I’m worried about my mother.
I never thought I would say that.
She’s always been so sure. Even though there are days that I can’t handle her and days when I can’t understand what the hell goes through her head, she has always been opinionated and confident and loud. This was the quietest and most uncomfortable Christmas since my father caught my sister fooling around with the neighbour’s son under the Christmas tree.
We burnt the tree skirt.
Unfortunately this visit was not as entertaining for me.
My parents showed up at 9pm on Christmas Eve, dropped their coats in the front doorway and went to bed. I’m not exaggerating that much. My mother didn’t stick around long enough to greet Jason in the kitchen and the only exchange I had with my father was to ask if the bathroom was clean enough for him to use. The two of them were in the bedroom with the door closed within ten minutes of arriving.
I was up at 6 the next morning to start preparing lunch – James and I agreed to eat in the afternoon so we could spend as much time with my sister – and my mother was already sitting there drinking coffee. So I asked her: where’s my sister?
“Oh, I assumed you were picking her up this morning.”
What the fuck, mom?
I wasn’t in the mood to argue, I just wanted to see my sister, so I hopped in the car and drive for three hours on Christmas Day to pick up my sister from prison. Meanwhile, I left my husband and brother to fend for themselves as my parents woke up and invaded my home. I made it up to them later. I don’t think Jason has really forgiven me.
After I filled out all the paperwork, I got to see my sister. For the first time in forever I got to hug my sister. I’ve missed her. I wish she hadn’t been released. It hit me hard: seeing her again, getting to talk with her without a piece of metal between us. Having to let her go at the end of the day was rough.
It didn’t help that my mother was distractingly uncharacteristic.
We talked all the way back home and caught up on our lives for the last few months. I apologized for Sandra but assured her that her killer was brought to a slow and painful justice. Back home, the boys were very respectful and very efficient, preparing Christmas dinner/lunch for six, ignoring my mother’s scathing remarks.
James was kind enough to text me bits of their conversation as it was happening. Everything from: “don’t peel the potatoes that way” to “so what is it that you exactly do” to – my personal favourite – “you see like a nice man, why did you marry my daughter?”
I don’t know what his response was to that but my sister’s response was something about being great in the sack and “oh my god, mom, they’ve been married for seven years, why are you asking these questions now?” I realized that this was the first time my husband and my mother have been alone together.
I’ve been very careful about keeping those two apart for fear that one of them will say something they can’t take back. My money was on my mother but who knew it’d be James?
James didn’t respond after that last text so I didn’t know what to expect when we walked into the house. It was intensely silent. I feared for someone’s life. But they were all there, safe and sound, setting the table and cleaning the kitchen like a normal functioning family. Mother and James refused to speak to each other all throughout dinner – which was delicious; my boys did a fantastic job. Jason spent a lot of dinner asking my sister questions and answering hers. Without Sandra’s influence, I think he was curious about his mother and her life. All he’s known about her since he was twelve is what I’ve told him and what his grandmother has tried to tell him. I don’t think he ever knew what to believe.
I haven’t seen my sister smile that much in decades, I swear. Being with Jason really…it brought a lightness to her that I think she needed.
My father was silent throughout dinner. James assured me that he did his obligatory walk-through inspection of the house and made a list of the areas that needed to be tended to. Most of it was in the basement and laundry room – I just haven’t had a chance to meticulously clean so I couldn’t blame him for putting it on the list. He didn’t put the kid’s rooms on the list and I was so grateful. Normally he’ll do a sweep of the upper floors and remind Jason to make his bed every day and tell Sandra that she needs to keep her desk tidy. But he didn’t this year. I haven’t touched Sandra’s room. I think I said I was going to but I haven’t been able to. I’ll have to eventually – I can’t leave it there forever but maybe not right now.
When my father is silent, I don’t worry; it’s my mother that concerns me. I know that she had James had some sort of fallout but I don’t know what it was over. Whatever happened, it must have been big to make her ignore bother daughters at once. That’s rare indeed. So really the only sound at the dinner table was the back and forth between Jason and my sister.
My parents left immediately after dinner. They didn’t stay to clean up or talk to their daughters or spend time with their grandson. They grabbed their coats and left.
It was the fastest, quietest dinner I have ever spent with my parents.
I left Jason and my sister alone while James and I cleaned up. I didn’t mind, I knew that she’d be out of our lives by the end of the day. She had been granted 24 hour leave that technically started the night of Christmas Eve so I had to drive her back after only a few hours with us. Thanks to my parents I got an afternoon with my sister and nothing more.
I asked James what happened between him and my mother and he said it was a personal matter and doesn’t bear repeating. I called bullshit but it’s now been almost a week and he still won’t tell me and my father won’t return my calls. I hate not knowing things that affect my family. That’s a dangerous thing.
Christmas itself was fine. We hung Sandra’s stocking and lit a candle for her. It felt right.
When she was little, she hated Christmas. She hated waking up early – her brother loved it – she hated the mess that wrapping paper left behind. But she loved her brother and that was always enough. I don’t think she ever believed in Santa. My sister and I tried to get her to believe for her brother’s sake but I don’t think it worked. She kept it a secret from Jason, though and that was really nice. As she got older, she started to get into the spirit of the holiday more. She started humming Christmas carols around the house but would never admit it. She always found these incredibly personal gifts for her friends and family.
I didn’t think it’d be this hard: spending the holidays without her. It’s a lot more draining than I expected.
I don’t know what else to say after that.
The holidays are going by so quickly and then it’ll be 2016. A whole new year. A lot of opportunity.
I don’t want to make any new year’s resolutions, I’m just going to break them. But that doesn’t mean
I can’t work harder and be better. This is an excuse to start off the next month on a positive note.
I need a drink.
As always, dear readers,