I’m a Neutral Party


My mother called this morning.  She wanted to gripe about my sister.

Then my sister called this afternoon to gripe about my mother.

When I attended law school two and a half eons ago, I never dreamed that I’d be cast in the role of family mediator.  Having worked in the court system, I’ve seen plenty of “partners” (really?) at each other’s throats.  Although I’m no stranger to familial strife in a professional environment, I never expected to be cast into a situation in which I’d feel compelled to play intermediary in my own family.

Calling Henry Kissinger. . .  Um, we’ve got a Mideast situation brewing here.  Please proceed to northern California immediately.  Bring a dove and an olive branch.

Oh, and some Pepto Bismol for me.

Seriously, guys, what is it with the holidays and internecine warfare?  Sure, this can and does crop up any old time of year, but somehow the season of peace on earth and good will toward men seems to bring out the worst in all of us.

You may recall that my sister was planning on camping out at my parents’ house for four months while she looks for a job.  She made it four days.

My understanding is that the latest round in this boxing match has something to do with whether my sister’s cat did or did not throw up in my parents’ house and where.  And also whether this particular feline, who goes by the name of Butternut, did or did not claw at the family room drapes.  And also something about dueling radios, Sean Hannity vs. NPR.  My mother may or may not have used the phrase “you shit on my head.”  My father may or may not have asked my sister to leave.

Recriminations and allegations abound.  All parties involved are nursing hurt feelings.

All I know is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle (because it always does) and that my sister’s current residence is an extended stay hotel in Reno.

I explained to my sister how to apply for unemployment online.  She says she’s working on signing up for Obamacare first.  I refrained from mentioning that we can’t afford Obamacare bur aren’t yet eligible for Medi-Cal.  Then again, if we pay for Obamacare, that may sufficiently impoverish us to allow us to receive Medi-Cal for free.  The world’s gone crazy and unemployment sucks, my dears.

My sister is worried about running out of money.  I have a hard time sympathizing.  She owns homes in two different states, both of which are rented out so that the proceeds from one can pay for the other one.  (We own nothing.)  She says her divorce settlement won’t last forever.  As it amounts to more than ten times the funds that have ever appeared in our coffers even when I was earning a good salary, once again, I have difficulty relating.

Meanwhile, my mother feels that she has inordinately extended generosity toward my sister by turning an office into a bedroom for her, and that my sister has repaid said generosity with nothing but rudeness and insensitivity.

Sis is looking for long-term temp work in the medical field and is registered with an agency that specializes that this sort of thing.  Apparently, she lost out on several opportunities when she missed calls due to being in the shower.  She doesn’t understand why this keeps happening.

But she’s holding out hope for a job with a hospital in Colorado.  Her phone rang when she was halfway down a ski run in Tahoe.  My mother says that Sis skied over to the side, sat down in the snow and did a phone interview right then and there.

We are spending Christmas here with my wife’s family, but my parents have asked us to drive down there to visit for New Year’s.  We’ve agreed to go for two nights.  I know I can expect another earful at that time.

But after all, I do see my role as that of a listening ear.  I know perfectly well that there is little I can do for either my mother or my sister.  Any suggestions I might make will only result in allegations that I’m taking the side over the other.

And that I am not prepared to do.

Call me Switzerland.


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