Thursday, December 28, 2006

The (other) impending arrival

Like most daughters, I have had a tumultuous relationship with my mother. In some ways we are so much alike it's almost unbearable, and in other ways we are quite different. She has a very strong personality, that's only been amplified by years of hard knocks. My parents split up when I was 8, and my mom raised brother and I alone while teaching in a female-unfriendly science department at a 4-4-4 public university. She worked incredibly hard to raise good kids and be a more conscientious teacher than many. Along the way, I think she lost the ability to speak softly and let things roll off her back. Or maybe she didn't have those traits to begin with. But she is also strongly maternal and very family-oriented. The loss of her mother in October 2005 and the consequent estrangement from her siblings (as a result of a very ugly and protracted estate situation) has occupied much of the last year for her, a year that was also her first in retirement. She's been on anti-depressants since this summer, but was hoping to get off them this winter.

With that as background, let me share that she is moving to Utopia for the next three months. She has a short-term lease on a furnished townhouse and she is planning to take a couple of classes winter term at the unversity. She is also looking forward to "being grandma." Basically, the arrival of the first grandchild provided an amazing excuse for her to leave behind her regular life for a while and to try something new in a place she has connections. I agreed to have her here partly in the hope that she would be helpful around the house, etc in the weeks after Mini arrives. But mostly, I thought it would be a good idea for her to get out of the rut she is in, one in which she calls me every few days to tell me about the latest disaster with her siblings and often degenerates into an angry, crying mess. Since college, I've had with multiple weekly hour-long phone calls where she does most all of the talking, because she doesn't have any other adults to talk to. She was so busy working and mothering all those years that she doesn't really have any friends. Well, she had her mother.

And as her arrival has approached and the pieces fell into place, I started to look forward to her presence. Maybe it was the holiday without family or maybe it was nesting, but I started to think how neat it would be to have her around for help and company in those weeks between when fish goes back to work and when I truly get my feet back on the ground. I knew I would need to set limits about when she could visit and to make sure that she was actually doing extracurriculars besides being Grandma. But those seemed reasonable. Usually my tolerance for my mom's visits is on the order of 4-5 days, but I was starting to think that with these arrangements, it might be something like 4 or 5 weeks before she drove me up the wall.

But today she and I got a piece of unwelcome news that changes both of our feelings about her stay in the PNW. Her sister, the chief antagonist in the family drama, has apparently moved to a town about 10 miles from Utopia. Apparently, she has been living there for months without telling the rest of the family. Her son, my cousin lives in that town, and my aunt's presence says quite a bit about why he hasn't returned my emails or calls this fall.

So now my mom feels she's not getting to flee the family situation and that she'll run into her sister at every inconvient opportunity. And I feel like it's just downpoured on my parade. I won't be getting that helpful grandma figure I was starting to look forward to. Instead, I'll get the child-mother, alternately furious, frustrated, and forlorn. And I don't want to be dragged down there with her.

I'm not looking for any words of reassurance or indigination from this post. I just thought you all should know about the probably addition to the regular cast of characters on this blog. Because I'm sure this won't be the last thing I have to say here on the topic.


Sicilian said...

I am sorry for the family saga. . . .all families have issues. I hope your mom will stay around and enjoy you and Mini. . . I know it is hard to boss your mom. . . . but maybe you can let her see that she can have a life without running from the family. Ciao

Goat mother said...

I too am very sorry to read this. It sounded like everything was going so well. Not to sound corny, but maybe there is a higher power working here & maybe just maybe the 2 new grandmas will find an excuse to start communicating positively. Keep us posted on this & don't hesitate to call & chat. thats what friends are for. We love you Science Woman.