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It has been 17 months since my father - my best friend - died. Since I work in the schools, it has seemed like summer is the best time to fulfill his desire to have his ashes placed in the same grave site as my mother, who died in 2005, in PA. Last summer my sisters were not speaking to me and I was trying to consolidate my stuff and my dad's into one condo while suffering from a head injury. I decided to wait until this summer and now I will be traveling to meet with my sisters. I am filled with feeling I did not anticipate and cannot explain exactly.

I called my older sister for her birthday today and learned that she has traveled to the house of my other sister, where they will be getting together with my cousin. The family get-togethers have excluded me for decades, starting with my mother's scapegoating of me. After my mother died and my father moved to live near me in AZ the dynamics seemed to change. My sisters did not want me to visit them because it seemed likely to them that I would bring him with me, but they were civil to me. It did seem like they were being nice to me because maybe I would intervene on their behalf with my father and they would be the beneficiary of some funds from him due to my advocating for them. And I did get him to help them because I was worried about them. But now that he has died, I don't have a lot of usefulness to them and they are back to being cold and icky to me. I feel like my having been angry with them over continuing my mother's exclusion of me has probably made them avoid me more, but I'm not sure how a person is to stop feeling angry about something that keeps happening.

So every conversation we have is strained and awkward. Old things come up, but with new, fabricated details added that vilify me in some way. For example, there was a conversation we had many years with our mother - the three of us agreed to confront her about how she picked at me constantly but one sister said very little and the other said not a word in my defense in spite of her promise. And now she says, "Well, you just went off on her". I reminded her that we had agreed beforehand to have this confrontation, and she said "Oh yeah" and dropped it. But clearly, the story has changed to make my sisters innocent and me an unstable crank - to be avoided.

So I am going back there, into what seems like a mess of icky stuff designed to malign and exclude me, and it is to bury my father's ashes. I feel worried about a lot of things, and I really really feel his loss. My sisters seem more and more like my narcissistic mother was. I don't know why I can't seem to let go of a hope that they will be any source of friendship or support to me. I fear losing my father again as I take his ashes across the country. Will his spirit abandon me and stay with his ashes, leaving me even more alone than I am?

I had been feeling rather good about things in my life. I have landed my "dream job", which gets me back into the state retirement system and really health insurance. My cat is being filmed in a movie, which has been lots of fun. I have a new neighbor, who has turned out to be a great friend. I have finally recovered from the car accident that I was in a year ago. My dad's house sold, and while it is another loss, it is good to have one house to care for and not two of them. I am playing music and making clocks. Nevertheless, I feel sad and empty, with a sense of impending doom. I don't feel like working on my projects and am listlessly hanging about and doing very little. What does this mean? Will it go away and I go back to how I did a week or so ago?

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Laura, I know precisely what you mean.  For years I was seeking my father's approval for anything in my life and nothing of the sort happened.  I finally came to realize that his not capable of providing that for me. 

My sister blindsided me last month and it absolutely floored me.  She was overly stressed out and apparently felt she had permission to blow up on me.  I politely said "good night" and began reexamining all that was said and done.  I examined my motives to see if I had done something wrong to provoke her.

I read this book, "BOUNDARIES" by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  I reference it a lot. My sister overstepped a boundary.  We talked civilly about it yet in her mind she believes her view is correct.  This has caused a paradigm shift in me and our relationship.We are civil. 

It hurts inside when people you want to love, trust, and have a relationship (family)  with just do not reciprocate. Please do not let them steal your joy.  You have been through a lot and they don't know you and are still operating on scripts from your mother.

You go do what your mission is.  Limit your exposure to them and return to the life you have been rebuilding and beginning to enjoy. I'm praying for you the PEACE that passes all understanding to guard your heart, min, and life - Shalom, George

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53 minutes ago, iPraiseHim said:

... You go do what your mission is.  Limit your exposure to them and return to the life you have been rebuilding and beginning to enjoy. I'm praying for you the PEACE that passes all understanding to guard your heart, min, and life - Shalom, George

Thanks, George. I appreciate that. I am sorry to hear about your sister. It is really painful when family members get crazy and feel entitled to take it out on us - whatever "it" is. My sisters and I were all damaged by my mother's treatment of us, but my sisters stayed close by and handled things with alcohol and destructive marriages. I moved far away, did many years of psychotherapy, and developed a professional career by which I could support myself. I also spent two decades - the first long distance and the second as close neighbors - developing a friendship with my father. By doing this, I gained his unconditional love and support, which my sisters unfortunately never had from either parent. 

I think they are angry and resentful that I have also been able to "write my own ticket" by developing a professional career, but I don't think that's anything to apologize or make amends for. After their marriages fell apart, my older sister went to graduate school in art, with which she cannot support herself, and my younger sister set about finding a man who would support her in the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. She loves him, but has no money of her own. I struggled through two graduate programs and a career path that has not been easy by any definition while my sisters did what they wanted and drank a considerable amount of wine.

Nevertheless, they have chosen their paths, as have I, and engaging in their crazy stuff will only make me as miserable as it did with my mother. I have fought long and hard to get clear of all that emotional slime. For the most part I have done this by staying clear - far away from them. But then I miss having a family and wish we could be closer. Can't do that alone, though. I wish I could make myself stop trying.

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15 hours ago, Clematis said:

I'm not sure how a person is to stop feeling angry about something that keeps happening.

Laura,

It is indeed difficult to forgive the offender that continues to offend.  I had a pastor years ago that kept offending, this man truly did not belong in the pastorate, but I learned a great deal over my 15 years of dealing with him...it gave me "practice".  All I know to do is pray, and forgive as the offenses come up.  Of course that does not imply inviting more of the same, it is good to call things to their attention as they come up, otherwise it builds up and that's too much for anyone!  I am sorry that this is your relationship.  Normally I'd tell people to keep working on their family relationships, but perhaps distance is best since this is a continual pattern and it isn't doing you any good.  Surround yourself with positive people, friends of your choosing.

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12 hours ago, iPraiseHim said:

For years I was seeking my father's approval for anything in my life and nothing of the sort happened.  I finally came to realize that his not capable of providing that for me. 

My son is one who always tried to be perfect, and dang near was!  His father wanted him to be a jock, and at 5'7: he wasn't likely to be the football hero.  However, he tutored half the football team so they could stay in football, and I told him that was a huge contribution to the team.  He took a year off from playing football, the pressure was so great from his dad, and his dad and I had divorced so he felt he could choose for once in his life.  The next year he was considering going back and I remember telling him, "Son, if this is something you want to do for yourself, do it.  If it's for your dad or I, don't.  You will never please your dad, but that's on him, not you.  I don't know why he is the way he is, but I know you are about as perfect as they come.  Do what YOU want to do."  He did sign up and play football throughout high school, and he enjoyed it.  All of the years growing up his dad had put so much pressure on him, in T-ball, in everything.  In high school he learned his father had been the water boy in football, he'd always thought the way his dad talked he'd been the team captain or something.  I told him there's nothing wrong with being the water boy, whatever you do, do it well.  I think his dad's own insecurities were causing him to live vicariously through our son, something many people do.  I just think it's so important for people to grow up healthy and happy!

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6 hours ago, kayc said:

 I just think it's so important for people to grow up healthy and happy!

Your son is lucky to have such a wise and supportive mother.

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I am very worried about going "into the lion's den" of being on my sisters' turf. My neighbor encouraged me to keep in mind that I am doing this for my father and to try not to engage in my sisters' craziness. I am finding that to be very difficult. We had a Celebration of Life for him in March of 2016, the planning of which was entirely by me. it came off very well...had two bands and a classical guitarist, a potluck, a slideshow, and a contradance. We really sent him off in style. I knew my sister S would very much like to be involved in the music and spent almost two months trying to get her to give me some names of tunes she would like to play, while she was evasive. Sister D refused repeated invitations to be involved in the music, only to complain afterwards about not being involved in the music.

So now I am going back there with his ashes, to meet at the gravesite that he and my mother will now share. My sisters and I agreed that we would keep this simple and just have the three of us meet there. S was supposed to have worked things out with the cemetery, which is in her town, but she didn't and my sisters figured I would do it anyway, and I did. S and I have played music together on my mother's grave every time I have been there since her death in 2005, with her singing and playing the ukulele while I played rhythm on the cello.

We talked on speaker-phone yesterday; they were together for S' birthday. I suggested that for this we plan ahead on the music a little, so that I could play melody on cello a little with S' rhythm as well as her singing. S said ok, and I suggested a Presley ballad. D said, "No!" and then escaped out the door to walk the door before it could be discussed. S was annoyed at all of this and did not want to discuss. She did tell me that I could play anything I wanted, but alone. I have the idea that D is eager to veto stuff and S doesn't want to commit to or suggest anything. Typical. Leaves me in the familiar role of going out on a limb (where I am an easy target for criticism) and doing it all. I scarcely want to just drop his urn in the hole the cemetery staff dug and walk away. I have no idea what to do. And the more I think about it, the more worried I get...

Please help me

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Hi Laura,

“into the lion’s den” – you have been there before, Laura.  I wish there was an answer for you as to what you should do but only you can decide that.  You are going there to finish the celebration of life you had for your father back in 2016. That needs to be the focus. You are a musician and a part of the celebration could be for you to play in honor of your father. If others do not want to participate it is their choice.  You put an idea out there and that is all you can do. Go with an open heart. Play something your father would have liked. Perhaps you could read a poem that you know he liked. Say your goodbyes and come back to Arizona. We will be here for you. Remember Laura, you are not alone.  :wub:

Anne

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3 hours ago, enna said:

...Say your goodbyes and come back to Arizona. We will be here for you. Remember Laura, you are not alone.  :wub:

Thank you so much Anne. I think you are right. I should choose the music I want to play for him - and my mother - and ask my sisters to join me. If they have something they would like to add to the list that is ok too. I'll play anything.

The other thing that occurred to me this afternoon while driving Lena to visit the retirement homes is that while they are busy attacking and criticizing me from every angle as my mother used to do, I am the strong one, the smart one, and the competent one. Also, the fact that they keep saying that I am not nice to them, I am the one who has spent my life in service to others while they have been in service to themselves and their children. I shouldn't let them make me feel badly about myself...

I appreciate your thoughtful message, Anne. It's nice to feel the love and support.

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I am realizing that whatever occurs at the gravesite in PA will be up to me. I have to figure that out.

The guy at the mortuary who cremated my father in 2016 told me that if I brought him my father's discharge papers, commenting that if he was a veteran, "he ought to have a flag". I am not sure what happens with this flag. Does anyone know?

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You should be presented the flag.  You can make a beautiful Memorial Box display.  :wub:

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I agree with Anne on this one, Laura. Since you are the only one willing enough and responsible enough to take charge of this event, go ahead and do so, and plan it to be the way you think it should go. Let your own creativity (of which we know you have an abundance) be your guide. Focus on your reason for doing this: to honor your father and to honor your father's wishes. The man at the mortuary can guide you as to how to include the fact that your father was a veteran. Maybe you could even arrange to have a bugler play "Taps" at the gravesite. See, for example, Military Funeral Honors

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16 hours ago, Clematis said:

I knew my sister S would very much like to be involved in the music and spent almost two months trying to get her to give me some names of tunes she would like to play, while she was evasive. Sister D refused repeated invitations to be involved in the music, only to complain afterwards about not being involved in the music.

It's not likely you'll ever please your sisters, that's on them, not you.  

 

16 hours ago, Clematis said:

My neighbor encouraged me to keep in mind that I am doing this for my father and to try not to engage in my sisters' craziness.

Good advice.

Whatever you do, your father will love it.

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On 7/2/2017 at 9:22 PM, MartyT said:

...Focus on your reason for doing this: to honor your father and to honor your father's wishes. The man at the mortuary can guide you as to how to include the fact that your father was a veteran. Maybe you could even arrange to have a bugler play "Taps" at the gravesite.

Thank you Marty. I have arranged with Ben at the funeral home in AZ to work with Michael at the cemetery in PA. Michael will find out who the guys are who come to the cemetery in PA to do military honors, so when Ben calls, he can give him the contact info. Then Ben will arrange to have the guys go to the cemetery. Ben will help me get the ashes ready for travel and give me the veteran flag to accompany the urn on the trip. When my sisters and I get to the cemetery, we'll meet the military guys and Michael and drive to the grave site. They will do the 21-gun salute, play taps on the bugle, unfold and refold the flag, present me with the flag, and leave my sisters and I to do whatever we do. At some point the cemetery staff puts his ashes in the grave. All but that last part seems pretty good.

I have been afraid that once my father's ashes were in the grave, he would stop talking to me. But no one seems to believe that...I guess it seems unlikely that he will stick to the ashes after hanging with me all this time talking to me.

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My older sister S and I have been playing music and singing on my mother's grave since she died in 2005. Not at the funeral/burial, but ever since whenever I am PA we go out there and do that. My younger sister D sometimes brings flowers to the grave. I live in Arizona, close to Mexico where they have Dia de Los Muertos, and people go out to the cemetery and party on the graves on the dead, have a big parade, eat the favorite foods of the loved ones who have passed, etc. I think it's pretty cool even though that is not my tradition. They go and hang out with the people who have died. I am never in PA for Dia de los Muertos but I do what I can. My mother wanted to be buried in Reading PA because my sisters both lived there and she thought that if she was buried where her parents were or someplace else, no one would visit her grave and she would be neglected. She wanted people to go out to the cemetery and pay attention to her. Makes sense to me - it's what she wanted when she was alive. Why not when she was dead? So, to me it seems like the most obvious thing in the world to go out there and play music on the grave that they will share, and play/sing songs that my father taught us and that we all used to sing as a family. S and I have made this our tradition during the last 12 years, and why not include my father, who would really appreciate it?

I have been trying very hard to plan this event of burying our father's ashes and arranging for the military honors with no help from either of my sisters, even though one of them (S) still lives in the same town as the cemetery and I am flying across the country. S agreed to play some songs and agreed to contribute some suggestions as long as she could choose the key. D's only participation was to veto one of my suggestions and refuse to discuss it. S has not contributed any songs and the event is next Saturday. She has not talked to me on the phone and when I called her sent a text saying "Can I call you later?" but never did. That is so typical. D has not talked to me at all about this. I want to have the list of songs so that I can work on them some and not just play whatever occurs to S at the time. I finally came up with six songs and sent a list of them to both sisters, along with the keys. I added a remark that if they wanted to add or substitute a song, they should send the words and chords to the other two. I offered to bring several copies of the words and chords with me. I thought that was very reasonable.

But I got a return text from D saying, "I think it would be fun to have a sing along while you're here but I don't want to do it at the grave site." This is so typical of my family's craziness - both of them want to sit back and do nothing, and then play victim because no one read their minds or solicitously sought them out enough. D doesn't like the songs. S doesn't like the keys. D doesn't like the whole idea of singing at the graveside. I bet at least one of them is going to have a problem with the military honors. I am doing the work and they want to have veto power but not contribute anything. Like actually speak to me, make the effort to talk to me, to work on arranging anything, etc. But I'm sure they will both have plenty of complaints and comments afterwards, during, or immediately beforehand when it is too late to do anything but upset me and mess up what I have planned.

I figure that their amount of criticism should exactly equal the amount of contribution that they made in planning, which is exactly zero. Am I wrong?

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No, Laura. You are not wrong. I think your assessment of the situation is entirely accurate. I'm so sorry that your sisters are making this so terribly difficult and unpleasant for you. You don't deserve it. Be grateful that you live across the country from them. I'm just so sorry that you have to include them in the lovely ritual you have worked so hard to plan as a way to honor your father and fulfill his wishes. I hope you'll have the strength to push through their resistance and their criticism and make this happen the way you've worked so hard to plan it to be. And I, for one, will be glad when all of this is behind you and you're safely back in Arizona where you belong.

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10 minutes ago, MartyT said:

And I, for one, will be glad when all of this is behind you and you're safely back in Arizona where you belong.

Thanks, Marty. You are right, and it is why I ended out here in the first place. My dad thought for years that I came across the country to get away from him. Not so - it was to get away from my mother and sisters. He believed me when I set him straight, and he never looked back after moving here. He never really talked about it, but when the mother of my best friend asked him if he missed his other two daughters and grandchildren, he said simply "No". No details and end of story. My sisters are just as dysfunctional as they ever were and it is disturbing how much they are getting to be like my mother. My dad and I had a great decade together. I miss him SO much. It has been getting increasingly hard to function and get things done. I feel crushed and paralyzed in some way. Maybe that is to be expected. I have no idea...

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Laura,

You've opened the door for them to have a say and they've opted not to.  Therefore, do what you have planned and don't listen to their criticism.  I'm sorry they're so dysfunctional and difficult to deal with.  Do this for your dad and try not to worry about them.  

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15 hours ago, kayc said:

You've opened the door for them to have a say and they've opted not to.  Therefore, do what you have planned and don't listen to their criticism.  I'm sorry they're so dysfunctional and difficult to deal with.  Do this for your dad and try not to worry about them.  

Thanks, Kay. It has been really hard just dealing with the task of taking my father's ashes to be buried across the country, but it is compounded by the difficulty of arranging things from the country. And then not only are my sisters not helping, they are being very icky about it all. Every day there are more icky interactions with both of them, but the details don't matter - it's just more of the same.

Getting someone across the country to do military honors has proved to be really daunting, but I think something is finally happening. I have been working on this for eight days and keep starting anew with one person after another. Today I finally talked to a bartender who had heard that I was trying to do this. She could not access the poster I emailed to the post but arranged for me to send it to someone from the Ladies Auxiliary, who posted it on their Facebook page and promised to print it and bring it in to the post. She also got me in touch with a guy who wants to see this work and is willing to help connect the dots. I sent him the poster as well and he said the post is having a meeting tomorrow and he will bring in copies and talk it up at the meeting. Cross your fingers for me...

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Good luck!

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11 hours ago, MartyT said:

Fingers crossed. Keep us posted. 

Amazingly enough, my efforts finally led to a call from a woman who is an officer at the post in Wayne that my father used to belong to, and she lives in Reading, where the cemetery is (and my sister lives). She is coordinating an effort to get rides from Reading to Wayne for old friends of my father who cannot drive. She is also working on getting a firing squad from Reading for the 21 gun salute. Hopefully one of those Legionnaires plays the bugle. This is what I needed - to get someone back there to get involved in getting this all going.

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14 hours ago, MartyT said:

As my daddy used to say to me, Laura ~ "You're a determined little cuss!" And so you are. Good for you! 

Thank you, Marty! My dad always used to remark on my stubbornness, never conceding that I inherited this trait from him. He never gave up and he never let up. I recently came upon his high school senior yearbook, and the quote next to his photo was, "To argue is the delight of my life".

Today I feel terrible...like I cannot breathe and can barely swallow. I should be packing to get ready to go to PA in two days and tomorrow I have someone coming to help me all day. But I feel like I am paralyzed and am unable to move. Nevertheless, I am making calls, sending documents to PA, and so on. But I feel crushed. Is this how it's supposed to be? How long will I keep going back to this crushed, paralyzed, cannot breathe, feel-like-I-cannot-function state?

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Yesterday my sister told our hairdresser we are sisters.  The hairdresser said, "Come to think of it, I can see some resemblance..."  which shows people see what they want to see.  We look nothing alike.  We have different fathers and took after different people, ha! I told my sister she must have been looking at our stubbornness!  :P

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