I decided that I would arrive just late and leave early to the memorial. Depending on how it went, we’d go, as a family, to the dinner following. On my way there, I called my childhood friend and told her I needed a mantra. (As an aside, I feel juvenile and not like the mature, 47 yr old woman that I am that I have to call a friend prior to an encounter with my estranged parents). She quoted my recent FB status and said, “Don’t take the bait”, which was exactly the reminder I needed.
I ended up sitting two rows behind my parents and sister (who, because her MIL is visiting, came alone). The service was lovely. My three aunts (J’s surviving sisters) sang multiple hymns and their harmonies were beautiful. What struck me most was that I was alone. Alone in the pew at the back of the room, whilst my family and extended family were all seated together. It just struck me, over and over, peripheral; I’m an outsider amongst my own family.
Only at the conclusion of the service did I catch my mom looking around, undoubtedly wondering if I was there. I wanted to give love to my aunts, so I quickly made my way to the front. They were all so glad I was there. Too glad, really, as if they thought I wouldn’t come. I hugged everyone and felt my mom’s eyes burning the back of my head. She cut a wide swath around me, her eyes never lifting to meet mine; mine darting away just in time. As I hustled my way out of the room, I gave my dad’s arm a squeeze and said hello, and I was out the doors, in my car, and out of the parking lot before anyone else came out.
We were the last ones to arrive at my aunt’s house for dinner, which worked out well. My dad wasn’t there, for whatever reason. I saw my mom and my sister, in another room and said hellos to those in my path. My husband was carrying the baby who is such a magnet, so it took a long time to make our way through the house. It was the first time in many months that people were seeing him, seeing us.
My mom and I never spoke or interacted directly. She is so awkward around me, so unable to approach me yet always seeming to orbit me. My sister, on the other hand, without the distraction of her husband and kids, was on me right away and throughout the night. The running theme was that her kids asked about us daily (I haven’t seen her children since March and am truly unsure if they know who I am), pray for us nightly, and that we should get together. She also made clear that her oldest son had made great verbal strides in kindergarten and cited a ‘verbalization’ test and his comparative scores. I was happy for her, for him, but sad that she felt she need to tout his accomplishments as if something about him was the reason we’re all estranged.
My husband and I succeeded in avoiding any kind of confrontation. The most bizarre exchange occurred when we were out back and put the baby on the grass. My sister was yammering at us and I saw my mom watching us from inside. She made her way out and directly toward Baby G, squatted down to him and kept saying, “where’s your mama? Where’s your mama? Crawl to your mama.” It was odd since I was right there but, whatever. I ended up walking away to find my older son and my husband told me that my mom then rubbed the baby’s back and said, “bless you, bless you, bless you” before getting up and walking away.
We left shortly after that. Even though nothing actually happened, I was emotionally drained. It is so hard for me to be around my mom and sister and just placate, deflect, humor. Yet, that is what I am required to do to keep the peace and since having a real dialogue of any substance is futile I do just placate. And, it’s nothing new, really. In order to ‘fit’ in with my family growing up, I stifled myself and acquiesced so as not to cause problems. And, then, as a teen, when I found my voice and rebelled it was tense all the time. My parents, never having gotten to know me, didn’t know what to make of me. They kept trying to get me to see things their way, get me to conform, get me to be less of myself because who I was (and open book, an emotional, sometimes bleeding heart, a deep well of unrequited feelings) ran contrary to who they thought I should be.
I fully expect to hear from one of them now, not that it matters other than it puts me a bit on edge. With the holidays approaching, I’m on edge anyway.