It all started with a simple question that my significant other, Shane, asked me during a road trip last year. We were headed to Oklahoma because I was a bridesmaid in my childhood friend Cheryl’s wedding. Since we live several states away, we saw it as the perfect opportunity to get together with family members that we hardly ever get to see. This “reunion” was supposed to include my little sister. However, she claimed that she couldn’t get time off even though she knew about the wedding months in advance. We didn’t focus on the fact that she didn’t want to attend the wedding, but we thought she would want to come to the reunion. We had people coming that she hadn’t seen since childhood, along with our older sister and my little sister’s son. My sister hadn’t spoken to her son in a long time, too much damage had been done. But she had an opportunity to try to mend fences, and visit with us as well. Since we live so far away, we don’t see each other very often. But she couldn’t be bothered to show up.
I think the worst part of the story is that we had popped into my sister’s work on the way to Cheryl’s house, just to surprise her. She lit up when she saw us, and came running out to give us a hug. She excitedly called her boss over to introduce us, which preempted the moment that still resonates in my mind. As we were walking away, we overheard my sister’s boss ask her “Why didn’t you take the weekend off to visit with your sister?” My sister’s response was, “I didn’t know they were coming”. Shane looked at me because he knew that her words would be like a dagger in my heart. My sister had just been caught in a lie. She had claimed she couldn’t get the time off, but the truth was that she didn’t take the time off because she didn’t want to.
Now, the question Shane asked me as we drove home (after an amazing family reunion that would soon prove to be more precious than I realized at the moment) was, “Has your sister ever done anything special for you?” I opened my mouth to answer when I realized the answer was “No”. This hit hard. His question was prompted because we talked about everything I had done for my sister, starting with basically being a stand-in mom for most of her life. Since I had known Shane, we had made the 18-hour drive to visit my sister a few times, and even thrown her a surprise 40th birthday party. I sat and thought, she had never even visited me. I moved around a lot during my career as a nanny, but I use to fly back to Oklahoma frequently when her kids were young. She never came to see me. There was even a time that she was in California, minutes from where I lived, and couldn’t be bothered to come and see me.
Well, as is typical for me, this got me dwelling on other people in my life. I am always willing to do a favor for a friend or family. I will go out of my way if they need anything. Up until this very moment, I believed I had a close knit group of friends who would always be there for me. Then it came to me, the only time some of them contacted me was to ask a favor.
Now don’t get me wrong. I enjoy doing favors for people when I can. Most of the time the favor is something that allows me to use one of my special talents, so it didn’t cost me anything other than time. I enjoy it, and it makes me feel good to help. I have never done anything for someone, expecting something in return. But what was hitting me hard was the cold reality that they never picked up the phone or sent a message just to say hi, or see how I was. They only contacted me when they wanted something. These people that I sincerely believed cared about me, simply saw me as the go-to person for favors. This changed my entire outlook, and the circle of people I believed I could count on got incredibly small. The hardest part was removing a couple of family members from the circle, as well as a few of the friends I considered family.
I guess, being the eternal optimist I am though, it also helped me appreciate the people I do know for a fact have my back. The people I know I can truly count on are precious to me, and rare. There may be only a couple, but they are more precious than gold. As painful as facing the truth was, it is better to see reality than to live in an illusion. I feel blessed.