There are some movies that just get you right there in the feels. When I need a good “feel good/pick me up from the doldrums” movie, I pull out My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
My husband and I quote from it all the time. Our favorite lines include:
“What you mean, you no eat meat?…S’okay, I fix lamb.”
“Any minute now he’s going to figure out I’m so not worth this.” And then the woman’s brother says, “Yes you are.”
That second one just makes me tear up every time. It’s so beautiful.
The last line that I will often repeat is the title of today’s post. When the daughter (and main character) wants to take some classes at the local community college her dad’s face crumples and he wails, “Why you want to leave me?”
And I’ll admit it, that’s how I feel about Em’s upcoming trip to Europe.
Yeah, you heard right, my little girl (okay, not so little, she will be twelve) is going to Europe with my mom for a month.
Is it possible to die from empty nest syndrome?
They leave on October 10th and you would think it was tomorrow because I’m already in the throes of a panic attack. A thousand what if’s crowd through my brain, and I’m not alone, my hubs admitted to them as well.
It has me spiraling a bit. I’ll admit it. I think about my eldest in times like this. In the year since she distanced herself from us, I see far more clearly than I ever did that this is not a one-off thing, that she has been projecting her own agenda since her late teens and that I truly have been foolish in believing things would improve between us. She has her truths, I have mine, and they simply do not mesh.
It also has me examining my beliefs on family. What does it mean to be family? The images and concepts in my brain do not mesh with reality, and I have struggled for decades to reconcile them.
Our culture doesn’t address alienation very well. It isn’t the accepted story of our lives. We tell our friends, “Just give it time, it will get better, your kid will come around.” When the reality is sometimes it doesn’t. Or even our relationships with our parents. “It’s a blessing what you are doing for your father.” Reality check: I think he’s a real dick.
And after spend the past 19 months examining my relationships, or lack therof, with my parents and my eldest, hard truths have emerged.
Truth #1: That I no longer want a relationship with my eldest. EVER. Knowing she has been spinning lies for over a decade, embellishing upon the embellishments until the truth no longer remains, and using it as a crutch is unacceptable to me. To throw away the deep love that I have had for her, to do her best to discredit it in every word and deed, is hurtful and wrong. I spent months trying to blame others for that turn of events, convinced that a couple who had worked for us and who we had believed were our friends had turned her against us simply for the joy of creating hurt and havoc in their wake. But she is not stupid, she has a mind of her own, and she has been walking down this path far longer than I care to think about.
Truth #2: That I have zero respect for my father, who lives with us. Having taken into consideration his life choices, his complete lack of respect for anyone in his life (especially me and my husband) and his refusal to accept any responsibility for himself – I find that less contact with him is far better for me. He is now attending what is essentially adult daycare for five hours per day, five days per week. And the sigh of relief that escaped me when he left my house this morning was a big one. He lives with us for two reasons: 1) with no assets and little in the way of SSI, he would not find any decent nursing home (and he needs one, believe me), and 2) The state pays me to care for him and that helps move our plans of renovating two houses into rental homes and assuring that our future is not dependent on our children caring for us.
It sounds awful – both of these truths do. It sounds unacceptable in the face of societal expectations. Yet I will stand here and defend my ground because I am living this reality. My eldest has said that “abusers should not have a voice” while tossing out fabrications and distortions of the truth to pander to her readers. It is sickening and it is sad. My dad lies to the doctors and tells them we won’t feed him a diabetic diet when the truth is that he refuses to stick to a diabetic diet and regularly gorges on carbs, causing even more damage to his body.
I remember when my eldest left her husband and moved in to our house in 2015. She was freaking out because she wasn’t making money, had no job, had no prospects and was terrified she was being a financial drain. I told her she was family, that she was a citizen of the household and that we would make it work. Yes, we were struggling, and yes, she did need to do her part, but she needed to be patient with herself. We loved her and wanted her and supported her and she would find her way.
I never dreamed it would turn so hard against me 18 months later. That she would take those beautiful moments and twist them into something else, discount, ignore and lie about our time together, and try to financially hurt us at the same time as I was emotionally reeling as I tried to understand why this was happening.
I stopped reading her rants on May 6th, 2018. Right in time for Mother’s Day and a few days after that my 48th birthday. That final straw, the insanity of actually suggesting I would try and pull some legal hijinks and try and force my way into my future grandchildren’s lives by enacting grandparent’s rights was not only ludicrous but stupid. Not to mention incredibly paranoid. As if I would want to force a child who had been raised to hate me (“Let me tell you story about your evil grandmother”) to come and visit me. Seriously, what the hell? That was when I realized how deluded I had been about the person she was. She had grown up with nothing of me and everything of her dad in her.
I put a block on her site – easily removed – but it reminds me that I have blocked the site and urges me to go find something else to do saying “you have better ways to spend your time.” Although it is a struggle, I have left it in place. I have also blocked her emails and deleted her contact info – it is what she asked for and wanted. She wanted me to leave her alone and by god, that is what I am going to do. The only thing I haven’t honored is her request to “stop talking about [her] on my website.”
My website, my rules. I figure once someone tells you to fuck off, you get the right to make a few decisions on your own.
I have wondered what I would do if I ran into her – out and about. Turning on my heel and going in the opposite direction would be the best option. Who knows, by now she is long gone. Back to the West coast.
What is the point of me saying all this? Why share all of this?
I grew up alone. As in only child, super shy, and truly intimidated by others. They had the life I wanted. They had cousins, brothers, and sisters, loud and noisy houses. They had intact marriages (most of the time), and fun grandparents who fed them tons of sugar and let them run and play and didn’t freak out if they got muddy.
They had these rich lives, with tons of shoulders to cry on, hands to catch them when they fell, and their hours filled with squabbles and adventures.
I dreamed of that life. I fantasized about it. I read the Emily books by L.M. Montgomery and sorrowed for the girl, all alone like me. I decided I would not be that person, I would not live that life. I would have kids, plenty of them, three at least, and my story would be different.
Ah, the lies we tell ourselves…
And when menopause struck, I jumped into fostering, hoping for the best, fearful of the worst, with a brave face and even braver words. And I know our first placement, a sweet and fun little girl, will go back to her mother. She will return to a life that is simpler, less rich than ours. She will go back to a life that has uncertainty, poverty, food insecurity and more. But those aren’t good enough reasons for her to stay.
It won’t happen today or tomorrow or next week. It might be months. But it will happen. So we fall in love and we wait for it to break our hearts. And I struggle with answering the big question – is there a point where the heartbreak (from my eldest, from this little one, from the fear of anything happening to my beautiful girl while she is in Europe) becomes too much? That the risk of pain outweighs the possibility of happiness?
That’s what made me cut the ties finally with the eldest. Fully and completely. Because I know that, no matter if that slender hope of reconciliation were to happen, I would never trust it (or her) again. I would be a fool to.
There is so much joy in being around children. Especially when they are your own (or even temporarily your own). And there is so much sadness and heartbreak in losing them.
You don’t get the sad much. I’ll smile and tell you I’m good, I’m fine and everything is all right. But I love my children with such a deep desperation. It brings me to the edge of the abyss at times. And I just needed to share that for once.