I don’t know if I should get the family together for the holidays this year. It’s just me, my brother, and my sister. We’re estranged from our parents, who were abusive addicts. My sister has no car and lives closer to my brother, so we always come to my brother’s for the holidays. Because of busy/conflicting schedules, financial issues, and living far apart, we rarely see each other outside of the holidays, but text often. I’m the oldest and often stepped in where our parents weren’t. This has continued into adult life in some ways. I coordinate the few times we see each other every year and provide financial help when I can, mostly to my sister.
Last year, we showed up at my brother’s house for Thanksgiving, and he had just been in a fight with his partner and the house was a mess. My wife, sister, and I tidied before guests arrived, and his partner took the hint and helped with this. After dinner, mostly cooked by my wife and me, my brother went to play videogames, leaving us and his partner to make awkward small talk with his in-laws and guests. My sister spent most of the time on her phone. I thought it was a one-off, but Christmas was more of the same, and I feel bad putting the expectation of gifts on them when I know what their finances are like. It was stressful and depressing.
Neither of them has mentioned getting together for the holidays yet, so I don’t know if I should bother at this point. It feels like I’m forcing everyone to do something they don’t really want to do. They’re both very conflict averse so if I asked them directly, I would never get an honest answer. At the same time, we are all we have left and maybe it will be different this year?
—Not So Happy Holidays