[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.