This story is not about me; it is about a man I have known for roughly a decade. And I do not know if this is a story about Love and Compassion or about Blinkered Stupidity.
The man - Mark - is now living in the home of one of his sisters – he has four – with her husband and child. They have offered him a permanent home with them; no strings. Mark has gone, grateful for their compassion.
He has gone there to escape the utterly untenable life he had while living here, in Wales.
He lived in a flat with his son Ben and his brother Jason. These three men live together in a dysfunctional triangle. Ben hates his father blaming him for everything not right in his life; Jason, still grieving, after the death of his son to meningitis almost 20 years ago, now has an addictive life style. Ben uses drugs and alcohol to dull the pain of his hate.
Mark has baled them out many times in the decade I have known him; re-paying their debts to assorted drug dealers. He has sold everything in his life which he valued or was valuable to pay off their debts. Anything he missed, his son or his brother would steal and sell anyway.
When Mark was 18 years old, his stepfather threw him out of the family home.
Mark became a Traveller. His brother, Jason, joined him when he, in his turn, was kicked out. Their sisters were spared.
Decades passed. Somehow family members found their way to a village in Wales, 30 or more miles from where I live now. And for reasons I just do not understand, Mark went to see them. He was rejected. He took his baby son to see them. Their first grand child. Both were asked to leave.
Step father died; just before lockdown 1. Mark attended his funeral. Mum accepted him… with conditions; free work for her; gardening, housework and showed no interest in her grand child. Mum declared a wish to win the lottery “I’ll buy all your sisters a house each; wouldn’t that be lovely?” Her sons had no share in this distribution of mythical riches.
Mum died during lockdown 1. Mark attended her funeral. Not on the guest list; he wasn’t allowed inside the church or to hug his sisters.
Jason’s melancholia deepened. Ben’s drug use deepened. Ben’s anger focussed. Mark became his punch bag.
After one punch too many, Mark attempted suicide. He was rescued and survived; his sisters suddenly rallied. Mark found the family support he had craved all his life and is now safe. But he can never safely see his brother or his son again.
These are my queries; how do you remain loyal to family who seem to actively hate you? Do you shrug and say goodbye? How did Mark maintain his mental health for so long? How has Mark survived? What I would do in such circumstances; what would you do?