ANOTHER STORY, VERY SHORT

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The high functioning daughter is on the phone.  What a nice surprise.  “We’ve just rented a beach house for next August,” says the daughter.  “You’ll have to come out for a weekend. The kids will be back from day camp then.  And Bob and I will both have off.”

It’s only October. Such closely scheduled lives. But the mother knows she can’t say that. “Oh, lovely,” she replies. “Something to look forward to.”

Christmas and New Year’s come and go. Easter rolls around. The mother begins really thinking about summer, even though it’s still a few months off. She hardly ever sees these three grandchildren now they’re all in school and then rushing to after-school sports, music lessons and playdates. Not to mention the daughter, rapidly advancing in her architectural firm.  At least those are the excuses, when she brings it up.

“Which weekend should I plan on coming out?” she asks the daughter carefully at a dinner given by her son-in-law’s mother.

The daughter’s face assumes a familiar unpleasant expression, as if the mother’s question were entirely out of line. “No weekend, actually. There are none left. We owe such a lot of people. We’ve invited too many as it is.”

Did her daughter actually forget the October invitation? Or had it become inconvenient?  “I thought it was a big house,” says the mother, even now not having learned from experience. “I could also come during the week.” She hates herself for adding that.  For having to beg.

The daughter shakes her head decisively. “Not such a big house. No, it would just be too awkward. And we need the weekdays to recover from the guests.”  She offers a tight smile, suggesting that what she’d just said should be thought amusing.

The mother perseveres. “So does that mean I won’t be seeing you at all this summer?”  It sounds better for “you” to be taken as plural but right now she really means “you” singular — the “you” who used to be her difficult, brilliant much-loved baby girl.

“Looks like it,” says the daughter.  “There’s a lot going on. Maybe we can find a time in the fall. I’ll have to check with Bob.”

Why should she be surprised? For a long time, she’s been on tenterhooks with this daughter anyway. Should she have nailed down an August weekend for herself last October? Sent a confirming email ten months ahead? Who does such things with family? It’s been explained to her by others (counselor, family doctor, close woman friend) that the daughter may not be able to help it;  with this kind of disorder, she probably doesn’t even understand how it makes the mother feel. It’s not intentional. She shouldn’t take it personally.

The mother always nods. Easy for them to say.

It’s not their daughter, she thinks.  Not their heart that hurts.

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44 thoughts on “ANOTHER STORY, VERY SHORT

    • Thank you so much for your appreciation, Nancy. I was nervous about posting it. Is your hope a question? I have no daughters, neither of my sons is an architect or has three children. On the other hand, I do have friends my age who tell me things, and neighbors, and some experience of being off the radar of one’s own adult children. I also have an imagination. And much of what we write comes from inside us anyway, doesn’t it? So let’s leave your hope a hope….

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  1. Nina, it’s a heartbreaking tale that’s too often true. Adult children get busy with their own lives and their aging parents get left behind. How about a program for them like for kids! Leave No Parent Behind! Hmmm…Christine

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    • So glad you liked it, Julie. Actually, short as it is, this trifle of a story took about three days of tinkering… changing a word here, adding a word there. “Sweaty” and “nervous” would be more descriptive adjectives from my point of view, but that part’s over now, so I’m happy to exchange the sweat and nerves for “exquisite!” “Exquisitely written” from you is a triple compliment!

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    • I’m sure you were a wonderful daughter, Kate. I wish I had been, too. I was hampered by the 3,000 mile divide between us, plus the unpleasant truth that after I grew up my mother didn’t really like me very much.

      But that’s still another story. Which I began, with the Anna series last year, now to be found on the Fiction Page, but never finished. Never managed to write but a quarter of it or so, actually. The blog almost always gets in the way of the other kind of writing; I really must figure out a way to keep both going at once.

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  2. This is a sad story but one that unfortunately isn’t just fiction in many families all around the world. I enjoyed it all the more when I realised it wasn’t about you! I mean that in the nicest possible way.

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  3. The best thing that the daughter can do is stay as far away from such a judgmental, self-involved, infantilized mother. This distance is probably the only thing that allows her to remain functional.

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      • As a literary critic, I can say for sure that “psychoanalyzing” a writer on the basis of the texts they produce is as hopeless an enterprise as psychoanalyzing a reader on the basis of their reading. 🙂 A first-person narrator is never to be trusted. The greatest enjoyment in reading first-person narrative resides in teasing out the thing such a narrator betrays without really wanting to.

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    • Well, that’s an interesting idea, Van — although not one I thought of when writing it. Certainly the son in that song and the daughter in this brief fictional sketch deal with their parents similarly. But I do recall the last four lines of the song make it clear that it was tit for tat there: the son was treating the father as the father had treated him when he was a boy. Here, there’s no suggestion that the daughter is modeling her disregard of the mother’s feelings, consciously or unconsciously, on the mother’s disregard of the daughter’s feelings when she was growing up. Different, and more unwarranted, situation. Nice try, though. 🙂

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  4. I read this just after posting a reply to your reply to my comment on the goofing off post (I have spent today with my 35 year-old daughter and one of my sisters-in-law). Now I feel really sad for parents and children, who can’t easily have days such as I had today.

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    • The response to this post, on WP and also in email, suggests there are more parents than I would have suspected who experience the feeling of being of no importance whatsoever to their adult children. Yes, it is sad, but you should be happy to have such enjoyable times with your own daughter.

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    • Thank you for the lovely compliment on the writing, Barbara. Yes, quiet pain of one sort or another, such as the mother experiences here in this short short story, is more often than not invisible to others, and is likely far more prevalent than we suspect.

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  5. Earlier this week. I was just thinking about my relationship with my step children whom I brought up from the ages of 2,4 and 5 from 1960. I have great grandchildren that I have only seen on Facebook. ( the only reason I joined FB. ) You have great writing skills because I lived through the hurt you wrote about even though my step granddaughter’s wedding , to which I wasn’t invited , was in 2009. I will write out ” I must not dwell on the past’ 100 times as my son always tells me to. 😼I was asked by ‘Critical Voices’ to talk about blogging and getting old and only my son and daughter in law came to support me. The company have put it on uTube but no one , except my friends and the two above have seen it. Still, you can’t please everyone. I don’t receive your posts anymore or Chronicles of a AngloSwiss. Have they changed the layout since I’ve been away ?

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    • I’m so sorry, Margaret. At least you’re close to your daughter-in-law and son: that’s a considerable something. Some parents don’t even have that.

      About WordPress: yes, they seem to be constantly “improving” themselves, often not for the better. Falling off their “follow” list is not uncommon; it’s happened to me at least three or four times with blogs I follow. You just have to resubscribe, by clicking “follow” again. [ If you do, there are several posts since this one for you to catch up on. :)]

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      • When I look at my reader it says I am still following all the usual people and I haven’t altered my dashboard , so I don’t know what is happening. Best wishes to Princeton.

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      • The only suggestions I can make are: (1) unfollow, and then click “follow” again; (2) complain to WP; or (3) ignore the reader but click on the name of a blog on your “follow” list; that will bring you all that blogger’s posts, in reverse chronological order. One of those maneuvers should work. Best wishes to you in England, too. (Sorry, don’t know the name of your town.)

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