Mom came for our wedding in early October and expected to stay a month. Then she stayed for Thanksgiving, winter holidays, the new year, her birthday, and before we knew it, winter turned to spring. It’s an 1100-mile trip (she drove). Might as well make it worth everyone’s while, right?
Most of our time on this visit was spent without much talking, all of us interacting more with our various electronic devices: Mom on her iPad keeping up with sports scores, Doug on his laptop doing genealogy, I on my laptop working on my novel. We spent hours and hours in the same room, half-watching something on Netflix, the trees outside the picture window turning orange then brown then bare then budding. But we were in our own worlds, looking up occasionally to make sure we were all there.
I didn’t feel the clock ticking (rare for me). I didn’t worry about making good use of our time together. I didn’t feel compelled to force meaningful conversations only the have them fall flat. A stunner might happen while unloading the dishwasher. Or it might not.
We all needed this visit. It’s all been very fun and distracting, putting grief on paused even as we continue to slog through it. And boring. And, occasionally, irritating, the way life can be when you live with people you love and get in one another’s way but don’t want anyone to move out.
Friends asked me how things were going with Mom here so long, some of them giving me concerned looks, their eyes widening over the months of her stay.
I’ve almost always been a nerdy kid who wanted his parents around. I wanted them to know and understand me.
Although I didn’t want dysfunction, I have a relatively high threshold for interpersonal tension with my mother. Mom claims that when I was 15 I told her to “stop giving me guilt trips” like her mother did to her. I worshipped my grandmother and had a wonderful relationship with her, but I didn’t believe she was perfect. I wanted more straightforward communication with my mother and, subsequently, a more honest parent-child relationship. This is mostly Mom’s version of the story, but I don’t know why she’d make that up. I remember feeling that way, so I guess I spoke up. Apparently I was an uppity, mouthy little shit.
She tells that story every so often and repeat that she is glad I stood up to her, and on that foundation, we have continued to build. A lot of people don’t understand that pushing back is how Mom and I show each other love and respect. It’s a beautiful thing that occasionally gets ugly, but that rarely happens anymore.
We share a lot of silence and understanding. I share my writing. She likes it all, unfazed by scenes of gay sex scenes or revealing blog posts about her. And she especially loves the rough drafts. I accused her of not being critical enough of my work or of me. What did she need to be critical about? she said. She didn’t find much of anything she would change and already knew she would like the revised versions, too.
She understands how I think about things, which is similar to how she thinks about things. She just enjoys seeing the process, she said. Getting to read along the way, she hopefully sees herself in the process, sees that she’s always part of the conversation I’m writing my way through. No matter the physical distance we have to bridge, at least we have that.