Sunday, July 1

Protective

My mom grew up in an unstable home, where she was shuttled from city to city to parent to parent to grandparent, always one parental breakdown away from being sent back to where she had come from. She grew up watching her mother have a decades-long mental breakdown, during which Nana popped pills and guzzled alcohol and checked in and out of mental wards; Mom's parents fought and argued and divorced and flung vitriol until the day each one of them died (coincidentally within the same year). Mom never really got to put down roots and breathe a sigh of stable relief until she married my dad and settled in Saltillo nearly twenty-eight years ago.

She hurts, every day, because of the shit her parents pulled throughout her life.

So, to this day, when something is wrong, Mom does her best to compartmentalize it, tuck it away, under a ratty pillow behind an old chair in a boarded-up room, where no one would think to look. She plays emotional keep-away, lobbing her troubles over my head until she can run past me and catch them, only to toss them back in the air and run the other way again.

She does this because she loves me and she doesn't want to burden me with problems that aren't explicitly mine. It's an amazing trick, really, to take all that hurt that's churning inside her and push it down deep so that no one's made uncomfortable by it. But it's a trick I wish she didn't pull so often, because no vessel can hold a limitless amount. Everything has its limit.

Today I heard her arguing with my dad. He was complaining about her attitude, and how she's been short-tempered lately. They've been kind of short with each other since I've been here. Apparently, they've been snippy with each other for a few days now. I wouldn't know this because my parents don't call me up and complain to me about each other. They just don't do that, unless you call and try to pry it out of them. Even then, my mom wouldn't budge. She's scared to death of being like her parents -- opening and draining wounds in front the kids, damaging them in ways she wishes she hadn't been damaged.

So she plays keep-away.

I asked her, smiling, while she was ironing her shirt: "What are y'all arguing about?"

She didn't miss a beat.

"Oh, just about hearing loss! Daddy says that most people don't care enough to protect their hearing, but I think he's wrong. I think they do!"

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5 Comments:

Blogger palm tree said...

It is wonderful of her to do that for you. Your mother is a truly amazing, compassionate woman. I wish my parents had that much respect for me. Mine used to call and bitch about the other one all the time. You can only hear your father complain about not getting sex so many times before you blow up at both of them and then they rarely talk to you at all.

Sun Jul 01, 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous kindacoolblindchick said...

I respectfully disagree. I would have much preferred my parents to be too forthcoming and to be able to set my own boundaries than to be always seeking to pull it out of them. It's that sort of "compassion" that can cause you to end up standing in front of your parents' grave markers wondering how you could spend your life attached to someone you never really knew.

Sun Jul 01, 06:16:00 PM  
Blogger palm tree said...

I guess that viewpoint never occurred to me because my own parents don't recognize "boundaries" I've set.

LT, I guess what I should say is, "I wish you a happy medium."

Sun Jul 01, 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Yeah, I'm looking for a happy medium, I suppose, but PT I definitely understand where you're coming from, especially since you're having your own parent issues these days.

I just wish I could help my parents more, and be there for them in a more substantial and helpful way than my usual routine of offering cliched platitudes like "hang in there" (which is, sadly, what I tell everyone for every situation).

I try to help lessen their stress by staying out of their hair and taking care of my own shit, and I think they appreciate and respect that. But at the same time, I think that also gives me the appearance of being aloof and clueless when it comes to the family's issues, since I'm the only one of the whole bunch who's not around to deal with them as they occur. So instead of constantly calling me to drag me into the problems, they just sort of keep them quiet (not necessarily on purpose) and I find out weeks and even months after the fact. No one wants to bother me with stuff. Maybe I seem fragile to them, like I can't handle it (I think my mom feels this way more than my dad, mostly because she sees a lot of herself in me). And I think there may have been a time when that was true, but now I feel like it's my responsibility to know what's happening, and try to help when I can.

So, it sucks to feel so helpless.

Mon Jul 02, 12:42:00 AM  
Anonymous kindacoolblindchick said...

PT, I know all about them not respecting boundaries. What I eventually had no choice but to learn was that I had to enforce the boundaries--call them on it when they crossed, remove myself from the situation when they refused to care that they had crossed, rinse and repeat. It's a lesson that has served me quite well in my relations with friends and lovers, too.

In the last few years I've traveled this road with my mom and dad. They're both dead now. I am fortunate that I learned before they died to take them as they are. To know them and leave behind the anger and the bitterness and the blame. With my parents, eventually all I could do was learn to accept them as excruciatingly human, flawed and fucked up each in their own inimitable way. In situations like this, there's rarely the "happy medium"...more like "barely livable compromise." But you have to do what you can do, because one day you will have to live with yourself and the choices you make over it.

So much worry for them, so much fear, so many sleepless nights, so much dread about what would become of them in their dysfunction. Sometimes all I could do for them is listen very closely and offer my perspective, even when they'd rather not hear. Neither my mom nor my dad came to accept my adulthood and independence until I gathered the courage to point out to them the myriad ways in which they had turned into my children. It was then that they started to listen.

Remember this, though--they're adults, and to whatever extent they create their own pain, it's their responsibility. Not yours. That doesn't lessen the worry, of course. Again, though, you have to live with yourself and your avoidance of false guilt is important in that regard.

Sorry if I come off as a bit of a FKIA. I speak from hard-won experience, though.

Tue Jul 03, 06:10:00 PM  

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