Dysfunction Junction

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have been estranged from my older brother since our dysfunctional
childhood, suffering much mental abuse along the way. On occasion, I
would crawl back and be a &'yes&' person to his requests in the hopes of
becoming closer, including helping to pay for his defense in a felony
charge that ended up in his disbarment. We’re both in our 50&'s. I still
seem to enjoy being hit in the head by a 2 by 4. Proof: I allowed him
to make many of the decisions regarding our recently deceased
mother’s medical care. Through a lot of therapy, I am learning to live
with the understanding that I never really had an older brother, or
even a loving family. The very thought of my brother (even looking at
his picture) makes me physically ill. Our father (in NYC) is now very
ailing. In an attempt to relieve guilt about my feelings, I have visited
him several times over the last year, each time believing it may be the
last time I see him alive.  I don’t think I can handle going to a funeral
and having to deal with my brother, whom I’ve avoided on visits. Do I
have to go when Dad dies?

Dysfunction Junction

Dear Dysfunction:

Your primary responsibility is to the living. That includes you and your
father at the head of the list, followed by your brother. It’s unlikely
you’ll be able to insulate yourself forever. In order to optimize the
remainder of your father’s life, you may have to deal with your
brother. It’s almost inevitable that there will be medical crises, or
times when you’re together in a medical or nursing home setting. You
owe it to your father to be civil and not to cause any distressing
moments for a man who doesn’t have long to live. You owe it to
yourself to demonstrate that your therapy has practical implications,
not just be a feel good theory that you cannot implement. Also, unless
his wishes regarding end of life care are explicit and incontrovertible,
there may be an occasion when you and brother might actually have
to communicate about difficult medical issues


But once your father goes, your primary responsibility is to yourself.
Note that there may be issues related to the funeral you may care
about. But if you express a view or push for specific outcome, it ups
the ante on attending. If you do not go, wait until after your father’s
death to inform any relatives. When you tell them, do not, repeat not
not not, say anything about your brother, and follow up your
conversation or message with a simple email. The message is simple
and consistent. I prefer to grieve my father in private. He was a good
man and I will miss him very much. Condolences for your shared loss.
Try to bury the rest of the family dysfunction with your father.