Got a text last night that my Dad was in the hospital and has had another stroke. He just turned 60 in October. This would be at least the second one that I am aware of. The first one, was a TIA, or a Transient Ischemic Attack. Basically a blood clot has shut down oxygen from flowing to the brain. With a TIA the blood flow is restored to the brain, unlike in a stroke where the blood flow remains restricted long enough to cause (sometimes) irreparable damage or death. Which although “they” say the effects are not normally permanent, or long lasting- it should be treated as a wake up call for patients. These are almost always a pre-cursor to the the real thing.
TIA’s are the body’s way of telling a person that it is past time to start working on taking better care of one’s self. Eat less fast food, more whole nutritious food, STOP SMOKING, get off of the couch and exercise daily. Unfortunately, like all other health issues that my parents have experienced, none have been cataclysmic enough to convince either of them to stop smoking. In the house. With no ventilation. It is a constant “hotbox” situation. I can’t even visit them, because the smoke and the clutter from the hoarding unnerves me, and sets my allergies in an uproar. I had to stop letting my kids visit as well, and extended the invitation for my parents to visit at my house. This, of course, was taken as a slight. One more among many other topics/ misunderstandings/don’t-respect-my-parental-rights that has snowballed our once “complicated” relationship straight to the bowels of hell. I haven’t even seen Dad since Father’s Day.
Which is a little arrow in the heart, because I was once such a Daddy’s girl. We were not close, but I looked up to him like he was an idol. But something happened to my parents when I moved out at 18. Maybe it happened before that, but I didn’t notice because I was home to help cook and clean. I started noticing on visits that the house was starting to collect clutter, and dust. If I mentioned about helping out, Mom felt it was a slight and that I was basically calling her lazy.
Then after about five years they moved out of their house and into Dad’s shop. They said it would be temporary, and due to a plumbing issue- but I knew it wasn’t true. The hoarding had gotten so bad that you couldn’t walk through the house anymore. There was black mold in the house, and they would clean it when they were good and ready. They are not sick, they are not crazy- and the fact that I dared to suggest counseling means that I am “holier than thou” and a terrible daughter.
I have exactly three pictures of myself from when I was a child. My parents have trunks of pictures that my kids will never see of me, because they are buried in that house under a layer of black mold, so are probably destroyed. That is horribly depressing.
After the twelve-ish year mark, the shop started to pile up and between the filth and the smoke I stopped letting my kids go over there. Which pissed them off at me even more, but my babies’ health is at risk, so I stood firm. No one can push your buttons, or pile on more guilt than your Mother. It was terrible. Still is terrible. So, they bought an RV. That was clean for a very little while, but it wasn’t long before we were right back at square one. My parents mad at me, my kids sad they can’t see their grandparents. A horrible situation all the way around. Because my parents refused to visit outside of their home. OR let me help them clean it. With time and distance the relationship became so strange and estranged that we couldn’t even spend holidays together without it turning into a full scale war. We were never a close-knit family, at least I wasn’t. My parents and my younger sister have always gelled well, and then there was me. Not that they were bad parents necessarily, they just seemed to understand her better- so they had less friction. Add in a few minor skirmishes over them thinking that holidays should not be shared, or spent with Jim’s side of the family (because they are stuck up), and the relationship just continues to deteriorate.
Looking back I realize that a lot of that friction was caused by my want of an open space, a clean area. I hated when things would pile up, so I regularly cleaned and threw out what my Mom had bought. She liked to have “tangible wealth” on hand. Think it has to do with just how poor she was as a kid, don’t think she ever forgot it, or got over it. She hoarded things inside the house, Dad hoarded car parts on the outside.
I have been mad at them for so long now, that I don’t know how not to be. Every parenting rule I made, they enjoyed going behind my back about. I didn’t want my kids to have cell phones so young, so they bought both kids one- and told them to not tell me. My youngest was only 8. Then I find out that they have been letting my oldest smoke at the house. Because, well, “He was doing it anyway”. Then I found pictures on Instagram of a Hookah at their house and my son and his friends are using it, and there are beer bottles in the background. He was only 15 or 16 at the time. They claim they didn’t see it and didn’t know. He had three friends over and the hookah was at least 2-3 feet high and very wide. Ok, fine. I will try to get past the fact that I know a lie when I hear one. But there is the small possibility that it is true. Then I find out that my son has been doing pot. Because it helps with his “rage issues”. Rage issues. You have tantrums when things don’t go your way. Instead of being taught how to deal with his frustration, Dad tells him to try the Hippie Hay. At his house. This was the straw that broke this camel’s back and is why I haven’t talked to him, or Mom in months. She says she didn’t know. She knows everything that happens in her little area of the world. That card won’t play anymore. The naive ship has sailed. I just don’t understand how two people that used to be so strict with me, have turned into who they are now.
Pretty much everything I have learned as an adult on how to parent and be an adult was actually learned from Jim’s Step Mom. She will actually talk to me on an emotional level. My Mom started pulling out of the parent detail when I got married. She would show up for some things, like both baby showers, and when the kids were born, some-not all- of the birthday parties…but she was absent when she was there, if that makes sense. Knowing that I couldn’t count on her for emotional support became a wedge. The beginnings of resentment. Compile all of this with the fact that neither of my parents remember anything good that someone does for them, but are able to recall every slight in minute detail- has made them toxic to be around. They haven’t retained any friends in a good decade because of how venomous they have become. Now they are lonely and angry and depressed and sick- and there is nothing that I can do about it.
They aren’t “evil people” by any stretch of the imagination. But they are sick, and need to get treatment. My Mom’s Mom had Bi-Polar Disorder, as does her sister, which makes me wonder if Mom doesn’t have it as well. I have researched it, know that it is genetic, but that this is not a death sentence. Just get treatment. The day that Mom decided to stop working and stay home is the day that their lives started to change. Without that regulation of her day to day duties, she just became lost. My Dad has been disabled since I was in high school, and as his health degrades so has his mental capacity to cope with it. This was a virile and strong man. Did body building, and Tang Soo Do– and was always working. When he got hurt, he got lost too. The combo has irrevocably changed them.
Knowing that they are sick had kept me from cutting them out of my life completely for a long time. The problem with people that are sick, but refuse to acknowledge it or treat it is this- they put that weight on everyone around them. The drama, the fighting and then the flat out disregard of the law, my parenting rules was the last straw. So, now I have to search my heart to see if I can forgive them. Because I do love them. As fucked up as they are, and as much as they hurt my heart- I still love them. But I know that no matter how bad I want for them to get better- I can’t make them, and that is what makes me the most angry.