where he got the idea that I was a bad brother.

I also sent an e-mail to my sister…

Bad Brother?  Let’s do the math…When my twin brother got thrown out by his third wife and had no place to go, I drove to Charleston, SC and brought him back to Wisconsin.  When my dying older brother, in a delusion, told his wife that I was taking leave to come visit, I drove 800 miles in one day and got there in time to hold his hand before he died.  I drove 1,200 miles to be with one sister who needed some help dealing with hospitals and doctors when she developed terminal cancer.  After I could no longer drive, I rode a train 800 miles, sitting up all night, to be with my remaining two sisters and my mother when my older sister died from that cancer, while ONE of my sisters spent most of that weekend with her boyfriend.  But some guy who is marrying my sister tomorrow, who I have never MET, has the fucking balls to tell me that I should have been a better brother.  Now WHERE would he get an idea like THAT??  What the fuck have you ever needed from me that I didn’t give you?

She responded with some revisionist history, that she had never called me a “bad brother.”  So I asked where her hubby would have GOTTEN that idea about me, since I never laid eyes on the dude and everything he knows about me has to have come from her.  She responded that it was because I was “being a dick” and she just KNEW Becki and I were working on this together and we could hardly wait to call Mom because Mom always believes us and never her and don’t bother answering this e-mail because I’m blocking you.

I responded anyway, asking if her hubby was calling me a bad brother because I was being “mean” to her today, then why did he say to me on a comment response on the blog that I was a bad brother, and not just this week either?  She never responded to that.  Her new hubby sure did, though!

Oh Billy BOY! – Or just Boy. boy. Yes little billy boy.  This is what you did and how you formed my opinion of you.  Your sister Cindy died. You took the train 800 miles. Right? Who was it for? Not your mom. Not Mix. You. Ya self centered weasel, you showed up and started shit. Mr Matriach! So Mix left HER mom early. Because of YOU! Her mom did not get to see Mix. Because of you! You deprive her mother of her youngest daughter in that moment. You pushed Mix out depriving her too. You are the Biggest of assholes and have absolutely no business giving out fucked up opinions.   As far as meeting you face to face. I would be more than glad to shove that walker where the sun does not shine. So please if we meet, behave. I would hate to have to embarrass you.  As far as brothers go. They do not do shit like this. So what does that tell you. YOUR NOT A REAL BROTHER!  Suck on that a while

Ah.  Now we are closer to the truth.  My sister told her boyfriend cum hubby that when my older sister died in November, the only reason I traveled, sitting up all night 800 miles in a train, was to start shit with my youngest sister.  And the reason my sister didn’t spend a lot of time visiting on the weekend that my mother lost her third child in six years is because I was picking on her for being an atheist, and I was proclaiming myself head of the family.  (The dude got the sex wrong, but in a later e-mail he said he did that on purpose cuz he was calling me a WOMAN!) I don’t recall the needling about her atheism, exactly, except for some smart-ass response from me when she made a reference about there being no God.  And the “proclaiming myself head of the family” included such pronouncements that I would “take to the highest mountaintop and sound the ram’s horn, summoning Schmalfeldts from all areas far and wide and we would convene a council.”  My Mom saw it as a joke.  My nephew Matt saw it as a joke.  Becki found it annoying, but knew it was a joke.  But my youngest sister, for some reason, thought I was serious.  At least that’s what she told her boyfriend cum hubby.

And it degenerated from there.

Mom didn’t take kindly to some stranger, marrying her daughter or not, threatening her son with Parkinson’s disease and told her that the new hubby wasn’t welcome in her house.  My youngest sister said if he ain’t welcome then I ain’t either.  Then, twice more, she called at my mother, yelled at her, wouldn’t let her get a word in edgewise, and hung up on her.

So, hearing how sad my mom sounded, I felt very bad about not just keeping my yap shut and avoiding the argument.

Then, my Mom called.  She said she wasn’t sad anymore.  She was mad as hell.  She had that edge in her voice that I haven’t heard in years, the “I told you to clean your room and you didn’t” tone.  She said that my younger sister had made her choice and would have to live with it, and that I had done nothing wrong.

That made me feel better.

This morning, I got a long scolding via Facebook from my youngest sister’s only child. It’s all my fault, it’s all Becki’s fault, the new hubby is a great guy, I use my Parkinson’s when it suits me, she remembers a time when nobody liked my wife, and so on and so on with rarely a break for a breath or punctuation.

I told her, “That’s good, honey.  Stand up for your mother.  That’s what good daughters do.”


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