When you lose the power to reconcile yourself to someone you love. Someone in your own family, who has been there at every holiday. Every wedding, every party. In the photographs since you were born. Even since before you were born.
It's not like breaking up with a boyfriend, or a falling-out with a friend. It's much, much harder.
This person has pictures of me in her house, as a baby and all through my childhood. We have pictures of her in our house. She is assigned to be my godmother. She was at my mother's funeral, and we cried together.
She has been a guest in our home. All of my family have been guests in her home. But not anymore.
Not me, anyway.
It didn't take much to get expelled from the household; tensions during a family outing turned into an official "I don't want to see you anymore."
Shamefully, I admit that I was so hurt -- I agreed immediately.
I know something is wrong with this person. She becomes more and more nervous at each occasion we have to visit. Her temper flares so often now, I wonder if the trouble isn't medical - a chemical problem, or a psychiatric one.
It wasn't fair of me to give up so easily; to get upset and lose my composure. I've never been smooth under fire. I'm even less so after a long day.
So when she came down on me, in public, in the presence of other members of my family who had (until then) been having a relatively pleasant time, I snapped. I didn't have the finesse to be an adult to someone who used to be an adult to me.
To be fair, I wasn't being treated like an adult. Being an adult, in the school I've learned it from, involves compromise and patience. Not deference, not resignation. Certainly not public humiliation.
Nevertheless, I'm ashamed. My failure to keep cool cut the day short for everyone involved. Friends went home early and family split up. Worst of all, the one person who needed this vacation the most - my own father - was rudely and unnecessarily pulled into the fray.
This is the thing that really hurts me. I let myself break down, and my failure was used to hurt someone I love. My father, for whom I am very concerned, who is already coping with much more stress than is due him. It has ruined his one vacation, and probably severed his own ties with this woman.
We are leaving for home a day early, skipping a large family meeting. The stress is too much for anyone involved to continue as planned. My father will undoubtedly spend the whole night worried for my sister and myself, as we are both sleeping (without any feasible recourse) at the home of the very person who would like me never to return.
I can't undo any of the day's errors. I can only resume my adult persona and issue apologies to those who were involved, and hereafter always maintain my distance from this person.
This member of my family.