We are out there: the peacemakers. We avoid confrontation when possible, we look for compromise when not. It's not that we don't have a side. It's not that we don't have opinions or feel strongly about things... we just like people to take a breath, settle down, and cut out all the ruckus. Or I do, anyway.
But what do we peacemakers do when we are asked to break our peace? When we are cornered, pressed, dragged into the conflict? What do you do when no one is interested in peace, but stand stubbornly on one side of the wall or the other?
My grandmother is sick -- brain tumor, big, angry, inoperable. My dad has died -- multiple system atrophy (aka parkinsons on steroids), accelerated deterioration, no cure. My mom has survived the deaths of her grandparents, her father, her mother, and now her husband. During the five years of my dad's illness, my uncles (his brothers) and my grandmother (his mom) did not spend a lot of time visiting. They all have their own different reasons. But he didn't ever ask for much, just some company. His brothers never came, though, except for maybe an hour when my grandmother called her sons and said, "This is it. Come see him before he dies."
Eight months pass.
Saturday, my brother is getting married. My uncles were not invited, as they weren't here when my family felt they needed them. There were no visits, no asking if we needed anything. Despite driving through town on their way to camp, fish, visit my grandmother, or (in one uncle's case) visit kids at college, they never stopped to even say hello. Pretty crappy, really. As the peacemaker, I acknowledge that this is bad, was bad, but it's done. What can I do to change it?
Now that they aren't invited, it has started this whole thing between my grandmother and my mom. The boys should be allowed to come, if they can't come my grandmother won't come, etc. My mom and brother are furious. They don't back down, they don't compromise, even with each other usually, hence my evolution into the peace keeping member of the family.
We come to the part that is happening now, today. We have reached an impasse. My grandmother has declared she will not apologize to my mom, she does not like or respect her, and the only reason she has been nice in the past was because of my dad's happiness. My mom does not like, or respect my grandmother or her kids. Both seem to demand that I choose a side and I choose now. My grandmother changed her will to "blood-line only" for recipients, and I am to be the representative for my dad's side. What do I do? Continue to play nice and I will upset both parties I think... Choose my mom and brother (really, they're kind of right...) and we get written out of the will and probably disowned. Choose my grandmother and deeply hurt my mom, who has done everything, given everything for me.
Here's the thing though... She's DYING. Her life expectancy is weeks. We couldn't have made it WEEKS without this going on? WEEKS, PEOPLE!!! What in the world could it possibly hurt to play nice for few measly weeks in the face of a death? I know my mom feels hurt and wronged. I know my brother feels the same. And I know they can't stand my uncles. But really! Weeks! And then we never have to see the again if you don't want to.
...At least..., that's how I felt until today when, to my face, my grandmother blamed all of this on my mom. That was how I felt until she called my mom stupid, and hostile. You just don't say that to a kid, no matter how old they are. That was before she called me out, drew a line and told me to pick a side, before she asked me if Kind is really what I wanted to be. If being a Nice Person and being a Peacemaker is enough; if it's wise. Before telling me my choices, my lifestyle, my beliefs are wrong. That choosing my mother over her is stupid; that because I'm nice, I'm weak.
I can tell you one thing we Peacemakers aren't. We are not weak. I have been brought to the very edge, to the moment between thinking and acting. I have been told all the things I'm not, all the things I'll never be, I've told myself all of those things, and I chose. I chose life, over death, Suffering and fighting, over a quick slip of a knife. And I did not choose this life to be called weak for my trying to help people, and I am not weak for being giving when possible. Weakness is giving into your personal issues when you could choose to rise above. I can tell you I will not be sorry when I can look back and say that I did my best to do more good than harm, to give more than take, to love more than hate.
So what do you choose? What do you do? Do you understand that looking an inevitable death in the face is scary, that you can't really understand it until you've been there, take a deep breath, and let it go? Do you tell your mom and brother to stand down, it'll all be over soon? Do you step up to the Brain Tumor Grandmother and say shut up about my family, shut up about me, good luck with your cancer. We won't be here to find out how it ended. Do you just keep dancing along the line, skip from edge to edge, teeter cautiously along it until it settles itself? What can you do when peace isn't an option? When you're told to choose a side?