Stepping on toes or just the victim of an angry sister?
Dear Annie: Every year, my sister organizes a family reunion, which is held at a local botanical garden the weekend after Labor Day. She reserves the location and coordinates the food. There are usually 60-70 people, and the adults are assigned to “setup,” “serving” or “tear-down/cleanup” crews.
Last year, I requested to be part of setup (as I normally do). I contacted her several times in the days before the event to see if there was anything else she needed me to bring and to confirm the time. The reunion was starting at 3 p.m., so she said to be there around 2:30. The morning of the party, I texted her to ask what time she would be arriving, and she said 2 p.m. I had some extra time, so I decided to come early to help. I was ahead of schedule and arrived around 1 p.m.
The grounds crew was there, and I asked them to be sure the sprinklers were all shut off since we had had an incident a couple years earlier when they weren’t off in one area, and several attendees got an unexpected shower. They assured me they were off and left. When my sister arrived a few minutes later, she seemed less than happy to see me. When I told her about the sprinklers, she snapped that that was “her job” and one of the reasons she had arrived early. I said she obviously didn’t need my help and left.
I did not hear from her for several weeks, so I wrote her a letter. I told her I was crushed by her yelling at me and that she owed me an apology. Shortly before Christmas, I got a brief note from her saying she was sorry for “speaking harshly” and hurting my feelings. It wasn’t much of an apology, but at least it was something. I did not see her over the holidays but tried to call her several times. She never returned my calls.
Then, the pandemic hit. I reached out to her again by phone and text. I finally got a text from her that asked, “Did your apology get lost in mail?” I replied that I didn’t have anything to apologize for. After several more texts back and forth, she said that I was the cause of our disagreement — that if I “hadn’t shown up an hour early, none of this would have happened,” and that “it’s kind of hard to yell at someone if they aren’t there.”
She said that until I was willing to acknowledge my role in our disagreement and apologize to her, she had nothing to say to me. Seriously?!? I was there to help and she yelled at me! Do I really owe her an apology? — I Miss My Sis
Dear I Miss My Sis: You signed your letter “I Miss My Sis,” which is very understandable, especially during a pandemic. We are all realizing the importance of family and friends. Yes, she was wrong to speak harshly to you for showing up early and trying to help. But, clearly, she likes to plan this event and wants to control each step. She wasn’t able to when you showed up early and did “her” job. No one is perfect. Just accept that she likes to do this particular day her way. If apologizing will make your relationship better, then do it. Tell her how much you missed her and how much you love her as your sister.
Keep in mind that the end goal is not for her to say, “OK, you were right, and I was wrong,” or vice versa. The end goal is to be close again. Once you establish that closeness, hopefully, with time and perspective, you can both laugh at your unique quirks.
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