Confessions of an Angry Sister on the Verge of Becoming Her Mother

Apparently, Jerri and I aren’t speaking right now.

On Thursday, I had a mandatory Diversity training class at work. This is about the fourth one of these I’ve attended in my 17 years with the company. They always throw me into a foul mood. Maybe because I don’t like being reminded how much the world sucks sometimes or how despicable people can be to each other. Maybe because I always leave more fully aware of what a rotten person I am and that no matter how much I hate it, I still stereotype and I still have biases. Maybe because it brings back memories from childhood of the nasty racist sentiments vocalized by my parents and grandparents who lived in Birmingham, AL during the heyday of the civil rights movement. Sometimes I cringe at the sewage contaminating my gene pool. It makes me want to gargle with chlorine and take a long, scalding shower. Or maybe because there is always some squeaky white male in the group acting all shocked and horrified that anyone in this day and age would discriminate against women or people of color at our company. Pa-leaseeee!

So when I left the meeting in my foul mood, I checked my phone and found a message from Jerri. (Mental note, never call your sister when you yourself are in a bad place. Just don’t.) Jerri has had a number of teeth pulled—when you’re not in your right mind you tend not to brush—and she’d had the final one, a front tooth, pulled that day. The other teeth have been in back so aren’t that noticeable. She will be getting a partial—Medicaid covers this if you’ve had 5 or more teeth pulled—and last I heard, she’d planned to wait on the front tooth until the partial had been approved. I called her back to ask what’s the deal?

I could tell by the way she answered the phone, Jerri was in her own black cloud. Her mouth was hurting and there was a man in the background which is never a good thing. Jerri has the absolute worst taste in men. If I had to describe her “type” it would be unemployed, homeless, substance abusing ex-cons.

In the course of the conversation, I reminded Jerri that she had a $35 bill from the Ophthalmologist due on November 2nd.

“I can’t pay it. I don’t have any money left.” She just got paid on Tuesday.

“How much did you get paid?”

“$200. Why?” She said this defiantly, like its none of my business. And it wouldn’t be except, if you’ve been following the blog you’ll remember how Dr. Bryant treated Jerri with respect and compassion, giving her free samples and discounting her costs by over half. Is there any wonder there’s such a lack of civility in the world today? Whenever someone like Dr. B does a good deed, she gets kicked in the teeth for it. You’ll also remember that Dr. B is MY Ophthalmologist too.

“And you’ve already spent it ALL?”

“I’m going to pay her just not by the 2nd. And I can’t pay her next pay day because I’ve got that big phone bill due. And I need the rest for groceries. But I’ll pay her by the end of the month.”

What had she spent the money on? She spent half of it at Walmart on things she wanted—a Netflix box, crochet supplies.

And the rest? She was saving for groceries. Catherina was taking her tomorrow.

“I TOLD YOU I would pay it. What do you WANT from me? I forgot about the bill. You only told me about it ONCE. This is what I do. I don’t pay stuff on time but I EVENTUALLY pay it.”

What a freakin’ lie. That’s why she doesn’t have cable or Verizon. She just stopped paying them.

At this point she stopped giving me the chance to talk. Every time I tried to say something, she talked over me, getting louder and louder, never taking a breath, drowning out anything I wanted to say, filling the airspace with twisted justifications and somehow making out like it was as much my fault as hers that the bill hadn’t been paid. And in the background is this guy yammering and I can’t understand the words but it sounds like he’s egging her on.

And I snapped. I started screaming back at her, talking over HER and now neither one of us was listening. When I hung up (and have you ever noticed how unsatisfying it is to end an angry call on an iPhone—I just wanted to slam down the receiver and there wasn’t one) my first thought was, God, I’ve become my mother.

My anger stemmed from at least three things, probably more, but these are the biggee’s: 1) diversity-training-inspired self-loathing. 2) hurt from being totally disrespected by Jerri’s incessant over-talking which, BTW, I also experienced from work colleagues this week and it makes me feel smaller than a pimple on a bug’s ass. Sorry. Anger brings out the profanity in me. 3) concern that Jerri’s late payment would cause friction between Dr. Bryant and me.

The way I blew up and started screaming is exactly like my mom. The way I thought, “I wish I’d never gotten Jerri an appointment with Dr. Bryant because now she’s going to embarrass me” is exactly like my mom. The way I put 2 and 2 together (bad temper, guy in the background, $100 unaccounted for) and came up with “using” is exactly like my mom.


I guess it goes without saying that we haven’t spoken since . . .