There's something I think I should say... Maybe folks reading this think I'm being too hard on my sister concerning my niece. She really does try to do right by her. I mean E-Bear is a good kid and loves her momma very much. It's just that my sister is a workaholic, channeling her "inner demons" into keeping busy, and that husband of hers... if he fell off the face of the earth, I wouldn't miss him. But that's a different story altogether. His whole family was... weird.... like Children of the Corn weird. Makes me glad none of them are still living from the things I've heard. Maybe part of the reason he's so small minded about spirits and magic and such is due to things they put him through as a child....
There's a lot of stuff from our childhood that's gone into making my sister and I the people we are. Our father was a real piece of work. He was a genius, a writer, had so much potential... but he destroyed himself... by sniffing glue and later doing other drugs if you can believe it. Not so very smart as all that, eh? He burned everything he ever wrote in one night. I don't know why, and he's dead now... cancer five years ago. I can't count the number of times he got into fights, bloody, death defying fights that left him about as scarred up as any Frankenstein monster. He was a great, tall Nordic-looking third-generation Irish-American who started drinking about as soon as he got up and didn't stop until he passed out. I saw him last when I was twenty-one, when for some reason he felt the need to tell me that he was a reincarnated Egyptian prince. I never could tell when he was being honest or full of crap. So who knows if he actually believed it.
Shortly after my sister was born, she caught a high fever and went into convulsions. She died. The doctors brought her back and gave her medicine that I've always thought it made her a little funny in the upstairs, maybe a little meaner, more materialistic. It certainly contributed to her Depressions. She died and was revived and became everyone's darling, not that I'm jealous (much). I could never compete with the care and concern everyone showed her. They coddled her and showered her with presents. Maybe this is why she thinks giving presents can show she cares more than words and actions. So she clutters up her house and my niece's room with all these things. I just think it's a lonely way to live... spending all your time on things instead of people. She is literally selfless about being selfish, if that makes sense. There's a gaping wound in her heart, and she tries to stop the ache by covering it up with pretty things, shiny things, and ultimately useless things.
This wound... it's because of our father. When our parents married and got home, he turned to our mother and said, Okay, now I own you. What followed was three years of psychological and physical torture. When I was three and my sister a year and a half, our mother finally had enough and ran away from him. She left us with our grandmothers and hitchhiked across America. Every time she ran out of money, she called home and asked for some to be sent so she could come back, but she kept running. Within a few weeks, our father came and took us away, but not because he wanted us. We weren't people to him, only possessions, like our mother had been but not even as useful. He took us and put us in foster care. He took us because it was a way to get back at our mother, though it was not until I was almost five that she came back. So obviously it mattered less than he expected.
I have no memories before kindergarten, none, and what I do have isn't really whole until around eleven. I never really thought about it, and I really don't care. I am what I have made myself to be. So I don't remember these events, nor does my sister, we were too young. I have been told however, that the foster family who took us abused me. That I refused to go to some Church gathering and... bad things were done. Even then I was a little heathen. My sister was a baby; so they didn't have to fight her to go. I was old enough to run away, which according to my grandmothers I did often, especially when they were distracted with my sister. I was apparently quite the mischief maker. I can only imagine that I defied my foster parents creatively and in ways possibly detrimental to plumbing and plaster.
I won't go into detail about what happened while my mother was away, but she said when she came home, I was a very different child. My sister has said that she can remember sitting in front of the house wondering why our father didn't love her, why he never came to visit or called or sent presents. I never really gave it much thought, nor invested much thought in our mother either. It's only in recent years that she's become a bit more... spiritual and taken an interest in me or my beliefs. Mostly I listen to her dreams and attempt to interpret them for her. That is basically the extent of her interest in me. I couldn't tell you the number of times we've made plans to get together only for her to go do something with someone else in the family. I don't even count on her for birthdays any more, though we are only three weeks apart.
But the purpose of this post... my sister. I know it seems that she is a horrible mother, but she's really not. I'm sure that there are plenty of mothers out there much worse than my sister. I've seen her practically foaming at the mouth over something that a teacher or another student did to my niece at the fancy-pants school where E-Bear goes. It's just what my sister learned from our childhood is a completely different lesson than I learned. Her reasoning is that people may fail you, but things never will. Things are solid and dependable while people can turn out to be very different from how they seem at first. My issue with her is entirely ideological. I am a spiritual and idealistic person, and she is a materialist and atheist. She doesn't understand how I can believe in anything immaterial, and I understand her materialist obsessions only too well considering the state of our world.
I am not E-Bear's parent. Despite the fact that it "takes a village to raise a child," I literally do not have the right to tell my sister how to raise her daughter. And in fact, if I tried to come between them, I'd get the short end of the stick all around, from her, from E-Bear, and from my own gods.