Monday, April 19, 2010

There's been a bit of drama in the parental abode.

It has been one of those "he said, she said" things. Only this time it concerns my sister and the navy man who has been renting a room from us for the past six or so months.

It's a complicated situation.

They got a few drinks at a bar, danced, and came back to my parents' house and went to his room to watch a movie.

My sister says that he started forcing himself on her, pressuring her, before finally listening to her and backing off.
He says that they shared a brief kiss, then stopped themselves and realized that it would not be a good idea to continue further due to the living situation.

It's hard because she's my sister. I have to take her side in such gray areas because she is the one I'm going to be growing old with. Husbands divorce, friends fade, but family is family.

But she's a prude. And she's prone to a sort of bitchy set of mild hysterics. And she exaggerates. And she's defensive as hell. And she'll shove off blame.

He, on the other hand, is a sweet young man. He's the son of a family friend who wanted to get out of the area he was living in so he could get a better job and go back to school. He's been very supportive of the family as we've been going through these rough last months, what with Dad going mentally AWOL. He's been vital to keeping my mother sane when I'm unable to be there for her, and when she's stuck alone in the house, wondering what happened to the future that Jack built.

But he's an incredible horndog. Guys talk to me, guys talk to me a lot. I hear fantasies and realities and fetishes and guilt complexes. I hear bad things that they've done to women, how they've cheated on their partners in horrific ways, I hear the pranks and the gossip.

Talking with him, sometimes I wonder if all the men who I've sat and talked with over the years were hiding the true level of sexual need they keep bottled under their skin. This guy is almost, what my father calls, a walking life-support system for his dick.

Which is probably pretty typical for a very attractive, very active 22 year old male.

He's still a sweetheart. He's still intensely loyal and devoted to improving his future and serving his country (which isn't my bag, but he's dedicated to his beliefs which is admirable).

So they're telling two different stories. The navy man might be finding himself promptly ejected from the house... which would bone him on many levels.

I was talking with my buddy, Chris, about this earlier today. He said the truth is likely in the middle of the two stories.

I'm so used to thinking that it's one way or the other, not a combination plate with beans and rice.

This all happening... brought more light onto the current situation.

Since December, when my father went off the proverbial deep end, I've become the "man of the house".

You see, his recovery period has left him feeling full of self-doubt and major depression. When he's not working on his business, he tends to tune out watching television or, more often, sleeping the day away.

It's very hard for him.

All of his adult life, and some time before that, he's been the smartest guy in the room. And I don't mean booksmart, but lifesmart. He's got this "I know what I'm doing and this is the right way to be" total self-confidence. And he does have the book-knowledge and the life experience to back that up.

He doesn't doubt himself. Or, at least, he doesn't appear to doubt himself.

He is the total stoic male. He doesn't like holidays, he doesn't like socializing, he doesn't like playing cards or board games. He doesn't like Disneyland. He doesn't like cartoons. Shopping for him at Christmas is an exercise in frustration and, really, repetition. Power tools and barbeque utensils. Maybe a sweater for the office for casual days. A tie or two. Every few years, a new watch.

He doesn't join in. He's "outside" the family, as much as we try to bring him in.

A fourth wheel.

He doesn't bond, he doesn't disclose, he doesn't open up, and it's only been within the last year that he's started apologizing.

And I do mean that. My mother called me in shock earlier last year, telling me that my father had actually apologized to her for something. She was blown away. Hell, I was blown away.

In his worldview, he is never wrong. He knows best. No one is as smart as him. No one has been through the things he has been through.

End. Of. Story.

Which has given me some mental kinks, I'll say.

So when his mind went bust last December, when his idea of reality was suddenly incredibly false and his behaviors beyond erratic to the point to where we were having to physically encircle him in the ER in order to keep him from escaping... god, does that hurt.

You can't trust yourself. You can't trust what you think, what you feel, how you react.

For the alpha male of the house, for Mr. I-Know-What's-Right, that's shattering.

Everything you know is truly, potentially wrong.

So he's withdrawn into himself.

He's not making decisions, he's not giving input, he's not reigning in my sister when she goes on another one of her queen-bitch tears.

And my mom who married a very dominant male much to early, who never got a chance to establish herself, take care of herself and her life, determine how things should be... she's left running the show.

But she doesn't know how.

And she certainly can't control my sister.

So she calls me. Like she used to call Dad, or sit and talk with him after dinner, once my sister and I went to bed. Trying to figure out how to handle certain situations (admittedly, most of those situations revolved around me and my poor behavior). She'd talk and he'd listen and then he'd tell her what to do. And if she didn't do it, if she told him she didn't want to take such extreme action so fast, he'd let it sit until she got upset about it again and he would fly down from Mount Olympus (not really) and hand the situation with an iron fist.

When she calls, I don't tell her what to do. I give her thoughts, new angles to think about things. My input. And she'll ask what I would do if I were her. She wants to know what to do, she can't decide it on her own.

I wonder if she was ever really allowed to make those decisions. I mean, yes, she'd make decisions after consult with my father, but never with the decisiveness that he'd end up taking. The impact from her decisions was never enough to resolve the problem. Her decisions were never validated by the results. Therefore, her decision-making ability was never encouraged, so she never developed the faith in her own decisions that was needed to carry out future, harder decisions.

Dad would always have to do it. Dad would be the bearer of the final straw.

So now it's me.

Me until he gets his feet back under him.

I don't even live there.

And I don't mind it. I like being there for my mother.

But it is very, very much a reminder of ways I could have been. Ways I could be, if I lose myself too early with GV8. If I submit without establishing myself and faith in myself, which is something I do need. This apartment, this living situation, finally being out on my own by myself, taking care of everything by myself... it's something that so many people who have cared about me for so long have pushed me towards.

I haven't lost respect for my mother for this. Some people would, I know. Be strong, believe in yourself, don't let a man dominate you, don't lose yourself. It's so easy.

But it's not so easy. Not for everyone. Maybe for them.

She's devoted her life to my father and to her children. She tells me that she never had any dreams, never any goals, other than having children. Not as an end all be all dream, but as a Something I Want To Do goal.

I don't think that's bad or worthy of looking down my nose at.

I understand it too well. Both of us were raised in unstable homes with a very dominant male figure. I'm still not adjusted to the idea of taking care of myself, of being truly responsible for myself. I've gone from my father to boyfriend to boyfriend.

But this is a different time from when she was growing up.

And my father, her husband, is no where near as bad as my grandfather. Not that he was a bad person, but certainly a hard one to be raised by, to learn from as a relationship-template.

People shove at me to live the way I should. My brain, my... strength? The independence that I prize so much. It's hard for them to wrap around the idea that I'm not what they picture me to be. I'm closer than I was, but I'm still not there.

Even so, at 26, I'm more experienced than my mother's 55.

Correction. At 26, I'm more experienced at taking care of myself and making impactful decisions than my mother is at 55. But she's vastly more experienced in raising children, in bookkeeping and insurance and making lunches, cooking well-rounded meals, keeping my father's rages in check, ironing, doing laundry, making beds, organizing family get-togethers...

It's living. What we devote time to, we learn.

She learned other things, making me healthy and strong. Trying to teach me to be independent in ways she never was.

And now I get to be those things for her.


  1. In his worldview, he is never wrong. He knows best. No one is as smart as him. No one has been through the things he has been through.

    You're selling me more on the concept of our primary caregivers having a deep impact on the people we're ultimately attracted to.

  2. As life goes on and we all get older our situations change. Young people reach adulthood and all the responsibility that goes with that. As we get older health issues creep in. The struggle for survival is always there in some way shape or form. The final stage of life when others take some or all of the responsibility over where the elderly can no longer take care of themselves.
    I have a friend that is literally living in a hospital with her sick mother and that gets to me. My mom is 75 and she lives in a retired persons apartment and I dread the thought that anything would change in her condition.
    She has numerous health conditons that could change in a second.I live 3000 miles away. So I call her often and chat with her and try to giver her the feeling that I am right around the corner. But it is upsetting to think about and can bring me to tears instantly.
    It is great that you have a chance to be there for your Mom. I wish my children were here for me like that, even a phone call. I just keep hoping that some day they will come around.
    Self help books may be useful for your mom to help build her self-esteeme. When I went throught my divorce 10 years ago I went through what your mom is going through now. They call it the empty nest syndrome, but it was that difficult time that made me search for understanding and helped me to become the independent womam I am today. I make all my own decisions now. Thanks for the post, Sweet