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Fucked Up Fantasy Family

I’m not supposed to talk about my brother. No ranting about him to my husband. No skewering him with my friends. Especially no writing about him in public. Most of you didn’t even know I had a brother, did you? That’s how well I’ve followed an old directive.

Well. Screw that. Here’s to making up for lost time.

My brother is four years younger than me. In pictures, he’s a forty-ish version of our father. Photos tell the story of what he looks like these days. MTM has probably seen my brother five times in the twelve years we’ve been together. It’s been more than five years since I’ve seen my brother in person.

Our last encounter was around the dinner table when Mom organized another installment of “Fucked Up Fantasy Family.”

You know FUFF, right? Where everyone gets together and tries to act normal, only certain people don’t speak or make eye contact, while others use the appetizer course to loudly proclaim, “We don’t like you, and we don’t like where you live.” One or two people make oblivious small talk while the remaining victims saw into their food and send “I hope you choke on it” vibes to someone else at the table. Laughter is strange, strained and shrill, and silence crawls along the skin and digs under fingernails.

In some families, maybe people shout and come to blows, but that’s never been my experience with FUFF. We’re civilized when we carve into each other.

The filaments of decisions build the molecular structure of our lives. In our twenties, we seldom understand how two simple words – I do – can impact the cells that prosper and the ones that die. Or how a few cells can mutate and become a Cancer, one that grows to feed on everything it encounters in its bitter, hateful path. I gave up on radiation, on chemotherapy, on the whole medical establishment, long ago, and I left the Cancer to wreak its havoc.

Because Cancer doesn’t share, I wrote off my relationship with my brother.

I still haven’t seen him since the Cancer left and took his family with it. He’s grieving, because Cancers are part of us. It hurts to divorce them. There’s a bloody hole where the Cancer was. In time, healthy cells may crowd in to fill it, but that’s not how it seems at the beginning. In the early days, a void is a void is a void.

I hope to be part of filling that void, because the Cancer left.

Dear Reader, have you been through the agony of divorce? If you have, please leave some kind words for my brother today. Think of him in the coming days and weeks. Send him strength whenever you think of me.

97 Comments Post a comment
  1. Emily Guess #

    I had a bad fight with my older sister and we did not speak for a year. When Gardner was born early and was taken to the medical university, she showed up in my hospital room that afternoon. I could not have survived that year without her.Neither one of us ever apologized but we have never fought since.

    June 23, 2014
    • Alice #

      It is funny the things you learn on the internet.

      June 23, 2014
    • I’m glad you haven’t fought since, Emily. We never forget when someone is there for us.

      June 23, 2014
  2. There are FUFFs all around. We live in them… Then. The plaster cracks

    June 23, 2014
    • It’s when chunks of plaster fall and hit someone that it hurts most.

      June 23, 2014
  3. I had an ‘amicable’ divorce from someone who is still a friend. It was horrible. Everything was upside down and inside out. I have friends whose divorce experience has been very different, but each of us has needed time to lick our wounds, recalibrate and come back to ourselves. Be kind to yourself, Andra’s brother. This too will pass.

    June 23, 2014
    • It never feels like it will in the beginning, does it? I’ve been through a divorce of my own, and it was insurmountable in the beginning. I couldn’t imagine ever being normal again or allowing myself to love someone else. I’m glad you’re still friends with your ex, Fiona. I always marvel at those kinds of relationships.

      June 23, 2014
  4. I’ve been divorced for 9 years. It isn’t easy, but it was such a relief to be free. Every hard day is worth it, because now there’s hope.

    June 23, 2014
  5. ruth sykora #

    Sending healing energy for your brother, Andra, and also for you two to find your way back to one another through the process of his finding his life now

    June 23, 2014
    • It really is an opportunity to find life, though I know it’s hard to see it that way.

      June 23, 2014
  6. Divorce is never easy, but peace accords, even friendships, after the fact are possible, even though that may be the furthest thing from your mind and heart right now. Fractured families are fixable; no matter the chipping, crazing, outright holes in the surface veneer, underneath the ties of blood flow strong and we rally against the force that would assault one of our own.

    I hope the healing process in this case is relatively quick and straightforward for all of those involved.

    June 23, 2014
    • I hope both parties will get through this as painlessly as possible, because there are children involved. It’s not starting out that way, though.

      June 23, 2014
  7. When my very Christian mother said to me (many decades ago) that divorce was better than hurting herself by remaining with my cheating, alcoholic father, I didn’t disagree. It was hard for her. No one in our small town of “our” group did that. And she certainly was not “raised” to get divorced. She realized that she was a valuable gift to the world, and that she alone could not make a marriage.

    My divorce was for different reasons, but the bottom line was that it was not marriage as I’d hoped. We had two great sons, and lived through it to be friends, to raise the boys together and now, be grandparents of a lovely little grandson.

    Divorce is never easy. However, sometimes it is the best option to allow each person to go forward in life.

    June 23, 2014
    • I didn’t even know who I was when I was 22, the first time I got married. My brother was a similar age, so he’s lived his whole adult life in this relationship. I can’t even imagine how he feels right now, given the circumstances.

      June 23, 2014
  8. I tend to think the yelling screaming FUFFs are healthier than the silent ones. Too much bottled up angst when silent that lead to imagined scenarios, high blood pressure, and resentment. And yup, that is where most relationships I know tend to be. In the silent category. I hate the silence.

    And, well, you know.

    June 23, 2014
    • I’ve always just checked out of all this, as you know. It’s too hard when every interaction is a seething game of dysfunction. I’ve reclaimed my relationship with my parents, and I hope one day I can say the same thing about my brother.

      June 23, 2014
  9. Sheri Brockington #

    It’s hard to imagine when we lose something so familiar and comfortable that we are actually being guided to something better, that’s meant for us. It’s not easy but it’s definitely worth it. Wishing peace, enlightenment and comfort during this time to Andra’s brother!

    June 23, 2014
    • You’re so right, Sheri. I could never, ever imagine the better in the beginning. It felt so, so far away.

      June 23, 2014
  10. i was divorced years ago, from a man i loved but had turned into a cancer. once it is cut out, everything begins to heal and grow once again. even thrive. best to your brother and you and yours )

    June 23, 2014
    • I tried to comment on your post last night, Beth. I really loved it. I don’t know whether my comment went through, because you were having some problems getting that story to post. I think it’s so awesome that you’ve remained pen pals for 20 years.

      June 23, 2014
      • thanks, andra. i had some issues with posting it and have now posted it at least 3 times i think ) and thanks for the comment )

        June 23, 2014
  11. I think my siblings (two of them anyway) are genetically disposed to divorce: my brother, 3 times; my oldest sister, 2 times. Two of my nephews have been divorced. Those were the hardest because they both have small children and they were both unprepared for the blow. My nephews are lucky in that their ex-wives agreed to joint custody (although, most likely because they didn’t want the full burden of parenthood). My heart goes out to your brother. He can recover from Cancer. He can survive, but the road there is hard. He needs a lot of love and understanding. Although my family has had their share of FUFF and I have little if any connection to my own brother, I will always be there for him if he needs me. Much like you are doing for your brother right now. Just be there for him. It’s the best comfort you can offer.

    June 23, 2014
    • My brother’s kids are teenagers, very susceptible to high emotion and manipulation, but that’s most teens, even though they don’t see themselves that way.

      June 23, 2014
  12. Lo siento, Andra. Thinking of you and your brother and wishing him peace.

    I think the main reason I am NOT a private person and like to put it all out there is because of my upbringing. My loving mother is the queen of cool, calm and collected. Stoic. But this meant we could not say what we really felt. At the dinner table after my dear father would have way too ‘many’, my mother would kick us under the table so that we didn’t say anything that upset my father. There was a lot of shushing going on. I prefer to hash it out and speak!

    June 23, 2014
    • A lot of my adult stress with my own mother came from my bucking these established family mores. We’ve worked though all of that, and I think our relationship is even better now, but it was very, very, VERY hard.

      Your mother is a beautiful lady. Grace oozes from pictures of her. She reminds me of a Latina version of my mother.

      June 23, 2014
  13. Jill Clary Stevenson #

    Neil (right???? or am I imagining that I remember that is his name?) is lucky to have a sister who is willing to love and forgive and accept his past and welcome him back into the fold with open arms. It’s an old adage but, time does heal wounds. Love to you and all your family, Andra.

    June 23, 2014
    • I’ve always been willing to have a relationship with my brother. The rest of it made it impossible.

      June 23, 2014
  14. It’s hard to be human sometimes. Wishing for peace and strength to one and all.

    June 23, 2014
    • Having been through this myself, I can absolutely say this is one of those times.

      June 23, 2014
  15. Having spent a number of years living on eggshells, I hope your brother can finally feel the relief of being able to live normally without worrying about the consequences of even the smallest issue rising from a spiteful spouse.

    June 23, 2014
    • When kids are involved, one is never completely severed from a spiteful spouse, but you’re right……not having to live with a person like that is a gift in the end.

      June 23, 2014
  16. tarakianwarrior #

    Oh Andra, this hits home – except for the last couple of paragraphs. This is the way it is with Mike’s family and my relationship with my brother is about the same. Reading it I felt bile rise up because the emotions are just so attached…I don’t know what to say…

    Divorce. So gut wrenching when it is just you and your former love…but with children…the horror that you feel………………what encouraging words can I say? Well, all I can do is send positive thoughts and vibes his way every time I think of you Andra…and I think of you often. I wish him peace, above all else, peace for him and if he has children – peace for them.

    June 23, 2014
    • Children are the ultimate victims of any scenario like this one.

      June 23, 2014
  17. Sending the energy I know about and, hopefully, some I don’t. My younger self went through painful breakups and I’ve lost very close people to death, but I’ve never been divorced. At this point, I’m fairly confident that I will not experience it. It’s faith, if you will.

    June 23, 2014
  18. Wishing your brother peace, Andra. And hoping for all of you that now that the cancer has left, that the relationship can be rebuilt.

    June 23, 2014
    • Cancer can still recur, even after it’s gone. That’s the period he’s in now: where is it going to recur today? How am I going to deal with it when it flares? Still very early days, Nancy, but he can get through them.

      June 23, 2014
  19. Erin Roscoe #

    Love to him! Let him know that an old friend prays for him!

    June 23, 2014
    • Message him and let him know you’re praying for him, Erin. He tends to withdraw in the face of things like this.

      June 23, 2014
  20. Peace and hope to him. Hope that he is able to reclaim himself and let light and fresh air in.

    June 23, 2014
  21. I have to think carefully about how to respond. Well written Andra.

    June 23, 2014
    • I had to think carefully about how to write it. Hence, it may be one of my better written pieces in a while.

      June 23, 2014
      • It certainly was well written and my parallel situation rages on currently leaving me somewhat at a disadvantage how respond as I would like. : ) Hows’ that for tiptoe ?? : )

        June 25, 2014
  22. Kir Piccini #

    Sending so much strength and love to him and to your family. While I have never experienced divorce I have had such painful breakups that I was sure I would never recover from the loss, from the pain. I am hoping that he knows how lucky he is to have you in his life, that the care and comfort you offer is the best balm to the hurt.

    thank you for sharing him with us, we’ll hold him up and stand with him, especially when he doesn’t feel like he can.

    Thank you Andra for being such a good sister to your brother.

    June 23, 2014
    • When one is beaten down, it is so hard to feel like standing again. It seems so impossible. Thanks for your support, Kirsten. I hope he can feel all of it.

      June 23, 2014
      • Kir Piccini #

        It does Andra and it’s so good and important that you know that for him. He won’t be able to see it for himself sometimes as he struggles but if you (we) can it will help.

        Thinking of all of you. (My own brother heavy on my heart and mind as I write this.)

        June 23, 2014
  23. Blessings, love, and strength to you, your brother, and your entire family. Divorce is painful. I’ve had that will some of my siblings. Families are painful, period. I’m so sorry to hear your brother is in pain. Wish I could write about the current craziness in my family.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    June 23, 2014
    • Here’s a hug for you, Kathy, and hope for less crazy in the future. xo

      June 23, 2014
  24. Until now, I did not have the word FUFF, but it descrbes sibling relations in my family perfectly. I haven’t spoken with my brother in years, but on occasion I speak with my sisters. My sisters don’t speak with each other.

    I hate to think what might happen if all of us come together in the future.

    June 23, 2014
    • And those comings together are the very essence of FUFF. I’ve always wanted to use this as the title of a future novel.It’s one of my regular sayings.

      June 23, 2014
  25. deweydecimalsbutler #

    Funny, no matter how unhealthy a relationship can be, cutting it out hurts regardless. My sister and I didn’t speak for almost 3 years, and it took my father’s unexpected death to get us back on track. My mother and I still have an overly polite, arm’s length relationship.

    Prayers for your brother and family. Here’s hoping that whatever is best for all comes to pass.

    June 23, 2014
    • Thanks. Families are so hard to navigate sometimes. I think some people feed on unhealthy relationships. I know I did for a very long time. I was almost forty before I realized that cutting those relationships out of my life was the healthiest thing for me in the long run, and you’re right. It still hurts.

      June 25, 2014
  26. Good Luck Duck #

    Two divorces under my belt, and smooth, pink skin always grows where the wound was. I wouldn’t have things different, now that it feels so good.

    June 23, 2014
    • I’m glad to hear that you’re happy, Roxanne. You’ve been through a lot over the past months.

      June 25, 2014
  27. In the midst of an amicable one myself and I still grieve. Not all day every day any more, but there are moments in each day where it hurts so much I think I can’t breathe. It is better. I now have good days and bad days and look forward to good weeks and bad moments. He will survive this, but it hurts like hell in the process. Family and friends have been my saving grace, and I hope they will be his, too.

    June 23, 2014
    • Like you, I got married in my twenties. I didn’t even know who I was in my twenties. Deciding to end that marriage was one of the best decisions I’ll make in my entire life, but it was very, very hard to go through.

      June 25, 2014
  28. I am so hopeful for your brother. I can’t imagine how painful living with a person who essentially divorced him from the people who grew up with him must have been. I have never suffered through a divorce, but I know you have, and I know that will help you be a large part of his healing, as long as he keeps reaching out to you.

    June 23, 2014
    • You and I have talked about this, so you understand more than most. That dynamic was such a toxic stew. I’ll never be so happy to see the back end of a human being. I think I’ll be happier than when my own divorce was final.

      June 25, 2014
  29. What a mess, what an opportunity. I have no siblings and I’ve not been through a divorce, but I do understand FUFF courtesy of my husband and a few members of his family. That being said, I wish you both peace as the healing begins.

    June 23, 2014
    • Ally, I’m glad you’ve never experienced this in your family. It’s tough with the in-laws, but it’s excruciating when it’s coming from your own flesh and blood.

      June 25, 2014
      • Andra, I’m sure that it is. My positive thoughts are with you.

        June 26, 2014
  30. I wish that I could say that I can’t relate to this post but like many of us I can. It is hard to believe that it has been close to 30 years since the divorce to the cancer(s) that were part of my life for 3 years. I remember how awfully painful it was. It took quite some time for me to forgive but I have never forgotten. My poor Katy has had to live through some of the healing process earlier on. I am glad she was very patient with me and tried to understand where I was coming from. We have a 28 year old son from that wrecked relationship and I do everything I can to stay in touch with him. As for the cancer, I hope I never speak to her again. I still remember the pain. Time does heal the wounds, sometimes it takes longer for some than others. I will say a prayer for your brother and for your relationship with him Andra. He is going to need someone to lean on and to know that he is loved, despite of the cancer. Thank you for being willing to be that person at some point.

    June 23, 2014
    • I just hope his kids will come around in time. Like your son, they’re the real victims here.

      June 25, 2014
  31. I’m no help. My brother lives around the corner from me and we haven’t spoken in years. We were last close approximately 9 years ago when my mom died. He stopped coming by when he lost a job and didn’t have presents to bring his nephews. I told him they needed him more than things, but he quit coming around. My boys don’t even know him. It’s his loss. I tried to reach out to him a couple of years ago at Christmas. I called and got his wife. I asked if I could stop over for a few minutes to say Merry Christmas and I got slapped down. I was told NO I could not come over in no uncertain terms. So I no longer have a brother. I gave up. He could be dead and I wouldn’t know unless she told me. It’s sad. We’re all that’s left of my side of the family. My mom is probably turning over in her grave.

    June 23, 2014
    • Oh, Donna. I know exactly how you feel. I’m so, so sorry. I used to try to visit, and nobody would return a phone call or an email, and if I went over there anyway, it was a tense, horrible experience. I put myself through it because I wanted to have a relationship with the kids, but I finally gave up. When a mother doesn’t want a person to see her kids, that person will NOT see them. That’s not the story they have, unfortunately, but I really can’t do anything about that. I hope somewhere down the line you and your brother will mend this. I never thought it might be possible for me, and it may be. There’s always hope, but we have to know how best to protect ourselves when we need that.

      June 25, 2014
      • Maybe some day we will, but I’m 55, and he’s 63. We don’t have forever to figure it out.

        June 25, 2014
  32. I did not believe in divorce and couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I was numb and barely functioning but as time passes you heal, and your children heal, and you pat yourself on the back for having survived one of the hardest times ever in your life. Best wishes to your brother and to you as well; may your relationship be healed and strengthened during this tough time.

    June 23, 2014
    • Thanks for these words from your own experience, Gale. Most people wonder how they ever wound up with divorce. It’s good to hear someone say that.

      June 25, 2014
  33. Sandy Sheppard #

    All these years I’ve known you, and your Mom and Dad, I never knew you had a brother….Did you keep him in the basement??? I for one have experienced your FUFF many times. It’s been only resently that “issues” were resolved…only for one of the other syblings to be the cancer!!! Will there ever be a day of sweet peace???

    June 23, 2014
    • I found some peace by walking away, Sandy. I hope your current cancer gets resolved like the others did. xo

      June 25, 2014
  34. Having been through a potentially dangerous divorce I could make bitter comments. However, over the years, I’ve moved to a place where I realize divorcing my ex was the best thing I ever did for myself. Hopefully, your brother’s life change will help him regain happiness and closeness with his family.

    June 23, 2014
    • He can’t see it now, but like you, he will say your exact words someday.

      June 25, 2014
  35. Mark #

    I just wish the best for his kids. The undercurrents that give rise to the divorce as well as the divorce can leave lasting marks on them. I know…..

    June 23, 2014
  36. Bit too dark for me. I’m going to stand in the sun now.

    June 24, 2014
    • If you stood in the sun with that glorious cherry rose syrup, you did the right thing, Roger.

      June 25, 2014
  37. So sad when a malignant growth poisons a family relationship. Siblings should be, and can be, one’s closest friends after the childhood rivalry subsides.

    June 24, 2014
  38. So sorry to read this Andra. Families eh? My family was volatile and loud, still is! I’m not sure what’s best. My ex was king of passive-aggressive which almost destroyed me after so many years of it so actually I would say that is far worse. All I can say is I hope and pray that your brother and his children come through this, and your family as a whole emerges stronger, healthier and much, much happier. Blessings to you and yours x

    June 24, 2014
    • Thanks, Sherri. Passive aggression. Ugh. I can’t stand dealing with passive aggressive people. So glad you got out of that relationship.

      June 25, 2014
      • Thanks Andra…me too 😉

        June 27, 2014
  39. It must be very hard, and I hope that I never have to go through it; indeed, I will carry hope that your brother heals fast.

    June 24, 2014
  40. Here by way of Rob Ross.

    I’m not sure how to say this eloquently… the illusion of my FUFF was shattered and pieced together numerous times.

    I’ll spare you the long version and go for the short one. Last weekend I ducked some fiascos. My father has two brothers. His younger one and his family loves Cimmorene and I unconditionally. They came down for my dad’s older brother– his youngest son’s son had a baptism. Younger brother uncle and family loves Cimmorene and I unconditionally. (Before I got married, I introduced Cimmy to my dad’s mom, younger brother uncle, and aunt, in about that order, before ANY other family members, including my parents.) Older brother uncle and his family are petty and melodramatic, especially my aunt. Dad told me today she had NOTHING good to say about her eldest child (on a different visit), who just buried her eldest special needs child. That just had me in tears.

    Of course my thoughts will be with your brother. Trust me, I did tell you the short version story.

    June 24, 2014
    • Families are mine fields of possible emotional wreckage. I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this, Jack. I’m sending good energy to you and your family today.

      June 25, 2014
  41. Haven’t been through it myself but as a therapist I have seen plenty of toxic marriages and toxic divorces. Eventually the children grow up and decide for themselves what is true rather than believe one parent’s story hook, line and sinker.

    June 25, 2014
    • I hope you’re right. I’m not very hopeful, because the Cancer comes from very clannish folk. Still, I have a friend who went through something similar, and she has a lovely relationship with her niece now that the niece is in her 20s and on her own.

      June 25, 2014
  42. Oh Andra. This is hard to read because I DO know what FUFF family is. I have a whole lot of stuff I also can’t put on my blog, but there have been times I would have enjoyed the catharsis of naming it, because it is a part of our every day life. My husband divorced in his 20s and we married soon after. I was a stepmother at 19. LOL! There’s a book right there. 🙂 And we have gone through hell many years at a time with such awful stuff regarding his two children. Now those two children are in their 40s, with children of their own, and the damage that has been inflicted on the subsequent generation (as his daughter also divorced) is just unfathomable. We’ve gone through the not talking for years to being right in the middle of fire bombs with actual need for the police. And the biggest losers are always the children, at every stage of their development, right on into adulthood. My heart grieves, it really does, for you all. And yes, your brother must be in pain, and I will be remembering him with prayers and empathy. The Cancer may leave the vicinity, but my experience is that it never completely goes away. Giant hugs today.

    June 25, 2014
    • You and Jay are such stalwart, sold people, Debra. I just love you both to death and can’t fathom why some people would choose to cause you pain.

      June 25, 2014
  43. Andra, I hope that you and Neil can maintain a relationship for your sake and his. There were 8 of us kids and I have always loved them all. Even a brother that can cause lots of problems sometimes. I only have 3 brothers left and I cherish them all. I am older than you and I think that with age we realize that we will not be on this earth forever. We all go to the same church and this is good. We are not perfect and we all tend to say what we think. But, if an in law gets involved it is harder to keep really good relationships going.

    I have 3 children and two of them have been divorced. One has a son who needs to know that no matter what his parents have done, that he is still loved and is very special. I hope that you and your mom and dad can help the kids through this. My daughters 1st husband left her with two children. His choice has been not to see these girls at all. He lives 45 minutes away. They will forever feel unwanted. But, as the years go by (16) now they love their new Dad because he is the one that has always been there.

    Prayers for all of your family. I understand it is very difficult.

    June 25, 2014
    • Since he is my only brother, I’ve always hoped we could eventually find a way to connection. Maybe that time is upon us. We’ll see.

      June 25, 2014
  44. Although we have never met, Andra, I am friends with both your brother and his wife. As always, there are two sides to every story. I believe you have shared only one side of this story. I will continue to pray for all involved.

    July 10, 2014
    • With every failed marriage, there are two sides. I only have the side I have, Pam. I pray for my parents, more than anyone in this situation. They will end up being the victims in this, more than anyone else.

      July 10, 2014

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