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well, that's a turn up for the books, not really sure what to do. Maryz, Vicar, if you're about, your advice is welcome (and anyone else too, obviously!)

(59 Posts)
silverfrog Tue 19-Mar-13 13:31:58

I have just had a phone call from a relative. My brother has just turned up on his door step (he is the only family member to still be living in the same place as when said brother was last seen, nearly 14 years ago).

I don't really know how I feel, or what to think, or anyhting. Obviously I am happy that my brother is alive and well. It has been a worry, as he has what would these days be dx'd as HFA.

My history with him is long (well, durr!) and complex. He lies, steals, cheats, steals some more. the last time I saw him, he stayed with me, under duress I might add, as I had already had enough by that point. It was our mother's funeral. I advanced him moeny to travel to attend, I ran myslf ragged, days after mum had died (I was her carer, and was 22. My brother is older than me, but obviously does not function at his chronological age) organising him a suit, haircut (I paid), bought him a shirt etc. He stole from me again that night, and left in the early hours. I haven't seen him since - a mixture of circumstances (he didn't visit for while - too embarrassed I expect, and then I moved away)

I don't know what to do. How do I even begin to broach with him the fact that (if I do see him) I don't trust him, probably never will. That I won't want him in my house (he is unlikely to leave empty handed; how am I supposed to sk dh to put up with that?). How do I explain it to my children? they do know that in theory they have another uncle, and are young enough at the moment to accept that they haven't met him without question - 'he lives far away' has sufficed until now. If he does come here, he will behave as though none of it ever happened. it's all in the past, not to be spoken of. If I try to bring it up, he will deny it <voice of experience> - he can and will deny things even when caught redhanded.

If he hasn't changed (and why would he have done? he was late 20s last time I saw him, and hadn't done any changing then, despite a lot of trouble - both for him and the rest of his family), then I can't see how I can have a relationship with him. Harsh, yes. but I can't put myself through it again - when I was a student he jeopardised both my degree and my ambitions by stealing from me and from our mum (I had to bail her out, which I could ill afford as a student). I bailed him out time and again, and I can't do it anymore.

Oh, this is all 'me, me, me', isn't it? I know he cannot necessarily help himself. I know he needs help. But he won't accept that help - not least form me, his 'baby' sister hmm.

BUT, he is my brother. He might need help. He certainly was barely able to function independently when I last knew him. I can't not help, can I (if he even needs help, I dunno)

My relative has passed on my phone/email details, and possibly my address (don't know, I didn't ask - I was shock (and relieved) that my brother had turned up at all), and so at some point I will need to talk to him/see him.

I don't know what to do. I don't know how I feel. Anyone got any advice?

MareeyaDolores Wed 20-Mar-13 14:33:34

Wot Polter said.

Getting dragged into the chaos helps no-one, and will actually destroy any chance of a sort-of-good relationship in the longer-term.

PolterGoose Wed 20-Mar-13 13:06:15

There is no rush silverfrog a bit of time to think and reflect really won't hurt after 14 years. Best wishes whatever you decide to do thanks

silverfrog Wed 20-Mar-13 11:01:55

thank you again, everyone. lots of food for thought.

I will try to ring him in a bit <procrastination alert>

nostoppingme Wed 20-Mar-13 09:43:20

I think you know in your heart what is the right thing to do. Poltergoose has said everything I was thinking but couldn't formulate. I too help my older brother whenever I need to step in; he hasn't done any of what you describe of your brother but the similarity is that my brother is not married and needs support from us, his family. Since my own child's ASD diagnosis, I realise my brother who is a genius and works in a job way way below his intellectual capability, has undiagnosed Aspergers. Long before my own kid's diagnosis, I already suspected my brother was on the spectrum. My child has severe dyslexia and other diagnosis too so your post has really touched me how you describe your brother as being illiterate. In your situation, there is no way I would ignore him when he is trying to be in contact, as he will always be on your mind.

I see my own brother as being kind of my third child, I know he isn't my responsibility and nobody asks this of me, it is just who I am as a person. I can't live a happy life with everything I have and know somewhere out there my own sibling is struggling. And I have promised myself (nobody apart from my husband knows this) to watch over him from a distance until the day I am no longer here. As it is, my husband is very supportive and understands this is a fact of life, he himself helps out certain members of his own family when they need a helping hand.

I also teach my kids to always be there for each other, family is very important to us.

Take care

TheNebulousBoojum Wed 20-Mar-13 09:20:04

Maryz, do you know The Cat in the Hat?
I've often felt as if my life is like this page.
sumthinblue.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/cathat.jpg

'I can hold up the cup and the milk and the cake!
I can hold up these books and the fish on a rake!
I can hold the toy ship and a little toy man!
And look! With my tail I can hold a red fan!
I can fan with the fan as I hop on the ball!
But that is not all. Oh, no. That is not all...”
That is what the cat said...
Then he fell on his head!
He came down with a bump from up there on the ball.
And Sally and I, We saw ALL the things fall!'

Sometimes you go beyond your breaking point without noticing until you fall off.
The trick is to spot it before it happens.

PolterGoose Wed 20-Mar-13 09:12:36

I've been thinking a bit more about this.

If I were you I'd agree to meet up in a cafe probably and say something like "when we were last in contact you did a lot of very upsetting things eg x, y and z which had these consequences (keep it factual and without emotion, blame or expectation of an apology - it isn't about him apologising, you just need to lay it out straight) I am obviously concerned that you may do similar things again and now I have my own family who are my priority (don't let him interrupt or try to justify or excuse his own behaviour, this is your turn to speak) I would like to keep in touch with you but, to protect myself, it will be on these terms. We can meet here (or wherever) once a month (a month is good, too frequent means you won't necessarily notice any change in him, positive or negative), I will buy you a meal and we can catch up. At some point in the future I will introduce you to my family, I am not ready for that yet, but if you can show that you have changed and are more responsible and trustworthy then we can do this. It will be good for the children to have another uncle but not until I consider that it is the right time. If you are serious about change or truly believe that you have changed then that is great, but right now your word is not enough. I need proof. Have you though about going back to college? How about doing some voluntary work? (Charity shops often take ex-offenders, adults with SNs, and there are always lots of charity shops in dead end towns!) It would be good to see you doing something positive and committing to something productive as well as increasing your skills. And it also shows me that you have changed from your old selfish ways. Have a think about what you could do to show me how you have changed. I'm not looking for an apology or payback, we cannot change the past, but if you want a relationship with me, and in the future my family, then I need to see that you are more responsible and that you have grown up and can be trusted. It won't be easy, and I will be here for you, but I'm not doing this for you, you have to do it for yourself"

Maybe a bit rambly but something like that confused

MaryZeZJezuzIzntZombiedYet Tue 19-Mar-13 23:22:59

That is a very sensible post Polter.

PolterGoose Tue 19-Mar-13 23:11:55

I'm a bit late to this, read earlier and wasn't sure whether to post.

I work with people like your brother (based on your description) many have been estranged from their families as a result of their behaviour. But what is actually the most productive relationship is the one where boundaries are clear and where the sensible relative (you) doesn't provide anything except occasional meet ups somewhere neutral, a bit of support and encouragement, giving details of support agencies with the expectation he will do the contacting, and absolutely not giving money or doing everything for him. Signpost him, don't even try to do it all (or any of it)

I would also say that around half of adult offenders have literacy levels below functional, most manage ok, very few don't claim benefits as a result! The growth of mobile phones has been a real bonus, because text speak doesn't require great literacy skills and it is surprising how well a lot of people with poor literacy manage their lives with the phone calendar and reminders. There are free basic skills courses everywhere (I think now called Skills for Life?)

Finally, people do change, I see it happen and could not do my job if I didn't believe it possible. I have seen amazing changes in people, unimaginable really considering some awful histories.

MaryZeZJezuzIzntZombiedYet Tue 19-Mar-13 22:45:46

I used to say that my life is like being a tight-rope walker, delicately walking along while ballancing a bar and spinning plates.

It only needs one thing (a slipping plate, an extra teeny load) for the whole thing to come crashing down.

Don't let him be that thing. Really don't. Keep balancing, and if you can stop occasionally, put the plates down, give him a hand and get back up again, do.

Otherwise, please ensure you look after yourself most of all, because if you fall apart so will everything else

[wise and knowing]

and useless at following own advice

silverfrog Tue 19-Mar-13 22:11:40

oh yes, absolutely re: the resentment. but then I don't think I'd like it if all my life I'd been outstripped by my (originally, when it firs thappened, and sometimes, emotionally, it can be hard to move on form there) baby sibling, less than half my age...

he has really struggled, for all his life. and life has not alwyas been kind to him either (nor any of us, I know, but he has faced more shit than I have, and my life has hardly been rosy!)

I htink the biggest worry I have is that he is going to want more of me than I can give - previously it would have been a theoretical problem, as I would have ended up doing far more than I wanted to. but now, I don't have the headspace for it, I have enough to deal with with dd1, and dd2 about to undergo assessment, and watching ds for developmental issues, etc. and dh about to have a major op, and a house falling down around our ears, and trying to find time in all that to actually do somehting for me (OU course), which is already pushed too far down the list of stuff to do.

but then, I am capable of all that (just about). I get by, and while life is not Hollywood-happy, it is good. I can only guess at his frustration, and confusion, and rage - at himself, at the world, and so on. And it still comes back to the fact that he probably doesn't have anyone else, otherwise why travel half the country to turn up on a doorstep in th hope that a relative still lives there, to try to find your sister who you haven't seen for 14 years?

MaryZeZJezuzIzntZombiedYet Tue 19-Mar-13 22:00:59

I know, I do understand.

And I wouldn't be at all surprised if in 20 years time dd is doing the same.

But do realise that you can't fix it all, no matter how hard you try. And if he is like ds he will resent you trying (and resent it even more if he needs it, if that makes sense).

I would suggest trying to get a day to go and see him.

silverfrog Tue 19-Mar-13 21:48:22

Iknow you're both right.

and I don't think I meant 'I don't know whether I shoudl try' in my earlier post - more "I don't know whether I want to try" - small difference, but an important one.

I know I can't change him. I know I can't solve everythign for him. But he is someone who has been repeatedly let down, throughout his life. he hasn't helped himself, no. but then my dd hasn't all the time either, and I wouldn't abandon her.

I know, I know the stuff about detaching. but it really isn't that simple. I can do the everyday stuff - I haven't been worrying myself sick for the last umpteen years. I can stuff it all in a box quite happily, and get on with my daily life.

But I don'tthink I can leave him to his own devices. He really cannot cope with day to day life - he functions well enough (seemingly) to not be entitled to any help, but he can barely read, fgs. he can't fill in a simple form, can't do most stuff that is essential for anything other than barely scraping by. I expect he has survived over the years by a mixture of (potentially) prison (not that far-fetched) and working cash in hand. he certainly couldn't work out anythign official when I last knew him - and again, he was in his late 20s then, not a older child/late teen.

I can't see that he will have had any help of any use over the last 14 years. we all know how hard it is to get decent help, and he hasn't had anyone properly on his side, in all likelihood.

I understand the stuff about letting him stand on his own two feet - I am absolutely not talking about swooping in and taking over. he wouldn't lt me anyway, as I am his little sister. but if he is trying to make a go of it, then he is going to need help. someone to help with job applications. someone to help with bank accounts, or council tax, or phone bills/contracts - the everyday stuff that he actually cannot understand. I don't know that I can really do the walking away thing.

letting it slide all the while he was 'unfindable' (not that I really looked that hard) was one thing. but he has turned up - yes, why? is a very pertinent question. it is usually because he is in trouble - it always used ot be when we lived in the same town. relative gave him my details because they are hardly a state secret. relative is elderly, and probably doesn't know the half of it - both the extent of his crimes, and the extent of his difficulties. on the faceof it, it is just my bro, turnng up like he does, being a bit vague and having forgotten/lost my details. what else would relative do? I don't have a problem with my details being passed on, as such. I jsut have a problem figuring out what I should/can/will do.

dh will tell me to detach too. that it isn't my problem. I can't tell him the same, in his situation, because it is his (adult) daughter - but he will tell me this all the same. sauce for the goose/gander, anyone?

I do understand what you are saying, maryz, re: not expecting your dd to look after your ds after you are gone. my mother didn't expect it of me, either. but she is gone now, and now the picture is very different. she didn't ask/tell/expect me to look out for him. but he is my brother. if I don't, who will?

MaryZeZJezuzIzntZombiedYet Tue 19-Mar-13 21:13:23

Yes, exactly Attila.

If you think about it, you can't take him in, make him part of your family, solve all his problems and look after him forever.

So, if you give him too much of you, you will eventually have to take it away, thus undoing any temporary good you may have done.

Ultimately he has to stand on his own two feet, no matter how difficult that is to watch.

Silverfrog,

re this part of your comment:-
"yes, I want to save him from himself, and no I can't. right now, I don't even know whether I should try".

No, don't try. It will come back to haunt you if you do. Enabling only gives you a false sense of control. You have stated in your initial post that he won't accept help and he could well end up taking advantage of you and hurting you again.

He has managed without you for at least the last decade; he is not completely helpless.

All of that does sound pretty harsh and it is but you need to wind in any rescuer or saviour type stuff you may have going on with him and look at this with detachment. Why contact you now (there are reasons for this) and why did your relative see it fit to pass on your details to him?.

MaryZeZJezuzIzntZombiedYet Tue 19-Mar-13 20:42:51

I'm sorry, that was a hell of a lecture.

Sorry for rambling.

MaryZeZJezuzIzntZombiedYet Tue 19-Mar-13 20:40:42

Can I make a suggestion - one which I am continually making on the teenagers board but which probably applies to siblings as well.

Detach. Don't get involved emotionally - even if you do decide to physically get involved by going to visit, for example, you don't have to let it into your head. It's taken me years of counselling to realise this.

I used to worry a lot. I used to go through the "what if's" which was terrible, because I used to live in my head all the possible scenarios. From him dying, to him killing someone and everything in between. I lay awake at night and worried. Every morning I would feel sick about what he might be doing. If he was here I was waiting for someone to call, if he was out I was waiting for the phone.

And you know, it was an awful waste of time and emotional energy. Because, when I finally got my head around it there were two possibilities. Firstly he was dead in a ditch, in which case worrying wouldn't help. Secondly, he wasn't dead in a ditch, in which case someone would phone me and I could deal with where he was (police station, other side of country, hospital, whatever).

You need to learn to do this now you know he is alive.

So, make a decision whether to go and see him or not. Make a decision how much money/time you are prepared to give him. Tell your dh what you have decided to do and write it down.

And when you have met him, do only what you have decided.

And when you aren't with him, learn to block him out of your mind.

I can now do this - I can lie in bed and play the alphabet game, or count backwards from 1,000, or recite old poetry to make sure I'm not lying awake worrying.

He is your brother; of course you are concerned. I think you should go to see him, and then return to your own life. Keep the two completely separate, especially in your head.

And remember - he is not a child. One day your children will not be children either. It is the hardest thing as a parent to launch a child who isn't able for the real world, but it has to be done. And it will be harder for them than for the average person, but they will survive.

I know that one day ds will leave home. And it will go tits up and he will come back again. And again. And again. And one day I will no longer be there, but I wouldn't expect dd to put her life on hold for him. That would be unfair, and counter-productive.

Detach. Be nice to yourself.

silverfrog Tue 19-Mar-13 20:35:47

It didn't seem harsh and uncaring to me boc, just full of good advice (as is the rest of the thread. Thank you all for not flaming me for being so egocentric)

Am still pondering. Bro has tried to call again - I am not actually avoiding his calls, but my phone is on silent usually, and I was yet again wrangling with one child or another... Anyway, upshot is I will need to speak to him at some point, so need to do my thinking fast.

bochead Tue 19-Mar-13 19:57:15

Just reread my original rushed post as it was school pick up time. I didn't mean to come across as quite so blunt and possibly uncaring. It came from some very bitter personal experiences & this is a public forum. Basically there's a path I don't want my adult DS to go down, and sometimes in order to ensure that doesn't happen I have to make some very harsh emotionally distressing choices. You really are caught between a rock and a hard place & I feel for you.

lougle Tue 19-Mar-13 19:38:33

I know, Silver. I have the added complication of niece/nephew to consider. I can't cut contact, for their sake.

silverfrog Tue 19-Mar-13 19:35:19

yes, the rinse and repeat gets wearing, doesn't it?

it is so tempting to jsut stay away and clear. btu I don't think I can. which means I need to think it through.

my life now is so very far removed from what it was then. in blunt terms, there is a hell of a lot more material stuff around to go missing... I can't keep it all locked away (and that doesn't work anyway). I have no idea if he knows where I live or not, but it wouldn't be that hard to find me.

I don't want or need this, but I do keep thinking that I would hate it if all family washed thier hands of my children after I'm gone - at least 2 of them are likely to need some input long into adulthood, and however difficult they get, I would hate for them to be left to fend for themselves when they clearly cannot cope all too well.

different, i know, but not really that different.

ouryve Tue 19-Mar-13 19:25:08

He's your brother, but you don't have to put yourse;lf in a vulnerable position for him. Meet on neutral territory, over coffee. Make him earn your trust if he wants it. It's not something he should automatically be granted just because you share parents.

lougle Tue 19-Mar-13 19:25:06

There's absolutely no insight here, either, Silver. Just an endless 'groundhog day' cycle of behaviours. Rinse and repeat. Absolutely charming on the surface, but underneath....as I say, groundhog day.

silverfrog Tue 19-Mar-13 19:18:47

he has popped up twice in the intervening times - let me think. both times at same relative's house, as only point of contact.

first time was 2 days before I got married, so 12 years ago. 2 years would be about right amount of time to stay away following his theft - enough time for me to cool off, enough time to be able to say 'oh, that's in the past', enough time to be in more trouble hmm

anyway, relative told him of impending wedding, and we even sent an invite (against better judgement, and in fairly sure knowledge that he wouldn't turn up as the address he gave was only a temporary one). he had my phone number, and didn't call - can only assume he had to leave town smart-ish for some reason.

second time was 4 years after that, so 8 years ago now. that time was more unfortunate. he did call that time (on landline, had got number from relative). we were away on holiday, and he left a message on the answerphone: "hello, silverfrog, it's XXXX. call me back" but crucially didn't leave his number (typical mistake for bro to make, tbh. it wouldn't occur to him that he had made a mistake, either, and so has probably spent the last 8 years thinking I didn't call him back, iyswim). by the time we got back from holiday, there had been other calls on the landline, so 1471 didn't work. I tried the mobile number I had had, but it was no longer in use.

dh and I rowed about it then, as he didn't want me to get involved. this despite some relatives needing a lot of input on his side hmm, with some very similar issues hmm hmm

so. I am left with a brother who probably needs help. a dh who will refuse to get involved. a situation I know very well, which will probably not end nicely, and no good way out of it.

yes, lougle, you certainly do get less time for murder.

professional involvement would be good, Mareeya, but seems to be lacking. last time he was caught for anythign (to my knowledge) he was a minor, and got a first offence caution. he seems to have reserved his thieving for family since then hmm. maybe he has been in prison. if so, I doubt he will have been helped any. he is a typical 'slip through the cracks' person - bright enough to wangle out of help and get signed off, as he hates admitting his faults and won't want to work through them.

MareeyaDolores Tue 19-Mar-13 19:01:02

Away for 14 years, HFA, drugs, but alive and well, no current services.

Suggests prison to me (hopefully recent, <fingers crossed>). Which would be brilliant, as it means you can call people like probation, drug action team, social sevices (probably no help but sometimes saying vulnerable adult needs safeguarding case conference helps) and perhaps the police and mental health do a mentally disordered offenders liason scheme.

lougle Tue 19-Mar-13 18:58:02

Silverfrog, I can relate sad I don't post about family - the fall out would be huge if my posts were seen and I'm not in the habit of being 'incognito'.

However, your posts resonate with me hugely, except that I still live in the village I was raised in, as does my sibling. My other sibling moved some miles away as soon as they were able and has managed to stay out of the dramas.

I often say to myself that the only reason I tolerate the situation because of my love for my parents and that once they are no longer with me (a thought I dread), I would distance myself.

The reality is, I'm not sure I would be able to.

There's that phrase, isn't there "I'd do less time for murder." It feels like that sometimes.

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