Friday, May 16, 2008

My Poor Ma and Our Family

Today NSLS and I spent an awful lot of time together talking about the family. It was precipitated by a phone call we received from our mother, telling us of rather sad and unfortunate news. Our aunt had a brain tumor at the base of her skull, which was operable. She apparently came out of the surgery well... Although since that was all of the information we were given, we really have no idea what the prognosis is.

But it should be noted that all of us, RevDrMom, NSLS and I found out about the tumor post surgery. And that the primary form of notification was email. My mom is rather upset about how all this is happening, and I think (although she never says it) is feeling quite guilty. I really hate that all this technology that enables rapid-fire communication has become an excuse for us to not actually talk to each other.

It should also be noted that I, perhaps the most independent and free spirited of the bunch, also have the weakest ties with our family, especially the family of the extended nature. I haven't seen my grandmother since our grandfather's funeral in 2002. And that was also, perhaps, the last time I saw any of my uncles, cousins or the aunt who has recently fallen seriously ill. I don't call them. I don't write them (well, I write them, but it never gets mailed) and I honestly don't even think about them all that much. I have a pretty terrible relationship with my mom's older sister who I think, also happens to be my god mother. She seems to disapprove of not only everything about my mom's life, but also everything about mine. And I feel somewhat... ambivalent about the rest of our family.

I know that my mother gets blamed for this distance even though I am now an adult and could have, or not have, any relationship that I wanted to with aforementioned family members. But I just don't want to be involved in the drama. The blame, the guilt, the name-calling-- it's all enough for me to want to keep my distance. Let them talk about me behind my back. It doesn't hurt me.

So why, then, am I spending so much time thinking about this? Is it because my aunt is very sick? No, I don't think so. It's because I think that I understand one of their most fundamental points: That my mother, despite all of her awesomeness, has some pretty serious flaws when it comes to communicating with people she loves. It's not that she doesn't want to talk to people, but I think that maybe she is afraid to talk to people. I think that even though she opens up to all of us here in internet-land, she doesn't feel as safe making herself vulnerable to people in her family, including me, even though I love her and unconditionally support her.

So in my older brother (aka Eldest Son), her desire to give him the space she wishes her parents gave her, she has created too much room. All this is exacerbated by his feelings that none of us really care about or are interested in him. His extreme sensitivity about being disconnected from his immediate family, combined with my mother's extreme sensitivity for letting each of her children be their own person, has turned what used to be a kind of bad relationship into what is now a relationship on the brink. Admittedly, my own ambivalence towards my older brother probably doesn't help the situation.

But I also feel that tension between wishing my mom seemed more interested in my life, and also appreciating the space she has given me to explore my intellect, emotion and sense of adventure without being judgemental. But sometimes I wish the old-fashioned mom would kick in and say, "Hey! You're making a big mistake with your life!" or "Why don't you just get a regular job like everybody else?" Two phrases which I'm quite sure have never have never passed her lips. And I think that my older brother, although he would bitch and complain about it, wants that from our mother, too.

It's not that I actually believe that my mother doesn't care about our lives. I know that she would do anything she could to help me out. But I don't think her brothers and sister see that side of her. Too much judgement has been passed. They all, my mother included, spend so much time blaming each other for the lack of communication instead of just picking up the phone. I know that it is sometimes painful for my mother to talk with her family. But I kind of think that if she picked up the phone a little more often, it might get easier and there would be fewer reasons to play this 20 year old blame game.

And mom, grandma is now just a crotchety old lady. She's earned it. So maybe you don't deserve whatever she's saying to you, but she doesn't know what she's saying half the time anyhow. So talk to her while you still have the chance. And mom, you should be happy and proud that in the least, you have raised two daughters who like each other to live together as adults and won't be repeating the same silly mistakes your generation has made...

Our family no longer puts the "fun" in dysfunction, but we do a good job with "dys"ing part... Maybe we should work on that a little...