My sister and my niece arrived at the hotel for Mike’s funeral on January 27. We all went to dinner, and my sister said that she was there to help in any way she could. She sounded sincere, but given her history of being unreliable, I had my doubts.
“Just help me with the kids,” I said at dinner when they arrived in town. “That’s what I really need right now. Mom has been such a huge help these last few days, and she needs a breather. I don’t ask for help often, but I’m asking you, I’m looking you in the eyes to say that I need help with the kids over the next few days while I handle all kinds of funeral-related things. Can you do that?”
“Anything,” she said. “I’ll keep the kids busy. We’ll have fun.”
My mom had been eager for a haircut, and she had been so helpful and strong over the previous days that I wanted to treat her. I called a local salon and made a cut-and-color appointment for her. I told my sister at dinner that night that I would need her to help me with the kids while I took mom to get her hair done the next day.
“Great,” she said. “I’m here for you. No problem.”
On the 28th, the kids, my mom, my sister, my niece and I went to lunch then headed back to the hotel. I told my sister that I would pull up to the front of the hotel and she and my niece could get the kids out of the car because my mom and I needed to get to the salon.
“What?!” my sister yelled. “It’s my birthday! I’ve invited friends to celebrate with me! I can’t watch your kids on MY BIRTHDAY! That’s not fair!”
(Side note: She was turning 37 years old – not a milestone, and she wasn’t a child. Even with all the other stuff going on in my life, I didn’t forget about her or her birthday. I ordered a birthday cake for her, and the kids bought her a small present and flowers. She wasn’t forgotten, but this wasn’t her day either. Also, we were raised that birthdays, after you reached 16 years old, weren’t really big deals.)
I got out of the car, walked over to her side and whispered in her ear. “We talked about this yesterday. I need help with the kids over the next few days. I want to treat our mom to a few hours in the salon. Please…” I begged.
“Whatever,” she said and walked into the hotel. “I can’t believe you’re asking me to do this ON MY BIRTHDAY!”
Fast forward a few hours and my mom and I returned from the salon – and the bakery with her birthday cake. My sister was nowhere to be found. My 16-year old niece was alone in the hotel room with Ethan and Lauren. “Where’s your mom?” I asked.
“With her friend,” she said, rolling her eyes. “She just keeps saying it’s her birthday and she’s going to do what she wants.”
Right after we left, my sister’s friend arrived and she dumped the kids with my niece. She hadn’t so much as checked on her daughter or my kids in the last several hours.
I was furious. Trying to take my mind off things, I started looking at my Facebook feed. There were several posts from my sister about how she was “partying” on her birthday, and how any friends in the area should stop by, and how excited she was to be with friends her birthday. There was also a check in from her “friend” at the hotel – “Partying with J on her birthday, so glad she’s in town to celebrate with me!”
I was pissed. She was in town because MIKE DIED. This wasn’t Party Town. This was the Grief Train. She was there because she was supposed to be helping after the loss of her brother in law. She was staying in a hotel room – paid for by my mom – to attend the funeral for my husband. It took everything in my being to NOT reply to the friend’s check-in: “Glad you’re having fun. I’m preparing the funeral of MY KIDS’ DAD, which is why she’s in town….”
I knew that I would lose it if my sister and I were together much that day. A group of college friends were coming into town and had texted to ask if I was interested in going to dinner with them. I needed the escape.
Dinner with friends was nice. We laughed. We cried. We told stories about Mike and caught up on each other’s lives. I was touched that they all came in for the funeral from faraway places, and it was nice to spend time with them before things got crazy with the viewing the next day.
When I got back to the hotel, my sister was on a rampage in the hotel lobby, waiting for me. “I can’t believe you didn’t have dinner with me ON MY BIRTHDAY!” she said. “I can’t believe you WENT OUT ON MY BIRTHDAY! I would never do that to you on your birthday!”
“No,” I said. “You would just make my husband’s funeral miserable. Today wasn’t about you – we’re here because Mike died. We’re going to see my children’s father tomorrow. He’s dead in a box.”
“But it’s my BIRTHDAY…” she screamed after me as I walked to the elevator.
I left her in the hotel lobby. She would never change. Selfish when she was a kid, selfish now. I just couldn’t take her ridiculousness. Tomorrow will be one of the toughest days of my life, I thought.