17 May 2007

Mom, Dad, and high spirited strife

I called my mother today, something that usually leaves me frustrated and lonely. I do love my parents, but I hate how they often make me feel about myself. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Tonight, instead of feeling like being shoved into a time machine and sent back to my teenage years, I just feel a bit sad for both of them.

My parents don't have a happy marriage. Until tonight, I thought theirs worked because of a friendship they shared after making a relationship last for more than 30 years. A bond that involved surviving poverty, addiction, and more mundane, but still poignant tragedies. Often I felt that I didn't quite understand their attraction, but I was convinced it was there amidst the arguments, silent treatments, and other forms of emotional abuse they heaped upon each other.

Mom told me that she despised Dad. This isn't a shock, really. I always thought they strongly disliked each other about 25% of the time. She went on to relate how serious their insults have become. Dad has become bitter and his insults are cutting too close to home. Mom is resentful of Dad's moodiness, and Dad, although voiceless in this particular conversation, I know is dealing with cancer, the operations that are disfiguring his face, and the stress of living in a home that is no longer truly his.

She went on to talk about how she wish she left him years ago, but she stayed with him for the kids, especially me according to her. I ignored her bid for martyrdom on my behalf, and listened to her claim that Dad married her for her steady income. I wouldn't doubt that he saw that as an attraction, but I doubt that it was all he saw in her. And it totally discounts the years of work he put in, especially after his sobriety.

She spoke for about ten or fifteen minutes. I didn't know what to say to her to make her feel better. I repeated my offer to take Dad here for a while this summer. I don't think her claims are totally out of line. I love my father deeply, but his depression rages deeply. He has a cruel streak, and I've been on the receiving end of it on more than one occasion.

My father's cruelness, however, is usually rooted in situations that cause him fear, anger, frustration, or sadness. I am not excusing it, but it's his coping mechanism. On the other hand, I don't think that my family has always extended the consideration he deserves. While his cancer is not life threatening yet, he has had medical problems that have threatened his life. He's also almost completely deaf.

He doesn't need to be coddled, but I think he is often ignored. Because he can't hear well, people don't bother communicating with him. He's also a man who has earned some peace and quiet. Something he's not getting in his home. My mom has earned it, too. I am just coming to the conclusion that they will never find it while they are still together.

But who am I to make any judgements about the situation there? I left home. I left the area. I don't regret it at all, but I often think that my family thinks I should.

I doubt that my parents will divorce. But before tonight, I thought there was more to their relationship than a shared past and a house they own on paper. I wish for the best for them. I just doubt they will overcome the crap that stands between them.