Why can't my Mom be grateful to people who help her? Why do we always insist on doing things the hard way? Why can't I learn to be more patient--it's been almost eleven years since her stroke, you would think I've learned by now.
Yesterday I had a chance to hang out with my half-brother, whom I didn't grow up with, and this was A Very Good Thing, as I happen to be a very strong believer in Communication and Open-ness and other generally positive, healthy family dynamics. Which the drive back from the coast perfectly provided for. I grew up essentially alone, and so there's something reassuringly (surprising? serendipitous? I don't quite know the right word for, 'pleasingly unexpected') about having a sibling as a so-called "Grown-Up."
But then today I get a message from my Aunts in Canada, and suddenly this other side of my family is dying and crying and yelling again, and I'm in the thick of it, doing my share, too, and it feels as though there's absolutely nothing I can do to make any of it better. In fact, I'm probably making things worse.
I asked Mom some hard, direct questions. About the properties in the Philippines. About what she wants. About why she never shows any gratitude or respect to me or my Aunts, who've done all we could to help her and satisfy her wishes. It sounds so stupid as I write this, because I have to remember that this woman hasn't spoken a coherent sentence in over a decade, and even before then she's always been stubborn and proud, and yes it certainly does run in the family, doesn't it? Of course she doesn't take kindly to being told how to live her life. The woman was a nurse for 20 years, of course she doesn't like being coddled or condescended to.
I suppose no small measure of this sturm und drang is due to living in two incredibly different families, and the strain and latent other-ness guilt clings and coils around my bifurcated identity. On Thursday I take Grandma to the hospital to talk about cataracts and narrow-angle glaucomas, and I debrief my aunts and uncles. On Friday, my half-brother, his girlfriend and I drive home from the coast, sharing dreams about families and homes. On Saturday I hear the news that an Aunt has cancer. Trouble is, it's (at least) two different families I'm talking about here. But there's only one me.
And I'm not even going to go in to what a Splendid thing Isolation is right now. (Every time the phone rings, I still hope it's her. Every time I drop by the post office, I imagine a letter from. I walk streets dreading and hoping to see her, and every day is a small wound that tastes of bitterness that I just can't afford anymore. Harden your heart, Catullus says.)
Mom, you're never going to read this, I love you and I wish I could take back some of the things I've said and done. But it's going to take me a very long time to forgive you, and if that means I'm an asshole of a son, well then, there it is.