Friday, September 25, 2009

The Morning Phone Call

My relationship with my parents is not one-dimensional.

It is that, perhaps more than anything, that makes the situation between us so difficult. If someone is awful all the time, it becomes very easy to justify hating them and cutting them out of your life. It's when there is mutual love that things get complicated, and shades of gray are introduced to the equation.

I was very touched by the comments on my last post, and want to thank everyone who sympathized with my circumstances.

My parents, however, fortunately or unfortunately, are not demons, and I do love them.

On the day following our big argument, a Monday, the house phone rang as I was about to leave for school.

When I picked up, it was my mother.

"Hey, BB," she said. "I just wanted to say sorry for yesterday."

We hadn't spoken since the fight, and I'd been firm in my resolve not to deal with her at all. Those two words, though, and the sincerity with which they were delivered, were enough to make my resolution crumble.

"I'm sorry, too," I sighed, relieved to have the weight of the anger lifted from my shoulders.

"I do love you," she said.

That was something that I wanted to hear more than I would admit to her.

"I love you, too," I replied.

I also told her that I wasn't upset she would be paying for Thomas and Pie's school, that in fact I was happy about it.

"BB," she said. "You have to keep in mind that they're probably going to go to community college for their first two years, and even then they might have to take out some loans. It wouldn't all be handed to them, either."

"But I would want them to have it," I said. "They should."

"Look," she said. "If you came home tomorrow and said, 'Mom, I'm quitting school,' I wouldn't let you do it. I wouldn't let you drop out of school."

Hearing her say that was a tremendous reassurance, as a persistent fear of mine has been that my financial support would be discontinued if the costs ever climbed too high, that I'd be unable to remain here.

"I love you," she repeated, her voice suddenly breaking with emotion. "I really miss you around dinnertime. You were the only one who would come and eat with me, who would sit down and really have a conversation. Every day I cook and no one shows up, it's just me and Pie. I have to battle with her just to get her to eat her food, and I feel like I'm going to throw up."

"Mom, she's six," I said calmly. "That comes with the territory."

"I know," she said. "I know. So I just wanted to tell you that I do miss you, and you're always welcome to come home. I just want to know when you're coming."

"Okay," I said. "I didn't know any of that."

"Well, I'm sorry I don't say it more," she said. "Sometimes I can be...immature, and when I'm angry at your father you get the full blast of it, which isn't right."

In a way, we both have to confront his inefficiencies, and it's difficult for us in different ways. In my case, I feel that the authoritative male figure I should be able to turn to isn't there.

In her case, she has no husband, no equal. She has instead a partner who's either absent or unhelpful, leaving her to run the family essentially by herself. She has been wrong in many ways, but her predicament is not fair and I pity her for it.

Since the confrontation, I think she's realized some of her own shortcomings and attempted to address them. This week she called me several times, leaving messages that my textbooks had arrived, asking if I'd be coming home to retrieve them, and telling me each time that she loved me.

Because of my cell phone's low battery I'd neglected to call her back, and this afternoon I received a worried voicemail.

"Hey, BB," my mother said. "I'm calling to let you know that another textbook came. I've called you a few times this week and I thought you'd get back to me by now. I'm getting kind of worried. Are you coming home this weekend? Call me and let me know you're okay and what your plans are. Love you."

The reality of my parents is not so cut-and-dry as it might sometimes seem. I feel considerable anger, resentment, and pain over their past and present wrongs, but also love, which is returned. I wanted that to be known.


secret agent woman said...

That's impressive on your Mom's part. Sounds like she's trying. Maybe it will lead to a better realtionship for you guys.

Amélie said...

Took the words right out of my mouth :)
It's the same with my parents. I love them to death, but sometimes they make mistakes and drive me nuts. I guess you can't have one side without the other...

p.s I only just saw your comments on my blog. Weird how we wrote about the same thing around the same time!

BerryBird said...

Oh, BB, I'm so glad to read this. It is so honest of you to portray the good as well as the bad. It speaks wonders to your sense of fairness and your capacity for forgiveness. I hope your mother can continue to see you as more of an ally in her life.

g said...

BB - thank you for visiting my blog and commenting.

I came here and read this and the post below - that one so very painful, and this one so much more hopeful. I am glad to read this one.

Like your mom, I am the parent of a young man, senior in college, too. And your posts filled me with misgiving. We have a pretty good relationship with our son, yet I took to heart a lot of what you said about financial support - is it good for a parent to give their child a free ride if they can afford it? Should a parent force a kid to be financially supportive? My husband and I differ about this - I think our son should work for some of his expenses; my husband thinks as long as we are able, we should let him concentrate on his studies - and he does have excllent grades.

We are lucky that we can do it, but it's coming at a cost - we are definitely going into debt. And I think I feel some of your mother's frustrations sometimes over the little things.

But when I read your thoughtful writing, it makes me feel hopeful. Both for you and my son and other kids I know. And you approach your relationship with your mom with understanding and forgiveness and a sense of gratitude and decency that really shows through.

Keep writing.

Someone's Mom said...

I'm glad to read this. Relationships are always changing. The relationship you had as a child with your mom, may change as she figures out a few things and as you become more aware of what she is dealing with. She has children of various ages which can be stressful. I can't imagine if I'd had a 6-year-old when my kids were your age. Plus, if your dad doesn't support her emotionally, she is probably one angry woman. It doesn't make it okay that she says or does things that hurt you, but it may make it easier for you to understand where she is coming from.

I never doubted your love for your parents. If you didn't love them, it wouldn't hurt.


otherworldlyone said...

I understand that too.