Thanksgiving with the Parents

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Tomorrow is back to work and reality.  I’ve been off for four days and no dancing but tomorrow we get back to the normal routine when I will have newer posts about dancing.

For today, I have to talk about Thanksgiving.  My parents came to our place and my brother and his family also came over.  It was good having them over and, while it was a lot of work, I just enjoyed making a big effort on the meal and spending time with them.  But it was a little sad as well.  I know that the number of future holidays that we have is limited and it always leaves me a little sad as I see them both becoming more limited and the effects of age become more obvious.  My dad is losing his vision which is especially difficult for him because it means that control over his life is slipping away and he has never liked allowing others to tell him what to do.  I know it was hard on him to hand over the driving duties to my Mom because driving was always something he did.  But he couldn’t see our flat screen TV so instead of being able to watch his Lions with my brother and me, he was upstairs sitting right next to the little TV in the kitchen trying to keep up with the game.  We didn’t know that was a problem until we found out later.  But, he can’t really keep up with the game either so I’m not sure it is something he really enjoys doing anymore.  I bought him a book for Christmas before I knew how bad his vision was and now I have to rethink that and find another option.

At this point, I feel sorry for him.  He is also thinking a lot about the end of life and I think he wants something to mark that he was here.  He talked to me about some things of his that he’d like to pass on but one is his stamp collection which takes up a whole room in their house.  I know nothing about stamps and, while some are interesting, it really isn’t something I want and neither does anyone else.  I think he really wants us to take some things of his so we’ll remember him but can’t really come across and say that because he’s never had that kind of relationship with us.  Well, my older brother is an exception but he wasn’t here.  He was a university professor and was used to having a captive audience that had to listen to him and he brought a lot of that home so he always talked at us without ever really learning to talk to us.  And the night after Thanksgiving was a painful demonstration.  After my brother’s family left, we were chatting but he just launched into several stories.  Most were recent histories of trips to visit relatives or old friends of his who I never knew but were dying or suffering from one ailment or another.  I played the good son and listened since it was clear he wanted an audience but I felt guilty because I was just bored silly and hoping it would end.  At one point, the dogs interrupted because they had to go out and I was happy for the distraction.  I hate that I felt that way but it is what it is.

I did try to have some different conversations with them.  Since they almost came down to watch me at showcase (and I’m really now glad they didn’t), I brought out a program and talked about it with them.  But, it really wasn’t what they wanted to talk about so we soon went back to old stories from him.  I suppose a lot of people feel this way but it is like I’m frozen in time when they are around.  They still see me like I was 16 and the impression they had of me there is locked into their heads and can’t be changed.  And it is true of my siblings as well.  Every time he comes down, he eventually makes some comment about my sister and wondering how she can afford things.  My sister had some issues as a teen but she is a grown woman with a secure life and her head very well screwed on.  She isn’t going to show up at their door at 3AM needing a place to live but it feels like he still thinks that is a possibility.  I’ve rarely relied on them for a lot of emotional support because my Dad was never the type you would ask for that.  My Mom was great at giving advice but she plays us off against each other so things you would tell her would inevitably be shared with the other siblings.  I’m the type who assumes confidentiality so once that happened, it limited what I would tell her.  There are many times that I wish I had a different relationship with them but I don’t share myself easily – even with them – and it never feels to me like they are truly interested in knowing who I am now so it is what it is.  This also adds to a lot of sadness I feel after one of their visits.

My Mom also has some serious short term memory issues.  We heard the same stories from her 2-3 times over the short period of time they were there.  Again, you just go with it because you can’t say “You told us that already” every time she opens her mouth.  The other part of the dynamic of them visiting is that, while they’ll celebrate 60 years together next August, they don’t appear to be that happy together.  She does run him down a lot when she talks to us without him there.  She’s said she stayed with him only because divorce was just not something her generation did and I think now she knows that he can’t take care of himself so there is no point in leaving.  So they put up with each other but neither of them seem to be very happy.

I know I will miss them when they are gone so don’t take any of this to mean something different.  I doubt I’m alone in having an interesting relationship with my parents; I think the sit com family is much more fiction than anyone wants to believe.  And, despite the issues, I think I had a good childhood.  We’re all a little screwed up in ways and carry some scars but I don’t have anything really badly to look back on.  I just wish they were happier people.  I’d like to stay with the happy memories of the weekend but seeing them now always comes with a price of a little sadness for how they are and how things might have been different.  Guess that just comes with the territory.

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