I saw my parents for the first time since before Sandra’s death. The timing of the funeral was “too inconvenient” for them so they came on their own time. I don’t think they believed me when I made that phone call. Now they believe me.
I mean, yes, I am sometimes known for exaggerating and lying to them but seriously: why would I lie about this?
My parents have never been super supportive of the kids. When my sister was first incarcerated they put up a fight for custody and after they lost they did try to visit but that was it. From everything I’ve seen of their interactions with the kids, even when they were living with my sister, my parents are more about the presentation than the actual human contact.
They don’t care about the kids; what they care about is how it looks to see a grandparent caring for their grandchild. Thankfully neither Sandra nor Jason seemed to buy into their charade and very quickly refused to see them once they were aware enough to speak their minds. I’ve always been very grateful to use my children as an excuse to avoid my parents but this weekend was apparently an exception.
They called me on Friday to remind me that they were driving in the next day which absolutely stunned me since I had no knowledge of any arrangement to visit. I mean, it is entirely possible that I forgot or that they were mentioning their “plans” as a way to confuse me into accepting their arrival but for whatever reason, it just wasn’t sitting right with me. I asked Jason when he got home and he told me that he had invited them. He was absolutely serious. No hints of anger or malice or humor; just straight-faced and determined. For whatever reason – one I still don’t know, by the way – he decided that it was the best idea in the world to invite his absentee grandparents to dinner after they couldn’t be bothered to show up to his sister’s funeral.
Regardless, they showed up just after 2pm on Saturday and immediately made known their dissatisfaction at the state of my home. For once, when I knew my parents were coming, I didn’t spend an entire day scrubbing and reorganizing the house. I just left it in the horrible, disgusting mess that it was. I felt free to say the least. It was so satisfying to see my father wide-eyed and white as a sheet, completely lost for words. I think he was overwhelmed by every little detail that was out of place so he just kept his mouth shut. Admittedly, I was fascinated.
My mother, of course, didn’t let herself be stunned for too long and quickly went on a tirade around the house, ranting about the state of affairs and “how could it get this bad since my last visit?”
That’s when Jason finally came down from his room and things got interesting.
For starters, he was polite – while projecting his voice – and greeted my parents by name. He invited them into the living room where he would be happy to get them something to drink while I continued preparing a “light lunch, as a courtesy”. I mean What the Fuck? Whoever possessed my son was obviously part English butler. I’ve never heard him string along more than a sentence with my parents before he started to become moody and cussed them out under his breath while his sister shielded him.
Sandra was always very good at protecting her brother from the big evils of the world – their grandparents included – I wonder if this polite and passive aggressive stance is his way of coping without her.
Anyways, he helped me make sandwiches and a veggie platter in silence while my parents watched the T.V. channel that plays nothing but nostalgic reruns. I asked Jason what had gotten into him and his only response was a very serious look of determination and a hint of a smile.
Naturally, as lunch began, I was prepared for a slew of criticisms and judgements to pour out of my mother while I had resigned myself to dead silence on my father’s end today and that’s exactly how it began.
Mother’s first question after “pass the dip” was: “so where’s James?”
Jason immediately tensed and I grabbed his hand under the table to keep him from doing anything stupid. I told her that James was at work which obviously wasn’t a lie but I’ve no doubt she noticed that some of his things were missing from the bathroom and front closet so my answer wasn’t sufficient.
“He’s on his way out the door because of you.”
That’s what she said to me. My mother. Blaming me because she thinks my husband is leaving me. I’ve never had the energy to argue with my mother so I just ate my turkey and cheddar sandwich and let the statement linger between us. Of course that didn’t stop her.
In fact I think she waited until I was chewing to apologize for not attending the funeral, stating that if I talked to her more often, they’d have been able to make it. There was dead silence for a long time before my father spoke up for the first time since greeting me.
He asked about the funeral. He asked how it was, who attended, that sort of thing.
I was too stunned to offer him anything but short statements of fact. I find myself baffled by my father. He’s always carried himself with a sense of military discipline despite – to my knowledge – never actually serving. He’s the strong, silent, and judgemental type who never made me feel good enough and out right terrified me as a child. He still scares me but I know he would never lay a hand on me. He’s a man of few words who prizes order and discipline above all else. I have a lot of respect for him.
So why the hell did he marry my mother?
In any case his questions shocked me. All I could give were basic answers. Before I could go into any detail, Jason slammed his hands on the table and stood, his body tense and defensive.
The table was stunned into silence – something I never thought I’d hear from my mother. He just attacked her. He called her out on all her bullshit for the last 5 years: The passive aggressive assaults, the constant victim-blaming, the manipulative, egotistical personality that landed his mother in prison. All of it. And she took it because he is her grandson and if it were anyone else she would have fought back. Hell, I would have fought back. But because it was her, and him, I just sat there and watched. I admit to a small speck of satisfaction at seeing my mother’s face turn blue.
The dinner was an emotional rollercoaster ride: my father’s sudden humanity, my son’s abrupt decision to stand up for himself; but the thing that really shocked me is that after Jason was done scolding my mother, she apologized. Not her usual apology were she pretends like she doesn’t understand why we’re angry at her. She seemed sincere.
They left shortly after that so I didn’t actually get a chance to talk to her but she promised to stop by next weekend. Whatever made Jason finally stand up for himself worked.
After all these years, I think someone finally got through to my mother.
I have renewed respect for my son.
And speaking of improving family relations: I’m having coffee with my mother-in-law today after work. God knows how well that’ll go over.
Wish me luck.
As always, dear readers,