And Didn’t Consider My Siblings’ Personalities
This post picks up on the Terror on the Caregiver series. I familiarized you will my family’s, and New Orleans’ history to establish the setting for this story. Now, I want to introduce you to the members of my family, namely my siblings.
We all have strong personalities, and are fairly intelligent. But, in each of our personalities, mine included, there are elements that made our caregiving sibling rivalry more toxic than what seems normal.
There are other family members, friends, and extended relatives that played roles in how my caregiving terror unfolded. I will take care in defining these characters as the story develops further.
In about 1995 I became international. I had been living in Atlanta, Georgia with my sister Jackie and her husband for a year or so, prior to accepting a job as a systems analyst, with Turner Broadcast, CNN. Working on a Y2K international project, I was hired as part of the implementation team, and eventually moved to London to work in the first of one CNN locations of many around the world.
I had never travelled beyond London on this project, though, for I was hired away from Turner, by a software vendor, now known as Oracle. I loved London, but wanted to leave because I missed not having a home, and I miscalculated my salary, not realizing how the fluctuation between the British pound and US dollar would affect me.
When I accepted this offer, I was glad to get away from my sister Jackie and her husband. To their compliment they were very structured, organized and disciplined. They jogged, meditated, and even had fun, but only according to a schedule.
They were strict about what they ate, too much so, though. Nearly every night they ate pasta, with Prego sauce, nothing added. Prego sauce right out of the jar, was poured over warmed pasta, and heated in the microwave, with fresh veggies, plain from the frozen veggie bag.
Being from New Orleans, I wasn’t having that! We like hot sauce on pasta, and even on our eggs, potato salad, fish and meats. Jackie always seemed to want to distance herself from her New Orleans impoverished culture.
When I defiantly would try to cook my own meals, I would be criticized for dirtying up the kitchen, and how unhealthy the food was. I was not even allowed to put my ‘unhealthy foods’ in their refrigerator. The foods weren’t really unhealthy. It just was Jackie wanted me or anyone in the house to eat.
Jackie’s intentions may have been good, but she made me feel as though she was forcing me to get my life ‘straight’ like hers, and her metrosexual husband, who too seemed to be trying to find himself. She posted sticky notes all over their two-story home, letting me know what to do and not to, while they are away from the home. It drove me nuts living there.
Though Jackie wanted to show me how to be like her and her husband, the problem was that their lives showed me how I didn’t want to be.
I had moved to Atlanta to start anew after being robbed and tied up in my own apartment for hours. This occurred with my high school best friend, who visited at the wrong time.
I did not know my attackers. They actually came through my apartment looking for my neighbor, who I did not know either. There were six of them, who threated to kill us, as they waited for my neighbor to arrive. They robbed me in the process, but otherwise did not harm either of us.
Coincidentally, my best friend died years later. The robbery was the last time that I saw him. What makes this coincedental, is that when travelling in Los Angeles, in about 1982, I met a good friend there, and we were robbed with oozies by a gang. We were not harmed, but were robbed. My friend Wilbur, too, like my high school friend, died shortly thereafterwards. The last time I saw him, was when we were robbed.
Jackie is my second youngest sister, born 1955. An older sister saved her life, when an old shack that my family swatted in burned down, many years ago. She was 5 years old when my daddy died.
She seemed disciplined to a fault, seeming to do what she was ‘supposed to’ and what looked good, but she did not seem happy. Her eventual divorce proved that she wasn’t.
She was very attractive, golden brown in color, with coarse hair that seem to challenge her and that used to fall out from stress. She left my mother’s home at 15 years old in 1970. She left surrounded in controversy and resentment, between her and my mother, because she accused my stepfather of peeking at her, when she took a bath. I never believed this story. It seemed like just an excuse to leave. My mother was with me on this incident.
Jackie wanted everything to appear ‘all right’, even if it wasn’t. Any conflict or negativity, she did not like to discuss, and would shut down, leaving other siblings to discuss the issue, and her insensitive nature. She seemed to want to establish herself as the leader of the siblings after my brother Ulysses died.
I did not know that she competed with me, until later in the late 1990’s when I surpassed her in earnings, travel, and even in long distance running. Jackie was a member of one of the most snobbish black sororities and groups. She seemed to want to be a crème de la crème nigga, like Oprah.
She was on the cover of Black Enterprise magazine with her husband, who was a creole boy from an upscale (ghetto upscale) neighborhood, and who had graduated from creole recognized school, St. Augustine High School, and Xavier University. The façade of her marriage would end not long after they presented marital perfection to the world, though.
She was a cat lover! Blacks are generally not cat lovers. It was odd that she was, but knowing Jackie, that’s just the reason why she became one.
Once in London, my life began to take off. My earnings increased with each year, as well as, my frequent flier miles. During this period of abundance 1994 – 2007, becoming more lucrative as I took on new positions, and eventually became an independent consultant, was when I took my mother to various parts of the world as my ‘running partner’. She was as we say in New Orleans, my ‘ace-boon-coon’, meaning my best friend.
Our trips were always delightful, just her and me, except on a few occasions, when I invited my siblings. In every case, I sponsored these trips to: Bermuda, Casablanca, Tunisia, Paris, England, Madrid, Barcelona, South Africa, and many other places. My mother was delighted and bragged about our travel to her employer, friends, and family. I was proud that I could do this for my mother.
There is an unwritten rule in the black culture that when you ‘blow up’, one of the first things you should do, is to look out for your mother. I did it in a big way, with every adventure topping the next.
As I reviewed the events that occurred at that time, I realized something pretty singnificant that occurred around the same time. Me making six-figure incomes at this time, made the trips possible, along with my sense of adventure. But there was perhaps another influencing factor.
My mother had lost many people close to her from 1994 – 2001, six to be exact. I travelled with her from 1994 – 2007.
In 1994, my brother Ulysses succumbed to cancer. He fought the battle for a few years, but gave up on treatments after becoming frustrated with western medicine’s cancer merry-go-round. He was well equipped to come to this conclusion because he held a high administrative position with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and alluded to the fallacy of the agency’s mission and work. He influence my rebellion against the misinformation of conventional medicine today.
He was in remission and reoccurrence one too many times, and asked for hospice care, as he planned his own funeral, estate management, insurance and taxes. He provided well for his wife, Leona, and two children, all of whom seem too ‘black elite’ to have much comradery with the likes of our family.
Ulysses was clearly my mother’s favorite. He was my youngest brother, born in 1947. He died at age 46. Ulysses was very intelligent, having graduated cum laude in 1970, from SUNO, a black state university. He went on to higher education, perhaps even a Ph. D. I am not sure.
He was light skinned, with coarse hair, but very attractive. I will mention skin color, eye color, and hair texture often, because in New Orleans’ caste society, irrelevant features such as these matter.
I was told that I resembled him. He was the most responsible of my siblings, in terms of family stability, finance & investments, intelligence, and normalcy. But, he was very opinionated, and leaned to the conservative Democrat perspective. My other siblings accepted his stature in the family. My sister Jackie, just wanted to get his blessings, but was often shunned by Leona, my sister-in-law, who none of my siblings liked.
Ulysses had a nickname for my mother, ‘Ratty Brown’. She would just grin from ear to ear when he’d call her by that name. This would later encourage me to give my mother my chosen nickname, ‘Lil Euni’.
He was very generous with money and gifts to mother, but not with trips. Ulysses was not adventurous, just conservative and ‘normal’. Each of us knew that he was her favorite, because my mother was not shy about letting us know. There was nothing that we could do about it, for it was clear to us that their bond was impenetrable.
After my brother passed, there was a window of opportunity for me, or any of my siblings, to become closer with my mother. Coincidentally, I was rolling in dough at the time, so I went for it, doing everything I could to make her feel special. I too showered her with gifts, special celebrations and trips. I did not plan it this way, though I did emulate honoring my mother after Ulysses.
Over a very short period, I became my mother’s new favorite. I’ve been told by my siblings that I bought my mother’s love. This was the furthest thing from my mind. I simply loved her, and had the money to offer her the best, and I did.
During this period, my mother may have needed downtime to take the international trips that I offered her, given the deaths she had to endure through. My brother died in 1994, and her cousin, Grace (Woosie), her best friend, died two months later in April 1994.
Then two years later, my stepfather, her second husband Samson, died; his sister died the same year. In 1997, my brother in law, Ernest, divorced from my sister Annette, died. He died of lung cancer.
He had a very dynamic personality and made big fuss over my mother, very similar to how Ulysses did. He used to bring her the Sunday paper every Sunday, driving clear across town, even after my sister and him divorced.
In retrospect, Ernest’s and Ulysses style of honoring my mother, is what I emulated. As with them, each time I would see her I would be very animated and bubbly, always having something to offer her, and always greeting her with honor and majesty.
Outside of Ernest, Ulysses and me, none of my siblings could manage to be bubbly in this manner with my mother. They just weren’t wired that way. Their personalities were not very igniting. They all seemed to be sweet, but with spinkles of bitterness that impeded their ability to be outwardly loving. I believe it was due to old emotional wounds, past incidents, and resentments, which were never addressed.
In 2001, my oldest sister Joyce died of diabetes. This made the sixth death in seven years for my mother to handle. It seems that everyone close to her had already died. She mentioned this many times, until near her own demise.
Joyce was my oldest sister, born 1940, and she died at 61 years old. She had a different father from any of us, George Forte, who I know little about. I wasn’t born at the time!
All I know is that Joyce had a different father, and he worked at the popular Waterbury’s Drug Store, on Canal and Camp Streets. Joyce left my mother’s home at 15 years old, and got pregnant and married at 17 years old. As a child, therefore, she was not much in my life. She had already gone on to start her family three years before I was born. Two of her sons, my nephews, were order than me.
She too was very attractive. My mother brought attractive children into the world. She had a glowing toasted caramel brown complexion with fine hair texture, brown eyes, and a welcoming smile. I mention complexion, eye color, and hair because it mattered in our family. Though I got along with her well, she was still somewhat of a black sheep for having a different father, and having the darkest skin tone.
My sister Annette was closest to Joyce, but Annette seemed to hold a sense of superiority over Joyce. This is not surprising because Annette was the Diana Ross of the family. She felt a bit superior because of her fair freckled skin tone, and long silky black hair. When I was a teenager, she would do impromptu photo shoots, modeling around the house.
Annette would laugh and grin with Joyce, but behind her back Diane would gossip about how miserable was her life, and how wild here kids were.
To me, Joyce was the earthiest of my siblings. I got along with her well. I was proud that after 50 she decided to get her GED, and later enter college. She was determined to turn her life around, after a painful divorce. She shot her ex-husband, after catching him cheating. It was not fatal, and she was not charged.
Before she died, she was placed on massive amounts of medicine. I was shocked, when I last visited her, to see that her personality and features changed as a result of the prescriptions she was on, which was over 20 different medications.
Ultimately she took very ill, and went to San Antonio, Texas so that my sister Felicia could take care of her. Felicia indoctrinated Joyce, during the decline of her health, into her religious cult, IDMR.
Joyce did not like living away from New Orleans and had challenges with Felicia, as most of the family did from time to time. Her sons had concerns about her care and being away from New Orleans. She would eventually return to New Orleans, where she died on October 8, 2001, six days after my mother’s birthday.
Though it was not planned this way, with my money, historical closeness we had, and the demise of so many close to her, I was poised to becoming my mother’s new ‘golden child’. I took advantage of this opportunity because I loved her so much, and with no family of my own or romantic relationships at the time, she became the prime companion for my travels.
As I reflect on this period, I believe that my siblings were jealous of my success. I did not know until, when on a trip to Bermuda, in the late 1990’s, to which I treated my mother and sister Jackie. Jackie told a friend that she competes with me. I remember the moment well. We were at the Lobster Pot Restaurant, and my best friend Lorenzo, a Bermudan, asked, ‘You guys seem to get along so well. Are you competitive?’ Both Jackie and I answered at the same time. I said no. Jackie said yes. I was surprised myself at her answer. I am competitive, but not with anyone, only with myself.
My sister Annette just wanted to run my life, and especially tell me what to do with my lucrative income. She knew everyone’s financial business and felt free to repeat it. She would tell me what to do with regard to saving, credit, taxes, and even life insurance beneficiaries. If I did not agree with her and take the action she suggested, she would shut down on me, and not want to speak.
This was a common practice for Annette, between each of the siblings, at some point or another. She used this strategy excessively on my mother and disabled brother Godfrey. They were closest to her, with them all living in New Orleans. Godfrey, living with my mother, in her home.
Annette would make sure that you depended on her for something. In the case of my mother and Godfrey, they depended on her for transportation, and regular outings to movies, parades, festivals, and for running errands. She feed her son with money, tied to strings, to steer him whichever way she wanted him to go.
The minute that any of them disagreed with Annette, she would shut them down, as though she was putting them on punishment, with no allowance, weekend outings or driving anywhere for them, until someone gave in, but usually not her.
Annette would then go on family campaigns amongst other siblings to try to garner support for her side. If we didn’t agree, then we would be shut out too for a while. The whole family learned to accept Annette’s moody ways. Her strategy was to have you dependent on her for something, and use that to leverage your opinion in her direction. She was not only this way with me on money matters, but on every matter dealing with my life.
My sister Felicia, my second oldest living sister, born in 1943, wanted money from me regularly. I was but one of her many sugar daddies. She always seemed to have money problems, man problems, and boss problems. She manipulated money out of my mother, sister Annette, and most of us, but seemed to rely on me most. My newly built wealth was a blessing for her.
Felicia was 17 when daddy died. She was regarded as the ‘fastest’ of all the girls, having been married and pregnant shortly after my father’s suicide. She was stabbed by a jealous female high school mate, when she was just 16 years old.
Felicia is light skin, with light brown eyes and coarse hair. She was regarded as sexy and flirty by most, but especially by married men, as she told me that they regularly tried to hit on her.
I can remember how bodacious and ‘nasty’ it was to see her walking around my mother’s home in her panties and bra, pubic hairs on full display, creeping out of her undies. I was just about 8 years old at this time, and she felt no pain being on display in that manner. She was clearly the ‘wild child’ of the family, perhaps until I stole the title.
Felicia loved being the center of attention and willingly flaunted her vivaciousness. It was her scorpian nature. She was not degreed, which was one edge that other siblings had over her, but was very smart. All of my siblings are very smart.
Felicia went through a period where she was trying to find her lane. She was into Metaphysics and introduced me to the Unity Church and meditation back in the late 1970’s. She then moved on to many other disciplines, including astrology, numerology, color psychology, marriage, and divorce, all her specialties. She was married 4 or 5 times, and divorced 4 or 5 times. All of my sisters are divorced, except one.
There were times, when I lived in Houston, prior to living in Atlanta, when my brother Earl, Felicia’s sons and daughters would center around her bed, as we smoked weed, and she read our astrological and numerology charts. She loved to smoke ‘the funk’, as we would call it then, and being the center of attention reading everyone’s fortunes, futures, and oncoming trials.
Felicia would eventually find her lane in a religious cult, IDMR. In this cult, they read the bible word-for-word, from their bible, and challenged other religions in a confrontational manner. I knew that it was a cult, after attending one of the ‘school’s’ religious classes. I’ve learn to always be leery of institutions that force all attendees to read pledges and scripts of their purpose and mission, over and over, in unison.
I went on separate occasions, as well as, watched the group on public television, and the same scripts were read. …Definitely a cult. On the occasion that I attended with my mother, she and her son, both ‘high priest’ in this cult, asked her to stand, as they ripped the Catholic religion and my mother’s religious practices to shreds in front of a congregation of people. My mother was furious when this happened, but not as furious as when Felicia told her that the Pope was the Beast.
My brother Earl, my second oldest living brother at the time, was born 1945. He died about two years after my mother passed, in 2016. Earl told me himself that he was traumatized after our father’s death.
He and my brother Ulysses witnessed my father trying to kill himself, before he ultimately did. On an earlier suicide attempt, my father tried to kill himself by standing on a ladder, with a noose around his neck, and asked them to kick the ladder and pull the rope so he could hang himself. They were both startled and impacted, but Earl seemed to be more impacted that was Ulysses.
For months, he and my mother told me that he became lazy and did not want to work to help himself or the family, which was desperately in need. At the time he was only 15 years old. He began running with a ‘bad’ crowd and was picked up by police for mistaken identity. He told me that he came very close as a teenager to becoming a criminal.
He later shook out of it, after my mother chastised him, and begin to work labor jobs, and eventually entered the Air Force. Earl was an attractive man, with caramel brown skin, and coarse close cut hair. He too was a flirt with the ladies. He was the male version of Felicia in his earlier years.
He was married twice, divorced once, and had 3 sons, by different ‘baby mama’s, one he had for another woman, while married. Earl’s ‘sexy’ left him later in life, with him going from about 150 lbs. in the late 1970’s to nearly 300 lbs., when he died.
Earl was not degreed, but instead became a born hustler, working honest regular and side jobs to make ends meet, such as a dump truck driver, newspaper deliveryman, handyman, and for his last 30 years, a City of Houston bus driver. He should have retired when he could have at 25 years, but told me if he could hold out 5 more years, his wife would get $ 1 million insurance payment when he died. I told him simply, “You are living to die”, which is what he did. He died, shortly after he retired.
Earl always bragged on his son with autism, touting that he was a millionaire because he was awarded about $ 1 million in a class action environmental lawsuit that caused his son’s autism. Neither he nor his wife ever seemed roiled up enough about getting their child better, or seeking special experimental treatment early on. Earl seemed to see the money as more valuable than his son living a normal life.
He was always looking for ways to make money and discussed his bright money-making ideas and inventions with me. I never followed through because I was just not that money-anxious, though I earned well.
His wife was regarded as a ‘gold-digger’ by my sibling sisters, especially by Felicia, who seemed closest to him. I do not know if this is true, but his wife didn’t seem to care about his cardiovascular and respiratory issues, because she fed him like a pig, which was likely contributory to his death.
I visited them one Sunday for dinner, and there was turkey, ham, and roast in one meal, not to mention the starchy foods, and desserts. He ate this way regularly, but not her. She was later stricken with a serious illness herself, based on how she began to physically decline over time.
Earl was regarded as messy by my siblings. He liked to stir up mess. And with so many sisters, it worked. I saw him as henpecked husband. He would place higher priority on his wife, and getting her permission, even when I called him to assist my mother and I when we were in severe need. Earl had no backbone.
He was also a bit two-faced, especially during the sibling rivalry that would ensue. He would appease both sides, like a wimp, siding with the dominant personalities of my sisters. He was not strong enough to challenge them.
He was a Judas, making promises and commitments around helping our mother, on which he often renegaded, or was complicit in sabotaging.
As I look back on my family and caregiving story, even before the caregiving began, back in the 90’s – 2000, I can now see that I should have expected that eventually my sibling’s wounds, intelligence, dominance, resentments, and my becoming the most educated and financially successful sibling, would end up crashing.
I should have realized, that based on history, personality, and circumstance that Felicia, Annette, Jackie, and Earl would ultimately become my enemies in battle. My brother Earl, would be coerced into following along, to be accepted and rewarded by his weakness, women.
We had the makings of tension and conflict almost ten years before my mother had her debilitating stroke. We only needed a good battle, and the eventual need for 24 X7 care, which was on the horizon to fit the bill, if only I knew it.
On the other hand, I was poised to step into the ‘golden child’ role, but did not see it that way. I can see it now. I was single, successful, and loved to treat my mother like royalty. My mother losing her preferred favorite, my brother Ulysses, and many relatives close to her, including her husband and daughter, groomed her to travel, adventure, and embrace me.
I ultimately became like Ulysses once was, openly regarded as her favorite. I experienced and witnessed special treatment, and I knew that she regarded me highly simply by the way she expressed freedom, excitement, and joy when we were together. Our closeness grew exponentially from there. Thanks to her, she privately shared family secrets with me, that otherwise I would not know.
Maybe if I had ‘used my head for more than a hat rack’, as my mother told me as a child, then, I would have noticed what was brewing quietly in the years that would follow.
Now, I can see when looking back on those years that the soldiers were getting in formation but were all gravitating to one side together, waiting for a battle. My mother I were standing comfortably on the other.
I did not notice this, however, back then.
So You Think You’re Mom’s Favorite? | Jill Suitor | TEDxPurdueU – TEDx Talks – Published on May 21, 2016
Does your mother have a favorite child? Dr. Jill Suitor gives us the answer, and more, in a talk that is sure to start some discussion with your siblings.
Relationship Reboot: Sibling Rivalry As Adults – 563 views – WCCO – CBS Minnesota – Published on Aug 9, 2017
As kids, we often fight with our brothers and sisters over silly things. But, as adults, dealing with your siblings can present real disputes and challenges. So in today’s Relationship Reboot we’re getting some advice on dealing with sibling rivalry. (4:22) WCCO Mid-Morning – Aug. 9, 2017
Does Birth Order Affect Your Personality? – 5,238,360 views – Greg and Mitch – Published on Mar 25, 2015
Can the order of your birth affect your personality?
Dysfunctional Family Dynamics–When Siblings Turn On One Another – 41,574 views – Lisa A. Romano Breakthrough Life Coach Inc. – Published on Feb 23, 2015
Do you have a narcissist sibling? Dysfunctional families often create unhealthy dynamics between the siblings of the family. In some cases, (not all) the older child will very often take care of the younger children because the mother and father of the home are absent or abusive. This is role reversal and very damaging to the oldest child as well as the younger siblings.
CARING FOR MOM & DAD | Sibling Dynamics | PBS – 1,177 views – PBS – Published on Apr 29, 2015
Watch the full-length episode at http://video.pbs.org/video/2365480764… (US Only) Caregiving can change the nature of relationships between siblings.
7 Signs You Came from a Dysfunctional Family – 233,015 views – Todd Creager – Published on Mar 24, 2015
Need help breaking free and overcoming your Dysfunctional Family?
How to Handle Adult Sibling Rivalry – 9,104 views – Howcast – Published on Dec 5, 2011
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