My brother and I, who were raised by our father after our mother died very young, have been estranged for almost 40 years. No one knows why (I suspect even he has forgotten), but he simply stopped speaking to me at one family party and has never spoken to me again. None of his family has been allowed to keep in touch with me. My father finds it a source of bewilderment. The men in my family are world class grudge holders (my grandfather cut his entire family out of his life when he was in his twenties, and my father has not seen or spoken to his own brother more than half a dozen times in the past 30 years) so perhaps it’s some as-yet-undiscovered gene. For the first 20 years or so I made countless attempts to heal the breach, sending Christmas, birthday, and other holiday cards, letters of apology, gifts for the birth of his children, etc., but the silence from his side of the wall is so complete that eventually I had to accept what I could not change, and move on with my life. I’m not angry about it, just sad, especially on behalf of my daughter, who has never had a chance to know her aunt, uncle, and cousins.
Years passed, and eventually my niece was to graduate from high school. Imagine my astonishment, my joy, when I opened the mailbox and found an invitation to her graduation open house! At last! I felt sure my brother was using the celebration as an opportunity to open the long-closed door. I jumped around the house in excitement, called my husband at work to read the invitation to him, and later that evening called my dad long distance to bubble to him about this wonderful, unlooked-for blessing. Dad sounded excited himself, but perhaps a little doubtful. I should have paid attention to that note of caution in his voice and held off making travel plans. Two days later he called and reluctantly told me that the invitation had been sent in error, and that I was not welcome after all. I was completely crushed. I sent a congratulations card to my niece and canceled my plans.
Two years later, my nephew had his own graduation open house. Lo and behold, I received another invitation. Much less excited, I once again called my dad. And once again, I learned the invitation had been sent “in error”. Niece is now engaged to be married. If I receive an invitation to the wedding, I won’t be fool enough to think they actually want me to come. 0331-10
Invitations are not sent in error. Think about it…one has to create a guest list, get addresses, write out those addresses on the envelope and then mail it. The process of extending invitations has a least some thought put into it. An erroneous invitation just does not spontaneously generate itself. We don’t know what transpired in your father’s conversation with your brother but what happened was the invitation was allegedly retracted. To be honest, I would not have relied on a second-hand report from Dad. Information gets distorted, miss-communicated and misunderstood when passed back and forth second-hand even when there is an attempt to communicate with integrity. Brother’s family issues the invitation and only they can retract it. If Brother lacks the Spauldings to do that to you directly, then the invitation is valid and can accepted.
Miss Manners has written of how one can use etiquette to make others appropriately uncomfortable. There are some situations where graciousness, kindness has the effect of making others squirm in their self-inflicted etiquette dilemma. I would have attended the event and been the most charming, gracious guest ever. Bubbling with enthusiasm, greeting my brother and his family with affection as if nothing had happened. The wife and cousins will wonder what on earth this decades long feud is about since Auntie is so gracious and sweet. If Brother squirms, oh well. That’s his problem. The alleged “erroneous” invitation is an issue between him and his family.
If you get a wedding invitation, do NOT call your father. Simply make plans to attend, go to the wedding as invited and be sure to bring the invitation, in its original envelope, with you just in case. If you get a legitimate retraction after rsvping to the wedding, please consider sending me the original wedding invitation and the documented retraction and I will personally make sure Brother rotisserates in Ehell.