Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday. Growing up, my mom made it a big deal that we celebrate her birthday and their wedding anniversary. She would actually get angry if we forgot their anniversary. I remember when I was in college her berating me for not acknowledging their anniversary and wondering why it was such a big deal to her. I mean, wedding anniversaries are mostly to be celebrated by the couple, right? Sure, if others were at the wedding and think to say ‘Happy Anniversary’, great, but why was it up to me to remember their anniversary. It was one other way she could point to how I failed her, what an unloving daughter I was.
We’ve been estranged for almost two years. And, it is precisely this time of year that gives me the most angst. It starts with my mom’s birthday, then extends through Halloween, my dad’s birthday in November, then Thanksgiving, and Christmas. These are all events that would otherwise, in a normal, functioning family, be celebrated together. And, undoubtedly, I will be put in a position to decide how we are going to celebrate the holidays while having to bob and weave invitations to participate in gatherings that will include my parents, sister, and her family.
I was raised with so many *shoulds* in terms of being a good daughter that they are ingrained in my behaviors and very hard to change. So, when I’m faced with not doing something I’ve been taught I should do, it makes me feel bad about myself. For instance, as a ‘loving’ daughter I should acknowledge my mother’s birthday tomorrow. Because we are estranged, I won’t. It would be wholly disingenuous to do so and would be perceived as an olive branch or an invitation into my life. But, on the eve of her birthday knowing that I won’t be sending a card, dropping by for a visit, or even posting to her FB wall, makes me feel like the hateful, ungrateful daughter that she’s painted me as. It gives me angst to do nothing but more angst to consider doing anything.
Adding to my angst is that my aunt’s (my uncle’s (my mother’s brother) wife) sister passed away somewhat suddenly and the service will be Saturday afternoon. My uncle and aunt are the only family we see and of course I want to lend my support by going to the service. Yet, that stresses me out as I’m sure my parents and my sister (and possible her whole family) will be there, too. I’ve become such an enigma (I’ve seen my mother twice this year, my father once, and my sister once) that I don’t want my being there to be a distraction and I certainly don’t want to engage them. I’ve been mulling over how I can both do the right thing yet not put myself in their path. I’m thinking I can arrive just on time or late-ish to the service and leave right on time or early-ish from it. And, as much as I’d like to be able to go to my aunt’s house for the dinner following, I just can’t (I mean, I could have my husband and sons meet me there and hope there is diffusion of responsibility because others will be there, but I also don’t want to confuse my older son who doesn’t even ask about his grandparents. And, they’ve only seen the baby once and why start the charade? Ugh).
Oh, so much machinating. I hate the way this makes me feel about myself. I wish I’d come to a do as I please place with all this. That would free me of a lot of the guilt that I feel for not sending birthday wishes to my mother and would allow me to attend to the service and dinner because I want to instead of not attending because I simply can’t deal with my crazy parents (and the way they remind me that our current state is all.my.fault) and don’t want to subject my sons to them.
Just re-reading this makes me shake my head. I bear so much responsibility for the situation we’re in while everyone (my mom, dad, sister) point to me as the culprit. Maybe I’d be better served just doing as I please, going to the service, being civil toward them if the situation presents itself, going to the dinner because I would like us to (although that would also require me to explain that J, someone that my son doesn’t know, died and that’s what the event is all about). All the cousins would be there which is its own mixed bag.
I wish I didn’t scrutinize every move; my therapist would call it my being a hamster on a wheel. Even though I can’t say that I like things the way they are, I do know they aren’t going to be different, at least in terms of my parents perceptions and treatment of me. I just wish it didn’t have to impinge upon how I live my life when things like holidays or life events are concerned. But I guess that’s the essence of estrangement.