The CuriousPages Sketchbook

How do we measure life? Or: the functioning of a dysfunctional family

I was born fifty years ago today. And I wonder: how do we measure life? I don’t believe that I have ever celebrated my birthday, and today was no exception. In fact, for a lot of the day, I felt depressed and near to tears, but this was mainly due to a sad (and possibly terminal) development in my family’s fragile truces.

It all started a few days ago when my sister phoned me late one evening to tell me that mother had finally “gone insane”. She claimed that she had—out of the goodness of her heart—taken mother out for lunch one day, and then, a few days later, mother had phoned her up and accused her of orchestrating her absence, so that my sister’s husband could enter mother’s house, using a spare key, rifle through her belongs and steal her latest savings account statements, and also tax-related documents (which mother referred to as her “custom and exercise” documents), and an unpaid phone bill, and other documents. My sister sounded strangely detached when she was reporting this, in total contrast to the previous times that she had phoned me to complain about mother’s “abuse” of her. (Later, when recalling her tone, and some of her responses to me, I would come to doubt that she believed her own story.)

The next day, mother phoned me to tell me of the dispute. She said that my sister had phoned her and invited her out for lunch, and when mother heard this, she said that her first reaction was to go round her house and hide her valuables (which image I found amusing). When they returned, she found the missing documents, and then a few days later, my sister’s family visited mother for Sunday lunch, and they asked her where the deeds to her house where. At that point, mother realized, she said, that it was the deeds that they had been looking for. According to mother, they had used this same trick a few years earlier to steal previous bank statements from mother; mother had told me of it at the time, but said nothing to my sister, so my sister was unaware that their previous raid had been detected.

What depressed me about all this was the fact that my sister felt the need to phone me up and lie to me about what she had done, and had been doing for years. This could only indicate that I was also an intended victim (along with my mother) of whatever scheme they were planning. Of course, I have no idea what that scheme might be. I can only speculate. But on this current raid, they also, apparently, deliberately acquired utility bills, and also mother’s tax details, including her national insurance number, along with the details of all her bank accounts. All this material, of course, is gold to anyone who is planning an identity theft crime, so this was the inevitable direction that my speculations were drawn in.

Being forced to think about their activity this time (I had not given it much thought when they began doing this a few years ago), I was faced with the sudden awareness that my sister would plan and ruthlessly execute such a crime against me (along with my mother); any inheritance that I might be due, when the time came, they, apparently, already had their sights on.

This was also mother’s interpretation, that my sister was securing all the evidence she needed to enable her to most efficiently take control of mother’s estate when mother eventually died (which perhaps my sister was expecting to happen in the near future).

When they indulge in such cloak and dagger shenanigans, and, on top of that, deliberately lie to me to cover up their guilt, the above train of thought becomes inevitable. Realizing all these facts over the last few days, left me with the knowledge that my sister’s crime (even if it is only the document theft itself—and she has not yet committed any crimes beyond that) probably means that I will never again be able to regard her as a friend, and may possibly never even see her or her family again.

Such were the thoughts that had dominated my day today, on my fiftieth birthday.

Which perhaps begins to explain why I have never in my life celebrated my birthday. I do know why this is, and the reason is rooted in my childhood and my family “relationships”. I have not yet come to know the joy of life (except in one or two fleeting moments). I did not leave the family home as a human being, nor did I leave with any knowledge of true humanity, far from it. That, I have been striving to discover ever since—as I have been striving to become a human being. As in all other things in life, I am completely self taught, and it, apparently, takes a few decades to transform a blank slate (who is also a tormented and tortured soul) into a human being and to then discover humanity, in oneself and in others.

The goal that I set myself for the next few years is to finally begin celebrating my birthdays. I feel that that moment is now fast approaching (if the passage of one further year can be thought of as “fast”). And it occurs to me that, for me, perhaps this is how I am to measure my life. There is the time before I began celebrating my birthdays, and the time after (which I have yet to experience).

I will start collecting 51 candles.


14 March 2010



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