Are You Your Brother’s Keeper?

I went to lunch with a few friends today. One is dealing with an aged mother who seems to either be bipolar or downright evil, jealous of her own daughter and unable to say a single nice thing to her. Another woman had such a mother, and the mother’s death set her free.

desert knollsWhen it comes to a parent, I can see that perhaps you have no choice but to deal with her (or him) as best as you can, but how much responsibility does one grown sibling have for another? If the sibling has some sort of mood disorder (undiagnosed and untreated), are you obligated to put up with their invectives and haranguing? And if so, how do you deal with it without being destroyed in the process?

If the mood-disordered sibling is also homeless, are you obligated to give that sibling a home? If you’re not in a position to give the sibling a home, what then are you supposed to do? Is it ever okay to walk away and leave the sibling to deal with life as best as possible on the streets? What if the sibling is suffering  with once broken bones that were never set and other painful issues because of a lack of insurance? And what if the sibling is also an alcoholic? How much responsibility do you have then, especially if the sibling doesn’t want to hear anything you have to say and misinterprets even the smallest gesture of kindness, such as the offer of a bit of food?

Is one ever free from the situation? If you walk away, how do you keep your heart from breaking? If you stay in contact, being subjected to so much anger and hatred, how do you keep your spirit from breaking?

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.