When I started this blog, I intended to write once a week about singing- and studio-related things only, venturing into the personal only as it related to the main topic.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, my last blog entry was July 15…
and forgive me for self-indulgence but I want to write about other things today.
Yesterday I put my parents on a plane to Florida. They will be moving into a nursing home near my sister’s home. I may never see them again.
For those of you who know my relationship with my parents or who know my parents, you might be saying, “Congratulations!” For those of you who judge my relationship with my parents, you might be saying, “So what’s the difference? You hardly ever saw them anyway.”
My relationship with my parents has been contentious, to say the least. I returned to Milwaukee in 1996 because the family medicine residency programs were top notch and would afford Bill good training and because I had a yearning to reconnect with my parents and my hometown.
Two out of three ain’t bad.
I had done a lot of self-work in getting through my divorce. I recognized mistakes I had made in my personal and professional relationships in my 34 years of life and worked very hard at correcting them and trying not to repeat them. I thought I could apply the same concepts to my relationship with my parents and be a better daughter and have the family relationship I always wanted growing up.
It didn’t work. My attempts at reaching out were never enough – always too little, too late as far as they were concerned. Always an opportunity for comparison – “Caroline calls more than you do and she’s in Florida.” (I called more when I was in Baltimore because they were always happy to hear from me then!) – for sarcasm – “We thought you forgot our phone number.” (Two days had gone by between calls – and phones work both ways.) And after Mom’s dementia kicked in, for twisting the knife – “Yeah, she calls for you all night, and I tell her, don’t bother, Christine doesn’t care.”
And even though I distanced myself in the interest of self-protection (at the advice of professionals), making dutiful calls at least once a week, visiting on holidays, and wishing that they had listened to my sister and me when we tried to get them to move to Florida or at least to assisted living before all these health issues had surfaced, when my sister told me last Friday that she found them a spot in a nursing home in Florida and had booked them a flight for August 8, I felt … lost. (Okay, that was after the initial celebratory glass of wine.)
My husband doesn’t get it. He only knows these people as the ones who snuck out of our wedding early because they weren’t getting enough attention, who told us our wedding was “nothing to brag about” because it wasn’t Catholic, who have said dreadful things about people of other races and religions and gender identities, and whose initial response to the end of my first marriage was “What about the money you owe us?” He’s thrilled that they will be too far away to hurt me anymore.
But I remember – or at least I have pictures of – the little girl whose Daddy adored her, and was constantly whispering in her ear and laughing with her. I remember the Mother who would defend her child no matter what, sometimes going overboard, but fierce in her defense. And that went beyond childhood. I remember when the priest at my first teaching job berated me in front of the school (that job is a whole ‘nother blog entry!) and she called him and identified herself as a mother whose daughter had called her, very upset about how he had treated the music teacher, and gave him a piece of her mind. The poor old coot was racking his brain trying to figure out just which student had a mother with a foreign accent, and kept asking her, “Are you Maria’s mother? Jenny’s?” and she told him, “I won’t tell you because I don’t want you to take it out on my daughter.”
He deserved it.
So even though I haven’t known those people for years, and I never will again, those are the people for whom I feel loss. I will truly never see those people again. As far as the people who took their place, I may never see them again. And I probably will start calling them more frequently, because now that we are far apart, they will again be happy to hear from me.