On Wednesday, my mom left for six weeks and it feels lighter, as if everyone can take a deep breath. I feel awful saying that, but there it is. When she’s there, every moment sits on the edge of a knife. Is what’s happening true? Is it explosive? Am I saying the right thing? What, exactly, IS the right thing? I spent most of my teenage years slipping off the edge and crashing around on the eggshells below. As an adult, I think I’ve got it in hand but living together certainly makes it clear that I pretty well don’t have it in hand. This is not her fault, but it’s evidence of what brain chemistry can do to a family.

I’m taking a meditation class and I’m grateful that I’m able to find that place in my mind where I can just breathe and each moment is just what it is without judgement. Living with my mom is the opposite of that. Every statement could play out a dozen ways in an instant. I never know what (or who) to expect. I’m going to cook dinner could mean a great number of those things, most of which do not result in dinner. It’s hard to let go of anything as a result and that, in itself, antagonizes her. My having an opinion antagonizes her*.

While this is frustrating, it’s not impossible, at least not until you realize that belligerent stampeding has shifted into every part of your life. Even after two months, most of the dishes end up in the wrong cabinets. There is a persistent brown streak showing up on the back of the toilet seat that I clean every morning (if I didn’t, it would stay there indefinitely). The refrigerator and cupboards are bare while the amount of dirt accumulating in the house is stunning which, apparently, is the price we paid for being away over the weekend and not doing all the housework and grocery shopping.

I feel ungrateful and horrible but unbelievably, that’s better than rocking the boat. By the way, my mother has stated that they are planning to stay until June. I’m not sure if that was to get a rise out of me or truth. There’s no way to know for sure that doesn’t involve some sort of slamming door.



*For instance, she said I could sew curtains for the basement windows. I said that would be nice. She said they need to be blackout curtains and that the only place you can buy blackout fabric is from a place in Evanston, Illinois. I allowed as to how that didn’t seem right – maybe we could call our local shop? She huffed. She insisted that it wasn’t the right kind of fabric. With some prodding, she did check the local store and they carried it. She said she would use our existing curtains. While I wasn’t keen on that, it seemed like less work than trekking through a crocodile filled pit of opinions. She brought home sparkly tan velour and the blackout fabric. I wasn’t able to cover my concern about the velour in time and so she didn’t speak to me until the next day. She did sew the curtains but did not actually attach the blackout fabric to the curtain so it was less sewed and more hung. Have we talked about my feelings surrounding “done right” and “done enough”? I recall saying to her that it was fine if she made curtains but that I did not want them to cover the glass when pulled to the sides. I like light, I said. Please don’t limit the light coming into the basement. She said, of course! The curtains obscure half the window. Your father didn’t want to hang the rods out further, she says, as if I’ve made an unreasonable request in my own home. I want to velcro the curtain to your door, she says over dinner. I balk. This goes on. It’s awful.

8 Responses

  1. Would it be possible to temporarily rent a small place for your parents to stay that is not your house? I imagine it would be very tight financially, but this seems awful. I wish you peace.

    • Thanks Zach – I think that’s what reasonable folks might do. The fact that they actually have a house they could move in to is the kicker. I’m as understanding as the next person and I know they don’t have much in the way of furniture so I’ve been patient. But you’re right, it’s hard.

      • Wait, they can move in? I thought their house needed renovations or something. Obviously I’m just some stranger on the internet, but my unasked-for advice is to try again to set limits with your mom because she is walking all over all of your existing boundaries. And those limits can and maybe should include a deadline after which she absolutely has to be out of your house.

      • I KNOW. And hey, strangers on the internet are the best sort of strangers ;). You’re right on this one. Maybe Debra and I will find a solution with my dad before my mom comes back.

      • Maybe YOU should move into the house! Is it a nice house? Do you really need furniture?

  2. What Lemon Drop said. Who needs furniture?

  3. I am in awe of your ability to deal with all this and still function. I think it’s entirely possible that in your shoes, I would produce a tent and insist that one set of us or the other start living in the back yard.

    June, really? Because they need… more furniture? Am I getting that right? Because I’m pretty sure my folks could lend you some folding chairs and an air mattress if that’s what’s standing between them and moving out. (Or a tent… Just saying.)

    Mostly, I’m just indignant on your behalf, and I realize that’s not actually very helpful. Big hugs, though.

  4. Ugh. This sounds so stressful. You three are very brave to not punch anyone.

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