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Distant Sisters - Disconnected Sisters
This is three stories – three women in their 60’s now, who as young married women, left home and went to live some distance from their parents, and sister/s.
One of the women, who I will name ‘B’ for I do not wish to use her real name, travelled some 2000 kms to where her husband had good work. It was a remote area from any capital city, but life was good for them for most of the time. Two children resulted, both are adults now. As it turns out B’s husband had a fling with another younger woman, and the marriage ended, quite a few years ago. As it turns out, in this case, one of the offspring sided with the errant husband, and the other has remained friends with both, though is more loyal to the mother.
This is just to set the scene a little, for this story is about B’s mother and two sisters, who, have remained living close to their mother. The father, an alcoholic, died when B was in her late teens. One of the sisters, has taken it upon herself to do everything she can to alienate her distant sister, B, from the family unit. Name calling, arguing, and making it difficult for the mother not only to see B, but in every way making it difficult for mother and B to have a good relationship. Name calling, insulting letters, not passing on family information and so on.
While B is actually now free to return to live near her mother, she prefers to stay close to her own offspring and grand children, even though the relationship is somewhat strained with one of them. She visits her mother frequently, and keeps in touch as best she can by mail and telephone. B is exclude from any information in relation to her mother’s plans. Nasty sister apparently knows all – perhaps has power of attorney, and access to mother’s property and assets. B is definitely not seeking to be a beneficiary of anything from will probably be a small legacy, but just expecting to be kept informed of her mother’s health, and any family information that arises from time to time.
It appears that B’s mother is totally managed/intimidated by nasty sister – such that mother has expressed concern that if she upsets nasty sister, she would feel that nasty sister will not help her – which she does. She does help with shopping, driving her to places from time to time. B is upset by the developments, and the ongoing ‘battle’ with nasty sister, who endeavours to exclude B at every opportunity. It seems the distant daughter is severely disadvantaged.
Another woman, who I shall call ‘A’ whose mother, who I shall call ‘D’ is in her 90’s, a dynamic woman who still lives along and lives quite an extra ordinary life, but is recognising that her body is ageing fast and she needs to consider more suitable housing than her two storied terrace house. There are two daughters, A, and the other who I shall call ‘L’. A has had an amazing life, which included working in two high level professions, living in the outback with her then husband, (she has been married more than once), but now lives some 1000 kms from her mother. Now alone, she lives in a housing commission unit, best described as a ‘dog box’, where a third of her pension goes on rent, and out of the remainder she must pay for food, clothing, electricity, etc, etc. She is clearly living at/below the poverty line whatever that is. She has two daughters living in the same state – and likes to keep close to them.
Sister L, lives in the same city as D, but seldom visits her mother, though sees her often, thanks to the long suffering son of A, who visits D on an almost daily basis, mows her lawns, helps with shopping, and takes her to any family get-together.
A has just discovered that her sister L, has power of attorney, and that all mother’s estate, which is quite considerable goes to A. The fact that L has had this power of attorney, and that this information has been kept secret from A for over 20 years is quite an insult to A, especially has she has legal qualifications, and knows now that for unknown reasons, D and L have chosen to keep the information from A. Sounds complicating, but essentially the sister who lives close by has the legal right to do things for/to her mother – that not necessarily benefit the mother. As the family prepare to move D into aged care, it is clear the influence that L has.
So why does mother D wish to leave her total estate to one daughter and not the other? The explanation is that daughter A has a roof over her head (albeit the low class housing commission dog box), while daughter L, and her husband – who are both working – still have a mortgage to pay off. Fair? No, not at all.
In any case, daughter A, on the one hand does not want to cause more grief to her mother, and clearly (from conversations) sister L is looking forward to her huge inheritance and does not wish to share any with her sister. Why would a mother treat her daughter’s so differently? The only explanation is that sister L is ‘closer’ physically, and an ageing mother has decided that she is in greater need. Legal advice is being sought, as it is our belief that A has a right to her mother’s estate, when the time comes, but she needs to protect it now, lest, using her power of attorney, her sister depletes the assets of the mother. Nasty business. Legal action needs to be taken now – even though A does not want to cause a family rift. If she does not act now, she will miss out, and so will her children. Many tears will be shed over this. Again the distant daughter is the one disadvantaged.
H has never lived in the same state as her parents since her marriage, which lasted some 43 years, before she decided to be independent. Her husband’s work took him to several states of Australia. Her mother is in a nursing home with advanced dementia, and her father, lives alone. She visits them often – up to four times a year. Her sister G, lives close by and has been and still is a regular visitor and helper to her parents. She is also single, and works full time, and finds that working, keeping an eye on her elderly parents (both in their 90’s)
H and her husband have two children, who each have two grandchildren, and she chooses to live in fairly close proximity to them. She and her sister G have never been really close – but have maintained a strained friendship. G thinks she should do more for the parents, but does what she can. She visits occasionally, writes and phones often. When she makes her regular visits to them, her parents refuse much of her offers of help. Despite the fact that washing may need to be done, cooking or gardening, any attempt to do these things is met with hostility! All they want to do is talk with her. (She has endured the same conversations over and over and over again, without causing any problems – but clearly both her parents are locked into their own world.)
Sister G, has power of attorney, and refuses to discuss any issues with H. It is believed that both sisters will benefit equally from the estate, when the time comes, but H is not kept informed. G does not even advise H when there are issues involving her parents. She did not bother to advise H when their mother was taken to hospital after an accident, or does not volunteer any information. No letters, few phone calls – and as G is computer illiterate, no communication via email. She has in fact, phoned H’s estranged husband and given him information that clearly should have been given to her sister. Is she playing a game? If H phones, she is usually told that all is well, when later, she may learn otherwise.
Distant sisters clearly are disadvantaged. Some of us have discussed these issues, and apart from taking legal action, it is difficult to deal with. A will take legal action, but she is damned if she does, and damned if she doesn’t. She has to decide if fighting for her rights, is worth fracturing the already tenuous relationship with her sister. Until now she thought she had had a good relationship with her sister, but is learning that she has been duped for a long time, on the issues mention and others. It is hard to take. Initially she said she does not want to fight over money – but it is more than that. It is not about the money – it is about not allowing one sister to manipulate their mother for her own advantage, and to A’s disadvantage.
Strangely, all three women in these stories were registered nurses. Some of the discussion has centred around the fact that all three have been strong women who seldom shed tears, and if they do, will do so in private. They all feel trapped, duped, excluded, and very unhappy.