11 August 2009
My fears about today turned out to be true, at least somewhat. The funny thing is that they came to pass because of something old and familiar rather than from seeing Aunt Madeline for the first time in about 30 years.
You see, I didn't get to talk or spend as much time with her as I'd hoped I would. I had expected to go to her current home, which I'd never before visited. Instead, she, Mom, Dad and I went to lunch at a local restaurant. That in itself wasn't bad, but Aunt Madeline, who's confined to a wheelchair, had to sit at one end of a table. I sat on one side; Mom and Dad sat opposite me. So, I was face-to-face with them, and Aunt Madeline was a few feet off to my side, which made it more difficult to talk with her.
Worse than that was the palpable tension between Mom and Dad. Much of their relationship has seemed to be based on mutual antagonism, for as long as I can remember. What they argue about, or the way in which they argue it, doesn't matter so much as the almost childish peevishness and antagonism--or pure-and-simple egotism--that underlies so many of their disagreements.
They've been talking about moving up this way, but each of them has different ideas about what they should move into. Couples argue about this sort of thing all the time, but when Mom and Dad do it, they dominate everyone around them. It's not that they're loud or physically violent; it's the hostile energy that envelops everything and everyone around them.
It's been years since I've been with Mom and Dad at the same time I've been with another family member, so I'd forgotten about this trait of theirs. They want to draw you into their argument--each on his or her side, of course--and they will brook nothing but total agreement. You can't say, "Well, I can see how she's right about X, but he has the right idea about Y;" by saying such a thing, you're siding with one or the other of them--at least in their eyes.
Worst of all, if you try to talk to someone else, one or the other of them will interrupt you, or simply make it difficult to talk with that other person.
I have to remind myself of what I've just said because for a time, I couldn't help but to wonder whether their behavior was a backlash against me. After all, there are people who were very friendly to me over the phone or via letters (whether the e- or snail-mail variety) but who didn't like me so much when they saw me in the flesh, as Justine. As two examples, of course, I'm talking about my male friend Jay (not Jay Toole) and Elizabeth.
But I remembered that Mom and Dad treated me warmly when I saw them last week. And Aunt Madeline, although we didn't talk much, seemed happy to see me.
Another thing: Mom and Dad are now staying with the brother who broke off his (and his family's) relationship with me after I "came out." Last week, they stayed at the home of my other brother. He's been very busy lately, and his wife and my mother haven't always been on the best of terms. So they didn't feel particularly welcome there. I don't think the brother who doesn't speak to me or either of the sisters-in-law are particularly happy, to say the least, when Mom and Dad talk to me from their homes, even if Mom and Dad are using their own cell phone.
It didn't help that I arrived late, even if through no fault of my own. Things like that annoy Mom and frustrate Dad to the point of not wanting to deal with the situation. Even after I calmly explained that the subway sat in a tunnel for god-knows-how long, causing me to miss the first bus I'd intended to take, and the driver of the bus I took didn't notify me of my stop (I asked and sat right by him), they were annoyed with me. I could read their thoughts: Well, even after the surgery, he's still a fuckup.
I dunno. I'd like to think that the way they acted had to do with their own issues. But it's hard not to wonder.