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Normally, this would be something I put on my personal website, but due to the fact that some of the people involved read my blog, I really don't feel terribly safe writing there. So, here we are.

I come from a very normal, boring family. My mom and dad celebrated 46 or so years of marriage in June. I have an older brother. We had squabbles, but in no way would I classify my family as anything but normal.

I married a wonderful woman, and we have two kids. She had a bit different family dynamic than me, and we've spent a good amount of time and money on therapists. It's money well spent; her bipolarity and my depression are both in check. However, when a "life event" occurs, the dysfunctionality rears its ugly head.

My wife L (for my lack of ability to remember and keep straight pseudonyms) has a younger sister. Sis is 40 and lives in Austin. L's mother ("Mom") lives outside of San Antonio on a 110 acre farm of rocks and scrub. L's father ("Dad") lives and works in Fort Wayne, Indiana, even at the age of 75.

Mom and Dad are still married, but they only see each other two weeks or so out of every year. For whatever reason, Mom feels paranoid when Dad is around. Any time he is mentioned, a litany of past wrongs is recited. So when Mom came back after having two gallons of fluid drained from her and finding out it was a byproduct of Stage 3 cancer, one of the first things Mom said was not to tell Dad about it.

There is no way to explain certain types of mental illness to people who haven't lived with it or with someone who has it. There just isn't. I can't explain Mom's rationale to not let go of the past. I can't explain anything about it except for that it drives her daily decisions.

Since we're in Dallas, Sis immediately put herself in charge of the arrangements. She put herself as the only other person allowed to communicate with doctors under HIPPA. Then, she calls L and asks her to do some research on things, like good hospitals, good doctors, etc. This, of course, is a bit upsetting to L as (a) she's the older sister, and (b) Sis is probably going to take the credit for whatever L finds out. I've tried to understand Sis' viewpoint on things in the past, and the only thing for certain is that she has a very narrow-minded view of the world, and if your opinion doesn't mesh with hers, it's dismissed.

The game of broken picture telephone begins. Mom talks to Sis. Sis talks to L. L talks to Dad. Mom tells L not to tell Dad. Oops. Dad is distraught and wants to come down. Mom doesn't want him to.

Essentially, everybody gets mad and upset at everyone else because of this tangled mess of familial ties. Then money comes into play.

Mom has, for as long as I've known L (some 23 years) lived in what could charitably be called a house awaiting a condemnation notice. Bats resided in the dropped ceiling. Rats and other bugs are everywhere. However, nothing, not even grandchildren, could convince Mom to get out of that place. Nothing, that is, except for cancer.

Mom decides she wants a trailer or prefab house to live in. She also wants a new-ish vehicle. Mom wants Dad to borrow against his retirement to pay for this. This gets communicated back through the communication pretzel, and again, everyone gets mad. The fact that Mom has enough money to pay for the things herself isn't the issue; money is being used as revenge for those past real or imagined wrongs.

Finally, L decides she's had enough. She tells Mom and Dad and Sis to start talking directly to each other. We take the kids down to visit without mentioning it may be the last time they see her. L has a loud screaming fight with Sis about how no, they do not have the same brain and do not think the same things.

L is down this week with Mom. The first chemo session is Monday, and they're hoping to shrink the tumors down so they can remove them. So it will be chemo, surgery, then more chemo. It won't be fun at all, but at least the family is talking directly to each other. I'm just sad that it takes cancer to make that happen.

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