So, yesterday, while friends and family are emailing me links to great pieces like this about Laura Bush and the Poets Against War effort, and this by Breslin about his moving experiences with the NYC anti-war protesters, and this in the Village Voice about the impact of the anti-war marches, I’m driving my mother 85 miles in minus-four-degree weather to visit my brother, her son, who has not been feeling all that well.
I’ve been having “discussions” with my mom about her starting to take Alzheimer medication in hopes of slowing down a process that I see starting but she refuses to acknowledge. Her brother, two years older than she, is (again) in the hospital with pneumonia because he keeps going outside in below zero weather without his coat. The really bad thing is that he now believes he is a kid back in Poland, keeps pulling his IV out, and rarely recognizes his daughter. This kind of stuff runs in families. I worry about that.
Of course, we “discuss” this most of the way down to my brother’s, so when my brother comes out to help my mom out of the car and, in her usual disfunctional way, she starts yelling at him for going outside without a coat, we are off to our usual bickering start.
I’m immersed in battles — planetary and familial, with the weather, with myself. (We’re in the middle of another really bitch of a snowstorm.) I’m out of energy, out of motivation.
Today, one of my best friends calls (she’s retiring next month) and tries to get me to sign up for a program at the community college where a bunch of retirees will be getting together once a week to take day trips to cool places in the region — every Thursday for five weeks beginning the middle of May. She and I always have great times together — used to go out and dance every Friday night — “out on a tear” we would say — watch out world!
Living with my mother drains me. Just agreeing to do the program with my friend makes me feel like I’ve climbed a mountain. But I’m going to do it, because I know that doing it will be like sledding down the other side.
Breathe, I tell myself. Have a cup of tea and a Peppridge Farm Milano (double chocolate, of course.) There will be a spring. There will be a spring.

3 thoughts on “Off-center.

  1. My mother is 87 too. She’s a retired judge and she’s still pretty sharp but not as sharp as she once was. She’s alway been a judgemental and critical person and she’s used to getting her own way with things. So, in some ways she’s been a good mom and in others she’s been a pain in the neck. My sister and I live 1,000 and 500 miles away. Neither one of us would chose to live in the same city with her. I visit about once every six weeks, I spend 24 hours with her. The point of this is to descibe a small incident that occured about six months ago. She came out with one of her critical remarks to me and, in response, I was getting ready to give her a typical angry and defensive reply. But by some miracle, it occured to me to wonder why she made this remark and what did she hoped to get out of it. And it came to me that the payoff for her was my defensive anger. I guess it confirms for her that she’s still in charge and that she’s still an important person. But I decided that I was no longer going to do this for her at my expense. So I just let her comment hang in the air by itself until something else happened and it blew away on the next breeze. Since then she’s lobbed a dozen more of these comments my way and I let them just sit there in all their outrageousness where we can both casually see them for what they are and they eventually sulk off by themselves after getting no response. It’s been interesting. This all came to mind when I read about you fighting familial battles. This realization on my part has really improved my relationship with my mother and made it much more pleasant for both of us to be together.
    These ancient patterns the we recreate endlessly with our family members that seem so useless and yet take up so much of our energy, lets get rid of them! Doing almost anything else would be an improvement it seems to me.
    Thanks for your blog.

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