Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dysfunction Junction

As I was sitting down to write this post, the tornado sirens went off on this 3rd day of Christmas. After a brief sojourn into the inner bathroom of our rental place, I'm again reflecting on the holidays with my family.

You've read my descriptions of Taciturn's family. Actually, my family is much more functional at present than it was while I was a child and teen at home. The reason is that my father finally was diagnosed as bipolar and began treatment only ten years ago, although he obviously was impaired as long as I can remember. The man he is on medication is a lovely, witty fellow, definitely the person I wish had been my father growing up. My mom I'm sure wishes that he could have been her husband during that time. The person he was pre medication was, well, just like anyone else who is bipolar and non medicated.

We just thought he was mean.

The irony of all of it has been that once Dad got better, Mom, who had been his caretaker and the family "hold it all together person" as long as I can remember, fell apart. She literally remained in good health for only a year after his illness was controlled. Then her lack of attention to herself over all of the years caught up with her. She developed COPD, insulin dependent diabetes, had a heart attack and two strokes. With the strokes she has lost her ability to edit what she says, so she can be (and is!) brutally honest. All of the anger and resentments she has developed and carried over the years are spilling out of her in brief little outbursts. One certainly feels a bit hijacked when she screams at you for something you did or didn't do 35 to 40 years ago, especially when you have no clue what in the Sam Hill she is talking about!

I know why Mom has turned into a shrew, but still it is painful to be accused of evil deeds that are lost in time. One simply can't respond to her as if she was a person with all of her faculties as it absolutely is of no use. It is kind of ironic how Dad now is the referee as for most of my life he was the person throwing verbal darts and Mom was the referee.

My baby brother (aged 41) PME was there at the house. He is a lovely person who is a consummate gift giver. He takes the time to ponder the tastes of each person he wants to gift and chooses something special that is uniquely suited to that person. Unfortunately, none of the rest of us take the time and the thought required to do that so he sits around with bottles of cheap wine and gift cards while we ooh and ahh over what he has chosen for us. He always looks a bit wistful.

Christmas at my parents is very much a secular holiday. Last year my mom got so angry that we would go to church on Christmas Eve rather than spend the time with them that we just chucked it. This year we found a Christmas morning service to attend before we went to their house. Last year I insisted on praying the collect for Christmas before we opened our presents and one of my brothers and his wife just continued chatting while I said it. This year Dad asked me to say the blessing before Christmas dinner and I said I would only if people would actually pray with me! (We have a history in my extended family of "religious fascism", which is part of the reason I'm the only child of five who is active in a Christian church. Both of my parents would rather be boiled in oil than attend worship. I have to be careful so that I do not have that unfortunate label atributed to me.) Anyway, Only Son and his family were there to pray with me, and PME joined us for prayer. Everyone else absented themselves. At least they were honest!

Dinner was great. My sister in law fixed a mean turkey, wonderful dressing, and ten pounds of mashed potatoes--after all, she had to feed a total of 14 people. My pies didn't turn out as well as I had hoped but they were pretty. The best part was seeing the new baby, and seeing my grandchildren with him. He is pretty adorable and hardly cried at all while we were there. My grandchildren were very gentle with him and GD hardly left his side!

Poor Taciturn has the cold that I'm about over. He is asleep on the sofa; he had a fever last night and he is sure that he has a sinus infection. He seldom is ill; after 20 years as a pediatrician he has been exposed to most bugs known to man. When he does get sick, though, he is sick. Please pray for him.

Tomorrow I plan to head back to my parents with a bottle of nice bourbon for PME, who confided that he drinks that now. It'll be nice just to hang out without holiday expectations.


Mary Beth said...

Amen. Do I ever hear you about holiday expectations. I go to my parents AFTER the hols for that reason.

Love to you!

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I wrote a long and bitter post about family holiday expectations to go up yesterday, and then I deleted it. I have an in-law who's a bit of a Christmas nazi.

I'm sorry you're mom has turned so mean, but I commend you for trying to keep it in the perspective of her illness. I hope tomorrow will be a relaxing time for you.

Diane said...

I was here before and didn't comment. We have our own holiday issues and stresses, due to the step-family situation and all that that means.

I'm sorry about your mom. It sounds like you understand, but it's still hard.