Saturday, December 20, 2008

Relativity

Girls Night @ my house last night was a wonderful success. Am I exhausted today? Of course. that's what happens when you're 22 weeks pregnant with twins and you stay up eating sweets and dishing until after 1am. Any party that goes that late is fabulous, right?

These women are real, and entertaining, and a true blessing to me (even though I don't see or talk to most of them outside of our girls night). I always feel so lucky that I can send out an invitation and they'll come over.

Because they are real, they talk about real issues, and last night we were talking about parents. One of the girls, her MIL was my first belly toucher - back at 6 weeks when it was super creepy. She has mental health issues that endanger her well being. Another one's mother had lap band surgery and didn't tell anyone in the family. She's addicted to narcotic prescriptions and sleeps all day, every day.

So, relatively speaking, my own parent issues aren't that bad. But it is all relative. And I feel so let down by my parents. And I think that all of our dreams and thoughts about the kind of parents we would like to be are bringing this to a head for me right now. I've already shared my daddy issues. And right now I'm struggling with my feelings about my mother.

My mother divorced my father when I was two because he cheated. She didn't try to work it out. She found out he cheated, and the next day there was a for sale sign in our yard. That was her choice. So, for a long time, it was just me and her. She had this boyfriend, G., who I disliked, but she dumped him when she met my step father.

My Step Father has addictive personality disorder, and before this manifested itself in alcoholism, he was always rushing from one hobby to the next, and she followed. This ranged from airplanes to sprint cars to bowling. And by addictive, I mean manic. So, for bowling, it was Sunday night mixed doubles, Monday night women's league, Tuesday night men's league, and 9-pin tournaments on Friday and Saturday nights. My parents literally lived at the bowling alley for several years. So much so that I refuse to bowl today.

When they were off pursuing his many hobbies, I was usually home, alone. My step-siblings lived with their mother. I was an only child. We lived in the country, so I was isolated. I had lived in town, with my mother, and had this idyllic life with her. And now I lived alone in the country.

When I was a junior in college, my step father had a psychotic break from an old Vietnam war memory. He quit his job as a research and development engineer and bought a bar. He began drinking heavily. By the time I had met my husband, my step dad had drank away the bar, been in several alcohol-related incidents injuring himself but thankfully not others, and decided that his new obsession would be building a cabin for them in Wyoming.

So, they moved out west, and built their cabin. She thought this was the only way he could stop drinking - by running away from his 'friends' at the bar. Obviously, running away never solves anything. At my wedding, my parents broke into the bar before noon, and I had to ask my step-brothers to escort their father upstairs to his room when he could no longer stand or form sentences. Unfortunately, this was the way all of our weddings went. At my little brother's wedding a few year's later, my step father kept drinking vodka straight. Every time I caught him, I would throw it away. He got angry, and I bawled like an idiot asking How could you do this to us? How could you do this to my mother? confronting him on the bs he had pulled since they moved, him denying it, and my mother quietly confirming my version of events. I understand this was not helpful to him, and in no way would ever force him to go back to treatment, but it definitely made me feel better - she actually didn't cover for him for once. And he had to face the crap that he either doesn't remember because he blacks out, or she allows him to deny because she wants to avoid conflict.

They have no money. My mother says she 'retired' but she was like 48 and had no savings. They live off of his social security (he's older). He still drinks heavily, even though he's been to rehab. He lives about 2 hours from the closest VA hospital, so he doesn't get the counseling he needs for his PTSD (for which he also gets money as a military disability). They are isolated from the family so they hide their problems - money, alcohol, depression, etc. And they are super defensive if you try to ask them about any of this, or offer help in the form of money, etc. When I saw them the week before Thanksigiving during an impromtu girls trip with my sister where we met the whole family mid-way, I discovered my step father had wrecked their new vehicle, and that they weren't going to come home for Christmas because they had to come up with a bunch of money to pay it off, because it was being totaled by the insurance company and so they had to pay off their loan, and they were upside down on their loan.

Obviously, her life is complicated. She has an alcoholic husband. She can never have anything nice. So, when she's worried about money, she sits in her cabin chain smoking and as she calls it 'retreating from reality' into books she gets from a free book exchange at the senior center.

This is not the life I would want for my mother. So, I am sad for her. I am disappointed that she enables him. I worry what her life will be like with him, and I know how much she loves him, so I worry about how unhappy she would be if she left him, or if he finally does kill himself in one of his drunken stupors. And I am angry that she is not stronger. She was a strong, independent, single mother. She took great care of me when I was younger. I think about how she left my father after one incident without blinking, she just kicked him out. And I contrast that with now, stuck with a man who is sick. And I'm indignant that Christmas with the family does not mean more to her. I myself would go into credit card debt if it meant I could be home. Christmas is meaningless to me, without my family.

I am grateful to have my step-siblings. We all talk daily to at least one of the others in the group. And as the holidays approach, those calls become more frequent. They help me to understand the situation from their perspective - it is their father with the drinking problem. We vascillate between poking fun at his antics, to worry, to anger, to fear. I wonder how we all turned out so healthy and balanced, and why it is that we all make better choices. How did we all evolve from that home? How do we have so little in common with our parents? And ultimately, why do we have to be the adults in this relationship?

I almost offered to pay my mother's way home this year. We did this last year for them. But they are too proud to let it happen again. So, we will miss out on them. We kids will be together, because this is important to us, and our parents will be alone in a cabin on a mountain. My sister gets so mad, she says Christmas is kind of a predictable expense. It happens at the same time every year. She says a lot of other things, but that one has been stuck in my brain since we drove back from this last visit together. She has a point. And our parents kind of suck. I'm sad. And I want to be angry. Because pity means they are weak, but I'm mad, because I know my mother is stronger than this. And I'm mad at him for taking her away from me with all of his addictions, not just the alcohol. And at the same time, I'm grateful she married him, because I love my siblings, and my life would be so empty without them.

I don't know why I had to get this off my chest. Maybe because I just watched Intervention. Maybe because I for sure don't want to repeat this with my kids. But mostly, I think that lately, I've been kind of feeling sorry for myself that BOTH of my parents are such colossal disappointments. I turned out okay, and I'm in no means a charity case. I always had food. I always had clothes. They each helped pay for my undergraduate degree. But they each fell short of my expectations of what parents should and could be. And as an adult, I feel like there is a void in my life, where a parental unit should be.

3 comments:

JamieD said...

I am so sorry. That is so much to deal with, on top of Christmas, your pregnancy and impending parenthood.

I wish I had some helpful advice but know I am always here to listen.

I am glad you had a good girls night! It sounds wonderful in so many ways!!

Jill said...

Glad you had a fun girls night! How wonderful!

I think that having these feelings are so normal in pregnancy. I strongly feel that we are the parents we choose to be, despite the up-bringings we may have had ourselves. ((hugs))

Elana Kahn said...

I'm so sorry you have so much on your plate. I hope things get easier for you!

I also gave you a bloggy award. Check out my blog to see it and pass it on!