[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]
For some mothers, the hard part is never over.
A high-functioning daughter is on the phone. Such a nice surprise. “We’ve just rented a beach house for next August,” she says. “You’ll have to come for a weekend. The kids will be back from day camp then. Bob and I will both have off.”
It’s only October. What 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 round. The mother thinks about summer. She hardly ever sees these young grandchildren now all three are in school and then rushing to after-school sports, music lessons, playdates. At least those are the excuses.
“Which weekend should I plan on?” she asks carefully at a dinner given by her son-in-law’s mother. The daughter’s face assumes a familiar unpleasant expression. “No weekend, actually. We owe such a lot of people. We’ve invited too many as it is.”
Did the daughter forget the invitation? Or had it become inconvenient? “I thought it was a big house,” says the mother, not having learned from experience. “I could also come during the week.” She hates herself for having to beg.
The daughter is decisive. “Not such a big house. And we need the weekdays to recover from the guests.” She offers a tight smile, as if what she’d said was amusing.
The mother perseveres. “So does that mean I won’t be seeing you this summer?”
“You” could be taken as plural. But the mother really means singular “you” — the “you” who used to be her difficult, brilliant, much loved baby girl. “Looks like it,” says the daughter. “Maybe we can find time in the fall. I’ll check with Bob.”
Why be surprised? For a long time, the mother’s been on tenterhooks with this daughter. Should she have nailed down her August weekend with a confirming email last October? Who does such things with family? It’s been explained by others (counselor, doctor, childless friend) that with this disorder, the daughter can’t know how it makes the mother feel. She shouldn’t take it personally.
The mother nods. Easy for them to say.
It’s not their daughter, she thinks. Not their heart that hurts.
6 thoughts on “WRITING SHORT: 47/50”
Oh God… cruel and oblivious to it. Can there be a worse combination?
Probably intentionally cruel is worse. But that’s a fine point. I hope neither of us need encounter either situation.
It’s just hard to make them understand the hurt in this. sigh…
Trying to “make them understand” appears to be a big mistake. It’s perceived as “unpleasant” or “difficult.” “Sigh” would seem to be the better alternative.
Sadly I find many of my friends who have grown children, have similar experiences–a distancing of the relationship which is painful and slowly developing–perhaps (putting on my therapist (retired) hat) its a way they are beginning to say goodbye. Maybe?????? Then again maybe the relationship was not as great as we thought it was–those little kids were
so adorable then!
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More painful for the mother (and/or father) perhaps than for the grown children, except in retrospect, when it’s too late for the grown children to do anything except regret that it wasn’t different. Certainly moving out and building one’s own life is healthy separation (which I suppose is a way of saying goodbye), but since tenderness and affectionate bonds between the generations do remain, more often than not — I must regard these outlier offspring, such as the daughter in this piece, as somehow different in kind. Whether or not the currently trendy application of labels like “spectrum-ish” is on point or not, it’s certainly true that some “children” seem never to outgrow the total self-absorption that was so adorable when they were little.