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.