(This is not a particularly cheery post, so feel free to skip it and go do something nice like hugging your kids. I won’t mind.)
I should let you know that I’m unqualified to give advice about building healthy relationships with your parents and siblings. I may have already told you that, but I’m saying it again: my relationship with my family is a mess. And the worst kind of mess is the one sitting in the middle of a bunch of people who have no idea how to fix it, and they just can’t stand the idea of getting their hands dirty again. No one trusts anybody, there’s no peaceable middle ground to work towards, and most of the players don’t even know what they want out of this family.
And this is not coming up as a result of some kind of great and terrible battle between my mother and I, or some other falling out. It’s not a familial cataclysm, but a slow ceasing of momentum that grinds us to a halt.
For the longest time, I had assumed that the arrival of grandkids would realign our family dynamic and bring us together. We’d throw all of the baggage aside and just build a new workable peace based on the new little ones. It didn’t work that way.
I was stunned when my mother was talking about wills and inheritances recently, and she said she was only thinking of her kids, not the grandkids. The potential exception she gave was if she formed a ‘close bond’ with one of the kids, and that really cheesed me off. You can’t sit back and wait for a kids to like you before you care for them. You have to have an excess of affection and you have to work at building that relationship. But I digress.
There is an additional element of family sadness looming in the background of all of this. According to my mother, my estranged father is very ill somewhere, losing his faculties, and generally approaching the end of his life. My brother still holds a deep resentment and perhaps active hatred for our father, and it can’t help his emotional situation that his daughter has some of my father’s facial features. I know my visual similarity to my father constantly reminded my mother of him, and she couldn’t help but see his negative traits in me. Being compared to you drunk father can really monkey wrench your self-esteem.
So that’s a partial snapshot of my messed up family: my brother is angry, probably angry at me for my teenage screwup years. My mother has emotional expectations that I cannot meet: She wants a return to a relationship between us that stopped when I was 12, and she won’t let us start over. And somewhere, in some medical facility, my father who I have not seen or spoken to in more than 20 years is slowly dying and I don’t know how I feel about that.
I don’t think my mother even understands how ill he is. She mentioned that she had received a letter from a hospice offering her support, and she didn’t understand why they were contacting her. She doesn’t know that a hospice offers care and help for the terminally ill and their families. For all I know, he may have already died. I assume someone would tell me if he did. That may be the saddest thing I have ever typed. Yikes.
Sorry, faithful readers, but I have to process this somewhere. It can’t be sunshine everyday.Anyway, I order all of you to find someone you love and lavish affection on them. And yes, that someone can be yourself. Cookies for everyone!