My mom has decided that she’s mad at me. Therefore, when I talk to her on the phone I feel like I’m in one of those commercials for spearmint candies/gum where things freeze when someone blows their breath. I can feel the temperature dropping precipitously as she tells me that ‘Everything is great… very relaxed… no issues… no issues at all here… doing great!’ in a crisp and calculated voice. “What have I done now?! I’m 5,000 miles away, not sure how I could have made her mad.” These thoughts go through my mind everytime I talk to her. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been getting over it and seems to be the norm when I talk to her on the phone lately. I decide to see if getting the kids on the phone quicker makes her soften up. Yep, while she talks to them, her demeaner changes completely and she becomes the sweet grandma she always is. As soon as I get on the phone though… a Evil Frosty reemerges.
“Well, at least she is with it enough to be mad at you”, says my brother who is on his way to visit them. “Don’t worry so much and don’t take it personally. She’s always been really tough with you anyway.” ‘Has she?’ I wonder. I guess I never thought about it but when I ask him, he seems to be convinced that the typical mother-daughter tension that existed between us is clearly me getting the short end of the stick. Hmmm.
In the meantime, I hear from my father that I don’t call enough and that if it’s not too much of an inconvenience, to call and that he would be happy even if it was just once in a while. ‘Once in a while! I call you every few days! What more do you want?!’ Talking on the phone does not keep him from sending me upteen emails with endless articles and requests to check out this or that or to see his progress on this website or get my thoughts on this business idea or… (you get the point). Enough!
It is true that because I am the only daughter, my parents expect more out of me than they do of my brothers. They believe my brothers have their in-laws to care for and I have them. I guess I always bought into that and never had a need to question it. Fortunately my in-laws are wonderfully healthy and, while there is no doubt that they have needs, the two will never compare. Their motto is ‘live and let live’ – meaning, if you want to see us, you know where we live – We won’t bother you and you don’t bother us. Their lack of dependence and my husband’s saintly status (really… got a letter from St. Peter a few years ago granting him a fast pass straight to heaven when he’s ready) has provided me with the opportunity to not have to question this assumption until recently.
Yet, when I heard my brother say it on the phone, so matter of fact, such an obvious truth… it really pissed me off. Why should they be harder on me that on my brothers? Why do they expect more dedication and attention from me than them? How dare they?! I was offended, angry and done. ‘That’s it! No more!’ I yelled in my head.
Then my conscience helped me realize that while they probably did set the expectation, I did take on the charge and continued to feed the beast over the years. Not really fair get mad about it now, is it?
So, continues the journey towards setting healthy and appropriate limits with them. So continues the journey towards breaking the co-dependence and accept that it’s OK for my brothers to share in the responsibilities, that I don’t have to always be the one who comes to the rescue or sacrifices the most. So, continues the journey towards not defining myself by the tone either of them uses on the phone. One step at a time, one day at a time.
I am saddened by the fact that my mom is mad at me and I have no idea why but I can’t let that be a reflection of me as much as I need it to be a reflection of where she is and her disease.