It’s getting harder and harder to write all this down. Mostly because there’s so much happening so fast, I know I’m not processing too well. I’m scared I’ll never make sense of it if I don’t have some way to remember it. But even the act of writing it down is self destructive.
My mom also forgot my daughter’s birthday earlier this month. As Jill pointed out in comments last time, forgetting is a human thing. I had to ask myself if I was willing to hold myself to the standard I was holding my mother: am I the kind of person who would never forget a birthday? Hell no. Sometimes I get stressed and call my kids by the wrong name. So why was I giving my mother such a hard time?
Of course, the only response from my insides was this furious two-year-old temper tantrum, how if I were in my mother’s shoes I would be doing things SO MUCH BETTER.
I sat down and waited for the indignant screaming to exhausted itself. When it had, I said, “OK. Outline for me how to do this better. Tell me exactly what better looks like in this scenario.” I had no answer, even though I tried really hard to come up with one, and of course despite the fact I’d felt quite self-righteously confident the answer was not only obvious but simple.
Then I had to accept not only that my mom was doing the best she could, but that there was no better way to get through this. I had really been holding onto the idea that somehow this horrible situation was ultimately fixable if only my stupid mother would act right.
And then I cried a lot. The end.
My dad said an interesting thing when I saw him over Christmas. During our visits this summer and fall, he’d taken me aside when my mother was busy to tell me about “the woman” who had ganged up with the doctors to strip him of his driver’s license. The woman, of course, being my mother. He would cut his eyes toward her when he spoke, suspicion and anger in his tone.
According to my mom, my father has lost all memory of her as his wife. No memories of when they were young and carefree and beautiful, or her as the mother to his small children. He doesn’t remember the trust they built up in 40+ years of marriage. To him, she is simply the white-haired, pear shaped, wrinkly granny who tells him what to do all day, presumably lording her normal intelligence (and of course her ability to drive anywhere at any time!) over his failing skills. Can you imagine the animosity? Or on her end, front row seats to watch the man she loves and must care for learn to resent everything about her?
So when my dad pulled me aside to talk about Mom as she cleaned the kitchen this holiday, I was resigned to however worse it was going to be. Sure enough, he started in with “that woman” and cut his eyes over at her. But then, instead of listing all the ways in which he was annoyed by her, he said, “She really takes care of me” and “If I do what she says, things turn out OK.” He smiled, “It’s OK to trust her.”
He told me how something had broken them apart in the past, and he didn’t know her for a while (I think this is his recollection of the beginning of not knowing her) but that, “I… well, I love her.” He told me like I would be as surprised by this news as he was, like the shy introduction of a new stepmother. Looking back, I think he was trying to convince me (as his daughter and therefore respecting his opinion) that Mom was a good person.
My father fucking fell back in love with my mom.
After a lifetime of being exposed to articles about how You Are More Likely to Get Hit By Lightning Than Remarried After 40 (thanks Cosmo) and those horrible graphs about how all men are basically only attracted to 22 year olds (Thanks OKCupid) and basically a societal acceptance of the idea that as women age they become unworthy of male gaze, I am completely undone but this development. I had zero hope my dad would ever be anything but progressively worse, unkind and suspicious. Moreover, I guess it is one data point in the universe telling me that as I get old and wrinkled, there is hope that someone would love me for more than just the memory of who I used to be.
Finally, Little and I got tipsy following dinner at my parents and talked a bit about being angry with God (me) versus the more deflated God is Real, but He Doesn’t Care About You (Little). We stumbled over to Middle’s (who lives a few blocks from our parents) saying increasingly irreverent things and occasionally peering at the black Christmas sky in search of lightning inevitably coming to strike us down. By the time we got to Middle’s we were rage-laughing, and when Middle opened the door and asked us what on earth we were talking about, I shouted, “Divorcing God!”
Being quite a bit more God-fearing, black-n-white-thinking, never-drinking, Middle has been treating us with the social equivalent of staring bug eyed (and praying under her breath on our behalf) ever since. Little isn’t doing so great. I guess on top of everything else, feeling as though she’s gotten the “It’s not me, it’s you” breakup line from her deity of choice has not been much comfort in her grief.