Sunday, April 29, 2007

I want Ozzie and Harriett

Are you ever grown up enough to not feel like a child with your parents? I am sitting here wishing I felt strong enough, grown enough, to let my parents just be two people I know, and not two people whose actions profoundly affect me. Once again, they are in marital turmoil. My mother is borderline suicidal, completely hysterical. I haven't spoken to my father, but at the moment I am not sure I want to.

The background: my father is out of town at a jazz festival. The day after he left his girlfriend called my mother, to announce her existence. She called every day, several times a day. She was upset, because she believes my father is with another, different girlfriend. My mother did not know my father was cheating. AGAIN. My father has called to confess, now that he has been caught out. He is not particulary contrite. He initially agreed to marriage counseling, but has called back to say he doesn't know that he can do that.

My mother is 76 years old. She has no job skills. She has no income. She is in poor health. My father is 67. He is also not in great health. He has very little income, and much of it is not documented.

I am trying not to judge who is right or wrong here. Their life is a mess, their marriage problems their own. Except. Part of me is feeling 11 years old, finding out about my father's first affair. That time was a long term one, with my mother's best friend. A woman I called "aunt" and adored. I feel angry all over again, feeling that my life has been turned upside down.

I was supposed to host a joint birthday party this upcoming weekend for my father and my mother-in-law, who share the same birthday. I don't know if I can do it now. My mother wants me to have the party, but she will not attend. She doesn't want anyone to know why. I don't feel particularly like celebrating, and I can't really tell people why I am cancelling, if I cancel.

I am freaking out that I may have to support my mother, with whom I have a rather uncomfortable relationship. I have visions of future holidays, all minefields of hurt feelings. How do I explain to my son what is going on with grandma and grandpa? I know my mother is really hurting. But I also know she is a difficult woman, and I have never understood how my father has hung in all these years...I feel guilty for not being more sympathetic, and for being focused on how this all affects ME and my family.

I want Ozzie and Harriett to be my parents. I want a Norman Rockwell kind of life. I want to wake up and have this all be a bad dream.

1 comment:

Kitten Herder said...

Few people have Ozzie and Harriet for parents. Parents are, after all, just people.

Here's my 2 cents, based on watching you with your folks and continuously coming to terms with my own odd parental situation.

I think you should throw a party for your Mother-in-Law. Explain to your parents that you are not up to feeling in the middle and would prefer not to sully the celebration for B.

Offer to have a civilized lunch with your Dad at some future point, as long as the topic of his marriage is completely off the table. While you are an adult, your parents still have power to make you feel like you should be responsible somehow. You can't and shouldn't be.

As to explaining things to M, I strongly encourage you to be as honest about your understanding and feelings about the situation. Make sure that he knows that you still love his grandparents, but that they are people with foibles. It is our imperfections that people come to love about us, even if they are frustrating and inconvenient. You might want to mention that too.

As an aside, I recently had to explain to my own son why it is that I feel about my father the way that I do. I tried to do it in as level a way as possible. I also pointed out the differences in behavior between his two living grandfathers. Then, I asked that he not think of My Father as his grandfather, and why I thought that was best for him. Amazingly, he really got it all. He doesn't dislike my father. He also understands why I chose to not allow the man into his life up until this point (as does my sainted half-brother).

So, I'm sure M would benefit from a mature discussion of the situation. Not talking to him about it will be counterproductive. He'll know something is going on, and he'll feel like you don't trust him enough, or trust enough in his maturity, to tell him what is going on.

Good luck. Let me know if I can any kind of help.