I have something I'd like to hear your take on. I'm the middle of three sisters. We're all in our 60s, and although we get along fine we're not particularly close. Actually, I'm close to my younger sister, but my older sister has always gone her own way. And that's why I'm writing to you. When my younger sister was just out of high school, my parents built a cabin on a lake. We call it a cabin, but in fact it's a fully functioning house. And because it's in a trendy area, its value has increased enormously over the years. That didn't really matter, though, because none of us intended to sell it. Or so I thought.
When my parents died, about 15 years ago, the cabin fell to us. This worked fine for a while, even though my older sister's style of living is quite different from mine and my younger sister's. She'll completely redo her living room every few years in the spirit of out with the old, in with the new. We're just the opposite. But I think the three of us could have worked it all out if my older sister hadn't decided, five years after my parents' deaths, that she wanted to be bought out of her share. This made a certain sense. Her husband at the time had his own family cabin. And my younger sister and I were quite content to have our family cabin to ourselves. So each of us wrote my older sister a rather sizable check.
That was 10 years ago. Since then, my younger sister and I, both together and separately, have had our older sister visit us at the cabin any number of times. My feeling is that we're still a family, so why shouldn't she (and her family) still be there sometimes? Also, it's one of the few tangible ties to our parents, since all of us used to spend a lot of time there. On the other hand, that family tie didn't seem particularly important to my older sister when she asked to be bought out. None of this would be an issue, however, if she hadn't recently asked if she, her two sons and their families could spend a week at the cabin this summer by themselves. (After her husband died, two years ago, she sold the other cabin.)
At first, I thought, 'Well, why not?' It would have to be a week that I, my younger sister and our families haven't signed up for, but if there's one available and it works for my older sister, fine. But my younger sister, when I told her about my other sister's request, was adamantly opposed. First of all, she said, the cabin is now full of things that are very precious to us: family heirlooms, mostly. And because our kids are grown and have no kids of their own, we're able to keep the cabin this way. But my older sister has a flock of grandchildren. Second of all, my younger sister said, this is the very kind of thing my older sister opted out of. Why did we write those checks if she wasn't going to be relinquishing her rights to the cabin?
I realize she's relinquished her rights, that she can only stay there at our discretion. But I also think my younger sister has a point. Nevertheless, I'm inclined to go ahead and let it happen this time, if a suitable week can be found. Then, if my older sister turns around and tries to do it again next year, we'll deal with the issue then. But my younger sister feels we need to take a stand now, that if we say yes this summer it'll be that much harder to say no next summer. And that's where you come in, Mr. Right. What do you think?
The Middle Child
The Middle Child: I think I'd like to know what my readers think. Readers?
If you're thinking, 'Well, at least you have a cabin to fight over,' write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR E-MAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.