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The ties that bind

27 Jun

We recently bought our plane tickets to go home to Michigan in October. Mostly for a friend’s wedding, but also to visit family and friends. I’m looking forward to our visit because I’m missing everyone like crazy recently, with one exception.

My mother.

I don’t even think I want to tell her I’m going to be in town.

I don’t know if this is possible? Our last meeting wasn’t a total disaster, but it also wasn’t a resounding vote for a repaired mother-daughter relationship either. Our contact since then has consisted of her writing “happy birthday” on my wall on Facebook. I said thank you. Two months and one Facebook wall post. Prior to their separation (I can’t even call it a divorce, because it’s not and I almost think it never will be) we’d talk two to three times a week. I just don’t want to bother with her right now.

Can I do that? Can I slip in, visit everyone else, pretend she doesn’t exist? I feel like no. I feel it’s fundamentally wrong. Conversely, though, should I have to go out of my way to try to include someone who’s shown time and time again they’re not interested? I have less than a week on this trip, and really less than half a week because we have to split between my and Husband’s hometowns. Is it really fair to me to have to section of a part of my time home to be miserable, when I could be spending more time with my father or friends?

I’m just so exhausted with the whole situation. It was hard enough for us to relate when things were well, now I find it harder and harder to forge a connection when I feel like I’m being thrown away at every turn. Maybe I would be more likely to include her if I had any indication that our situation, that the way things are between us now passed through her mind at all? I’m spinning my wheels on it on a near daily basis, and I have a sneaking suspicion the same can’t be said about her.

At this point, I think if I hear from her, I’ll tell her. If I don’t…. then I don’t.

At least it’s a decision and I can remove the idea from my mind for now. October is pretty far away, anyway.

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Pride

25 Jun

I found myself doing push-ups at our family dinner this weekend, all to prove to my eight year old nephew I could do them easily, and the real way. I’m not sure what this says about me, that I couldn’t shrug off the taunts of an eight year old who assumed I had little to no upper body strength. We ended up having a contest, and I won. I honestly have no idea what I was trying to accomplish. Was I trying to bust down some gender barriers, prove chicks got what it take to conquer the world? I don’t think so. I’m not that noble.

I was personally irked by the assumption that I couldn’t do push-ups. And I felt the need to prove it, no matter the age of the taunter. This is why I carried eight-foot banquet tables by myself when I was a waitress, why I feel the need to shrug off any help offered when I’m carrying something. It’s not like I’m some body builder, or even someone who’s particularly strong. I’m strong for what I am, which is a small person who doesn’t really work too hard at it. I just hate the assumption that I can’t, shouldn’t, need help. If I need help, I’ll ask for it. If I don’t, your offer insults me.

So I felt the need to prove it, both to my nephew and the people gathered. Did it possibly come off as childish? You bet. Could I have avoided it? No. It would have haunted me if I didn’t throw down and show that I could do push-ups properly.

I don’t think beating him at push-ups and proving my strength helped any, because he instantly went to making fun of me because I can’t whistle, instead. And since that’s true, I couldn’t smack that one down. Sometimes eight year olds aren’t very fun.

Oh, crap.

4 Jun

Uh-oh.

If you stay very quiet and still and listen very closely, you might just hear it.

…tick tock tick tock tick tock…

Biological clock. Baby fever.

I’m such a cliche.

I was never really one of those girls who fawned over babies. I didn’t even really enjoy baby dolls as much as the other girls.I never begged for a baby brother or sister, I didn’t enjoy when family members brought their small children around. I’ve always been sort of ambivalent about having my own. I knew the odds are I would eventually end up with at  least one child. But I didn’t plan for it or expect it or really even think about it too much. I don’t have names picked out. Even as my contemporaries began having babies, I’ve sort of taken it in stride. Congrats on your baby, no thanks I don’t need to hold it, is there any diet Coke?

Since we’ve moved here, I’ve been spending a lot more time with my niece and nephew. They’re just three and almost two, and so adorable I can’t even handle it. The girl is an insane combination of highly verbal and nonsensical. She took to me right away, grabbing my hand, “Aunt Cally, Aunt Cally, do you want to play with my stickers they have a tea party set one time there was a cow and sparkle papercut heffalump Barbie!” She has an endless amount of energy and drags you from toy to toy, from thing to thing and story to story with a bubbly charm.

The boy is very much Two, with his wild mood swings and his screaming tantrumming and his mind-meltingly adorable cuddliness. He was wary of me, being brand new to him and all, for a while. He would smile and play coy and hide behind his mother’s legs, but immediately cry if ever found alone with me. Then somewhere near the end of our third visit he decided I was worth it, brought me his Cars 2 DVD and collapsed into my lap with a giant hug. When we went to leave, he threw his arms about my legs and kissed my knees goodbye. I’m pretty sure if you had one of those little heart monitors from How the Grinch Stole Christmas I would have busted the shit out of that.

Then I started reading random articles on babycenter, scouring mommy blogs for birth stories. And that’s how I ended up with a spread sheet on my computer, hidden within a nest of folders and misleadingly titled “graduate school applications” that contains an excruciating cost analysis of the different types of cloth diapers and disposables. With a perceived level of ease rating system.

What is wrong with me?

I do this, though. I researched moving to Florida and played it close to the  chest for about four months before I brought up the idea to Husband. I was looking at wedding invitations and making lists of things I planned to DIY and spreadsheets of possible venues up to a year before we were even engaged. In complete and total secret. It’s almost like I need a while to warm up to any idea, and until I get to the point of acceptance I obsess neurotically about every single aspect associated with the decision.

So even though we’ve come down with a case of baby fever over here, since babies have about a gazillion decisions and variables, you can likely expect us to add one to the mix in about fifteen years. I hope people are still using spreadsheets in the future, because I’d hate for all the work I do now to expire by then.

Solitary confinement

9 May

I need to preface all of this by saying I’m not complaining.

Well, I am complaining. A  little. But it’s not a what’s wrong with them, so much as a what’s wrong with me.

Let’s back up.

I have no idea how to live around people. When Husband and I moved to Chicago, it was me, husband, and Kobe. Eventually we added Marty. And that was it. We did what we wanted, we came and go as we pleased. We had some friends, but no one to really feel obligated to. And we would trek back to Michigan about twice a year, and cram all the family fun into a week or so before returning to our mostly solitary existence. Things were divided, but it was comfortable. If I wanted to ignore everyone for a week and watch marathons of cooking shows, I could. That was life for about five years.

It sounds like it could be lonely, I suppose, but it wasn’t terribly. We still had access to everyone by the internet and phone. It was quiet. Peaceful?

Now, we’re within striking distance of a multitude of different relatives. Everyone wants to go somewhere, and do something, birthday parties and dinners and barbecues. And we’ve only been here a week. I’m overwhelmed. I’m not used to this much interaction. I’m like a social camel. One great social interaction can last me months while I hole up in my couch nest ranting about frosting on the internet. I know, too, that our presence is sort of like a new toy, and once we’ve been here for a while it’s likely everyone won’t feel the need to get all together in every spare minute. I also know this is how it was for me in the Before Time, and I will adjust accordingly to human interaction.

But until it dies down, I’m just so, so tired. Good thing espresso exists.

Adult children of divorce unite

7 Mar

Perhaps I need a Facebook group where we can all get together and whine about how unfair it all is. (Did I just unintentionally date myself? Do Facebook groups still exist? The agony of getting older, it slowly seeps into my bones.) I recently had the world’s most awkward visit with my mother, before our vacation. My aunt had everyone over for lunch. I met my mom’s boyfriend. I guess it went well, all things considering. I didn’t stab anyone or burst into tears or passive-aggressively mention my daddy every five minutes.

At lunch, we told them all about the move. My mother… said nothing. She asked no questions, she had no comments. She ate her sandwich. My cousin’s children (ages 8 and 11, I think?) had more to say about it than she did. Everyone I’ve told has had an opinion, good or bad. Happy for me or confused, some have even been downright rude. But it’s something. It’s an emotion, a reaction, something to tell me that what I do and what I think matters to them in some way. I would think having your only child moving over a thousand miles away when your relationship is already unstable would provoke something.

That’s the knife that digs the deepest. I am mad she hurt my father, I am madder still she continues to hurt him in new and surprising ways that none of us expected. But if they’re not going to be together, then fine. That’s something I have to, and can, accept. It affects me but it’s not about me. It’s about them. However,  I am a stomach-churning combination of livid and heartbroken when I think about how… I just don’t factor in anymore.

I am probably the only adult begging for my mother to become more involved in my life.

The thing is, whatever connection we had? It’s been trampled and pulled apart and spit on and left outside in the rain. It’s a shadow of its former self. We were never close when I was growing up. I was a teenager and she was young too, and we clashed often. Many a screaming match was had over nothing and everything. We had slowly moved past that when I moved out. Turns out when no one is yelling and slamming doors you can make a lot of progress. We talked more than once a week, we’d hang out and go shopping. It was nice.

Now she quietly sits next to me at lunch. Whispers to her boyfriend. Calmly eats her sandwich. Leaves after 45 minutes. Posts thinly veiled digs on Facebook about aforementioned visit. I mean, 45 minutes. I hadn’t seen or talked to her in six months. I drop what I think is huge news and she goes on a social media site to whine about being ignored after ignoring me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I feel like I’m the one who did something wrong and I’m trying to repair the relationship. I feel like she’s a surly teenager and everything I try is shot down.

So I’ve stopped trying. And she never tried. And it all might be over if no one steps up to the plate soon.

The thing I don’t want to admit to myself is that this very well might be what she wants. She had me when she was quite young. If I were her, I’d have a nine-year old by now. So. New man, new life, new identity. No daughter.Perhaps it’s even something that I owe to her. Freedom after decades of servitude. A new start, a fresh take. A second wind.

I feel either way I go with the situation, I’m not going to be happy.

Ho ho ho

7 Dec

For the first time ever, the holidays are really pissing me off. I want to trample the people who get in my way looking at window displays. I want to smash their lights, pull down the tinsel, scream it’s all a lie and go hide under my blankets until January. I think I’m putting on a pretty good front, with the merry-making. I’m crafting, we have a tree up, I’m constructing presents. I’ve gotten the Santa and Elf hats for the dogs out. I’m really not here to wreck anyone else’s good time. I’m just not feeling it.

Holidays meant so much to me when I was a child. Like most every family, it was a time we all came together. Everyone would bring a dish, there were never enough chairs or matching plates. My grandma’s house was too small, overheating easily and sending us out in the snow. We’d exhaust ourselves, stuff ourselves, and end up napping in odd places. Other than the ritual of coming together, we had zero traditions or cultural practices to trot out, but everything still felt special. As if we’d come up with someone no one else had.

My sophomore year of college, my grandmother passed away. As the story so often goes, she was the lynch pin that was holding everyone together. My mom and her siblings squabbled about money and inheritance, hurt feelings and unfairness. We never really came together again. Gossip reigned supreme, no one appeared to like anyone anymore, and we split off. Farther down the line, my parents broke up, further crumbling my sense of family security and cohesiveness.

Now I have a husband and dogs and a small tree. I call people, wish everyone well, make apologies we can’t all be together. We sometimes make a dinner, but we more often don’t bother. A day is a day is a day. May as well make a pizza. Nothing sparkles. It’s part of growing up, sure, but it’s more my extended (and nuclear) family falling apart. Segmenting and forming factions and driving each other away. Leaving us separated, alone. Scattered pinpoints of light that don’t even come close to their prior glory.

I know this is the time to make our own celebrations and traditions, to begin to build our own cohesive family unit. I feel frustrated though, because really all I want is the past. My grandma’s house, her funny ceramic tree with the moveable lights. Portioning out the leftovers into her ridiculous little microwaveable TV trays. I never knew where she got those. The overwhelming press of people and love and togetherness.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I’m missing the holidays as they were, or just my grandma. The fact that the last time my entire family felt secure, she was here heading it up. She kept us all in line, in mind of the things that were truly important. So what would she do if she were here? She’d tell me to straighten up, get the sour look off my face, and try and have some fun. Probably a good idea.

The Current State of Affairs

3 Nov

I prattled on randomly (two things that often describe me, prattling and rambling) about my parents separation, but that was all What Had Happened, and very little What Is Happening.

My relationship with my father is… better. Before we would mostly talk through my mother, his and byes and love yous. He really, really hates the phone, so we’d catch up whenever I’d get a visit home in. Now he’s forced to speak with me directly, we talk about once a week. It’s actually… wonderful. Considering.

My relationship with my mother is… nonexistent now. I don’t know what to do with it, and I don’t know that it’s my job. We used to talk 1-2 times a week. After she made her announcement, I tried to keep that up. I did. I would still call. I would talk about benign things, my dogs, work, Husband, wedding plans. I would talk. She would listen. Then she would tell me she had nothing to say because she doesn’t do anything other than work at sit at home. Which would piss me off. (See aforementioned, bored, never do anything, etc.) So I would then end the call.

She would never, ever call me. She began to only contact me herself through Facebook and texts. I called her on her birthday, I called her on mother’s day.  She did not call me on my birthday. She wished me a happy birthday on Facebook. Facebook! Before she would always call, wake me up, sing happy birthday. I felt scorned.

I felt like I was the one who did something wrong. Like I was the one who left and was trying to forge a relationship with my surly teenager. It’s frustrating. I am not the parent. I am receptive to repairing our relationship, but I am not going to bust my ass over it. If she does not have time for me, if she does not have anything to say to me, I am not making that my problem.

Which means we haven’t spoken – calls, texts, Facebook, smoke signals, ESP – since my wedding.

Which was August.

This is… sad. As it stands, however… I don’t care to fix it. Am I holding a grudge? I don’t know. Maybe. But I just can’t keep putting myself out there and getting shut down. It can only happen so many times before it makes you permanently bitter. And I don’t want that.

I don’t think I do, anyway.