Sunday, 27 September 2009

Chicken or Egg?

A colleague of mine is a young Croatian girl, living in the UK for many years. Her life is here now. A job, a partner…stuff like that.

Her brother is in Australia. Her sister is somewhere in the UK. And her mother, at 73, is alone back in Croatia.

That mother of theirs is a difficult woman, my colleague tells me. She is diabetic, but says she wants to die and would not take any more pills. Without pills, she gets more difficult. It is a vicious circle. She is pretty mean to every carer they pay to look after her. She is impossible, she says.

And I feel for her. She is worried and sad. So I ask if her siblings help.

I am an only child, you see, and people tend to have strong opinions about that. I have been told that I must have had a deprived childhood. I have been told that I must be disfunctional. That I am terribly selfish because I am an only child. I am spoilt and egoistic. And all of it is my parents’ fault.

But, all the social stereotypes and assumptions aside, I always thought it was the fact that I am an only child that made my immigrating to another country so complicated.

I thought, one of the main reasons I might consider having another baby, is so that my daughter never has the sole responsibility for me (or my husband, whoever carks it first. He is a bit older than me, but English people are arguably healthier than Azeries) when I am old and fragile. I thought, perhaps when you have siblings, some family issues are easier. One of you looks after the mother one week, and then another one takes over. Something like that.

No,-my colleague said- my sister cut all the ties off long time ago. She just asked to let her know when our mother passes away, so she could attend the funeral. My brother is too far, but talks to me on the phone.

I felt pretty sorry for the girl. With two siblings, she is an only child too.

She said her mother was bitter and miserable. Hard to be around. Not wanting to be in a home. Not wanting to have a carer.

But: what came first?

Was the mother always a nasty piece of work, and that is the reason her kids grew up and don’t want anything to do with her?

Or, is it the fact that she spent her whole life looking after three children only to be left to die alone at 73 (with some of her kids not even bothered whether she is still alive) that made her bitter?

I did not ask.

I got home, and my family was waiting for me. Husband, who does not quite understand my issues but tries his best. My only child, who said she missed me “150 times” And my mother, who is still visiting, but has to go back soon. She stayed a little longer this time- again!- because I just really, really wanted her to. Maybe, it is because I have no siblings. Or maybe, it is because we are just very lucky to be this close.


  1. All the questions you raise here are complicated, and depend on each family.
    I had one older brother and one younger sister. We went through life fighting with each other, but loving each other beyond everything. My mom taught us to do so, especially after my 41-year-old dad passed away. In December 2002, my brother passed away at the age of 36, and even though we went on fighting for the silliest reasons, the three of us loved each other so dearly that I felt his death as if something was pulled out from me.
    I guess parents, in general, have a lot to do when it comes to family union, siblings loving each other and children respecting parents.
    You are very lucky to be that close. I am too.

  2. Gabriela,
    That is a sad story.
    That is so terrible both your brother AND father died that young! I am sorry you had to go through that. However, you were lucky you are a close family, and you did not have to deal with it alone. I don't know if that makes the actual loss any easier. But at least, you share it.

    I personally strongly believe in family connection, no matter what. That's why I find stories like my colleague told me shocking.

  3. I had no time to write before i left, but now i'm back after doing all important chores so here we go.
    I agree that it depends on what your parents give you or teache you. I only have one sister but i feel very blessed. She is my everything. Even though we have bad days and i moan and she lecturers me (she is older), we are so close. Yet my husbands family are so opposite that i cannot understand how his sisters go sometimes a year without seeing each other. Just sending cards on birthdays or Christmas. But that is a very big and troubled family. I also have a friend - single child, her parents separated when she was little, yet she is the most "together" person i know, close to her mum and with good family values. So i think it's what you teach your child at home that matters.
    P.S. Love your posts!

  4. This is such a sad story. Who knows what happened to that elderly lady in the past that she has become such a difficult person. Although genes shape much of our personalities, circumstances are also to blame.