I have come a long way toward accepting the estrangement from my parents (and, vis a vis, my sister and her family). Fixing it is not a possibility given the mental health issues with my mother and my father’s dependence (post stroke) on her. It isn’t even so much about managing it anymore as are paths rarely cross. Yet, it is a constant in my life, the missing of my nuclear family.
There is nothing about my mother that I miss (not to be confused with the missing and longing I have for A mother). When our relationship was predicated on her controlling, belittling, chastising, manipulating, blaming and criticizing me, what’s to miss? I miss the idea of my dad, the unbiased, non-judgmental man he used to be, the buffer between me and my mom.
When a specific opportunity presents itself that allows my dad to see us, I still try to make that happen. My older son’s school has a Dads & Special Friends Breakfast in conjunction with the school’s Book Fair so I asked my husband what he thought of including my dad. My husband was fine with it. We emailed my dad about a month ago (and by we I mean I emailed him as my husband) and he was interested in attending.
The breakfast was this morning and my dad arrived here promptly at 7 (it made for quite an early morning for company, even though we are early morning people). He’s nothing if not prompt. My older son, with his loving exuberance, greeted him with a huge hug as he squealed, “Graaaandpaaaa!!!!! to which my father responded with, “I haven’t seen you in over a year, since your 6th birthday”. I watched this all unfold while giving Baby G his bottle in our room.
It was hard for my dad to engage me, even though we’ve had benign encounters recently. He is firmly planted in the ‘this is how you want it’ camp. He doesn’t know that none of these visits would occur but for me. In fact, I think he thinks this one was all my husband’s doing, unbeknownst to me. That’s how he behaved anyway.
I only briefly spoke with my husband following the event. He said that my dad was quiet, almost silent, and he can’t recall him actually speaking even two words. Because my older son is so engaging, that must have made for an awkward time. My dad lacks interpersonal skills so I would never expect him to lead conversation, but was surprised that he didn’t make an effort to chime in. It makes me wonder why he wanted to go at all.
My uncle & aunt were here for my older son’s 7th birthday party over the weekend. My uncle accompanied my husband to pick up the food for the party. It was during their brief trip that my uncle (who really can’t be trusted to know the truth about anything) told my husband that my parents don’t bring us up (negatively) anymore and he took that to mean we were in their good graces (as if!) again and that my brother-in-law is persona non grata now as she feel he’s a lazy good for nothing. He went on to say that the real ‘issue’ is that my parents hate the house we bought, that, in fact, he and my mom have continued looking at houses for us, and, that my mother said she’d even pay for us to move. Ummmm, hold up. I thought the ‘issue’ was that she has undiagnosed borderline personality disorder with narcissistic and paranoid tendencies, but I digress.
I know that I’ve come a long way as I had almost no reaction to this news other than to be interested in how the conversation came about and to write about it here. Crazy is as crazy does, but WTF is up with that?
Getting back to the breakfast this morning, while there, my son’s upcoming play was mentioned, something I wouldn’t have brought up because it would include my mom wanting to attend. I’m not sure now if they plan to go or if the date/time registered with my dad, but I won’t be following up on it.
I’m writing about this because, well, because I am carrying around sadness from it. Sadness that it is what it is, that we are fractured beyond repair, and that the best I can hope for is navigating what is going to be the rocky road ahead where I pick and chose isolated events where my dad can be a grandfather to my sons (but, just in typing that, I know that isn’t even true, that these brief, few and far between visits don’t count as a relationship). Rocky in that my older son misses the idea of his local grandparents (he commented that he wished his grandma could have attended the breakfast, too). There is no such thing as doing the right thing (and, by whom, really) because I know they are incapable of having a substantive relationship with anyone, but me (and us) in particular.
What is the pay-off for me in even caring that he gets to see us? The hope that in the final analysis, presuming they both pass before me, that my conscience will be clear? Or the hope that if my mother passes first there might be an opportunity for reconciliation with my dad? Or am I trying to smooth things over just enough that my sons aren’t disinherited? Is it about me being adopted that makes me do any of this at all, to care even this much?
It’s just something I carry around with me. Like a rock in my shoe.