August 7, 2022

Transitions

I know I promised you the first glimpse of Greece, but life has interceded and for no other reason than to get this off my chest, we’re going to diverge from the core theme a bit.

My relationship with my mother and father has been tenuous at best for all my life. My parents came together as the result of a child conceived out of wedlock. At the time, 1957, the thing to do when this happened was to get married. In those days that was the result. Not so much nowadays.

That child was me, and my creation was the beginning of 36 years of unhappy marriage for my parents. In many ways, it was apparent that they, or at least my mother, blamed me for her unhappiness. Honestly, when growing up, this was never apparent to me and it was what it was.

This all changed when I was in college and met the Love of My Life, my wife Melanie. Melanie was not burdened with any of these ghosts, and while her parents had their foibles, they were truly loving and caring parents. My in-laws and I developed a close bond early on, and I considered them more parents to me than my own parents. Every action from them had one motivation, love.

In any event, this went on for some time after I married, when after 36 years of marriage, my parents decided it was time to divorce. My first question to my mother was, what took you so long?

Some time before, Melanie and I had brought children into our lives, and to be kind it was an eye opening experience for me. While I love Melanie dearly, the love that I feel for both my children is literally without bound or limits. This was truly an earth shattering realization on my part as I had never felt anything like this before.

During this part of our lives, the relationship between my parents and I continued to deteriorate, so the natural reaction was to distance ourselves a bit from the unpleasantness.

Unfortunately, the lessons taught by my parents were well learned, and the relationship between Melanie and I suffered. My son was about 2 when we made a decision to seek counseling. We were living in Slidell, at the time and found a therapist to work with us.

At the first meeting, about half through the session, the therapist reaches into her desk and takes out a sheet of paper with 10 questions on it. She asked me to fill it out. This was the “standard” test for depression and I answered yes to 8 of the 10 questions. She then provided the result and to be kind I was floored. Honestly had no idea.

This was the beginning of a search for relief, and while that’s the topic for another day, I can say while it took a while, I’m completely free from this demon.

What this did highlight was the fact that both my parents suffered from depression, my mother particularly so. The binge-purge episodes brought on by stress in her life were frequent residents in our household. The one thing I remember were the Christmas morning explosions as she had worked herself into a tizzy with the run up to the holiday.

My maternal grandparents are (were) 2nd cousins, and I strongly feel that this definitely exacerbated the depression, as my mother and her 3 siblings all suffer from it.

After coming to this realization, I reached out to my mother and tried to explain that she didn’t need to feel this way, but she would have nothing to do with it.

I’ve always been close to my grand-mother. When her partner, Frank, passed away, she reached out to Melanie and I and asked us to be a part of her life. So, we happily did so, developing a close bond, but in the interim gaining my mothers scorn as she was convinced I had my sights on my grandmothers money.

Melanie and I were at my Grandmothers house one day when my mother came in. After a terse hello, she sat at the table and began talking about something or another. My daughter and son came in a bit later, and when they entered the room my mothers says “Oh, it’s you“…

At that point I decided that I was done. It’s one thing to treat me poorly, but no one is going to treat my children poorly, at least not on my watch. So we left that day, and made it a point to avoid my mother whenever possible, and to just shield the kids when not.

Katrina became a part of our lives shortly after, and there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for family get togethers for quite some time. My grandmother was living in Plaucheville while her house was being rehabbed, and we visited her a couple of times until her house was ready and she returned back to Metairie. Our house had been flooded, so will lived with some friends for the 9 months it took to get the house rehabbed.

Life slowly returned to semi-normal, but the company I was working for laid me off as they had never really known what to do with me. My skills and talents threatened some of the status quo there and I was basically shoeboxed into a very cursory, non-productive role.

I bumped into an acquaintance from a previous job at UnderWater Intervention in New Orleans in 2007. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him that I was looking for a job. He put me in touch with my current employer, who is in the Northern Virginia area.

We had been trying to sell the house after rehabbing without much luck during this time. We had done a proper rehab job on the house and missed the wave and thus were like thousands of other people who wanted out of the area that had put their houses up for sale.

Melanie and I were in Virginia on our 2nd job interview when the message came in from our Realtor that we had an offer on our house within the acceptance zone. I’m not superstitious, but we took that as a sign, and accepted the offer of the job and house.

So we returned home, and packed up to depart for Virginia.

As a last gasp to attempt to re-establish a relationship with my parents, I made it a point to visit both of them the day before we departed. Neither went particularly well, most especially so with my mother. As I left her house she says to me “Have a nice life”….

Melanie and I had decided to take our time transitioning to Northern Virginia. After dropping Rusty, our dog, off with my daughter in Oxford, we took a leisurely drive around the southeast. We visited St. Augustine, Augusta, Charleston en route to Asheville where we were going to stay with my aunt and uncle for a couple of days.

We had just gotten to my aunt and uncle’s house when we got word that my Grandmother had had a hemorrhage and was dying. She had specifically asked to see us. So, we jumped in the car and drove all night.

I dropped the family off at my grandmothers house and went to see my grandmother in the hospital. She was very happy to see me. We talked for quite some time, and I told her she could survive this, but she was adamant it was time for her to go. So, the vigil began.

She was conscious for a day or so after, but was soon non-responsive. I was with her one morning when my mother burst into the room while I was there. It was clear she was not pleased at my presence. We were sitting there, when my son and daughter came in the room, and my mother lashed out at them demanding they leave.

At that point I had said my farewell to my grandmother, and any further presence on my part was going to do nothing but create more angst. I kissed my grandmother gently on the forehead, saying “good bye darling”, standing up to see the absolute hate in my mothers eyes. I said good bye and left.

That was in July of 2007, and that was the last time I saw her.

Some 18 months ago, my brother Matt reached out to me via text message. He and I had never had much of a relationship as he is both 10 years younger than me and adopted, so there were few bonds.

I responded to his message, and we have a developed a wonderful rapport. It’s tremendous having a brother in my life. We just talk on the phone and “shoot the breeze” nowadays. Thanks Matt, for reaching out. “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din“.

On Tuesday, Matt texts me asking if I can call him. I do and he tells me that mom is dying. She has had Alzheimer’s/dementia for a while and he found her walking on the street in front of his house. My mother’s house is around the corner from his. After a bit of terse interaction with my mother’s husband, Matt decided that she would stay with him and his wife for a bit.

After a couple of days, it’s clear she isn’t going to survive, thus the call to me. I was in New Hampshire last week, but we talked for some time.

On Thursday, Matt calls our home number, yes we still have a land line, and tells Melanie that mom has passed away. She relays that information to me on Thursday night.

I talked to Matt last night, and while he hasn’t begun the efforts to settle the estate, they are going to cremate my mother and have a memorial in a couple of weeks. He seems flustered by all the to-ing and fro-ing which is to be expected.

After saying all that, I’m really just here trying to get a handle on my feelings about all this.

My relationship with my mother was fraught with angst, but she was my mother. I feel a bit both relieved and saddened. I’m truly saddened as I would have loved to have had a relationship with her, but it was not to be so. Not my choice, but still unfortunate.

The one positive takeaway from my relationship with my parents was to guide me in my relationship with my children. I oftentimes say it’s more important knowing what not to do than what to do and that is definitely so in this case.

That’s enough of that for now. If you read through to the end, thanks. If not, well, I understand….

written by Chris - Posted in Yapping