It’s been a week since I’ve been back from Malta, which is hard to believe. I’ve been back for as long as I was there. It feels both like a faded memory and as if it never happened. I’m grateful for the experience, and it’s taught me some things about myself. One thing I didn’t talk about before is our nightmare layover in Charles de Gaulle. I may have mentioned it in passing, but I neglected to say how truly hellish it was. It was on the way to Malta, and it was three hours. That seemed like it would be plenty of time, but I was wrong. First mistake was not getting boarding passes for both legs of the trip, but I naively thought it would work like all other international airports and not be a problem. Oh, how I was wrong.
First of all, my mother was obsessed with getting a wheelchair for my father. His deteriorating health, both mental and physical, was a constant theme of the trip. It was one of the reasons my parents extended an offer to Ian to be included; he was going to help with chaperoning my father around. We went to the help desk, and he wasn’t very helpful. He put in a request for a wheelchair, but he said it would come in half an hour, maybe an hour, who could tell? He gave a Gallic shrug, and my mother tried to ask other questions. He didn’t know the answer to any of them, and we were on our bewildering way.
We needed boarding passes, but we didn’t know how to get them. I tried to use the Wi-Fi, but it wasn’t working on my phone. Ian was making suggestions, but my mom (and, admittedly me) was ignoring him. We stood in the security line for a minute, but I was wondering if we needed to get the tickets first. So, Ian and I went to try to find the ticketing counter, but couldn’t. I was panicking, and we returned to the security line. Someone told us we had to go through that to get to the ticketing agent, which was weird to me. When we got to the front of the line, over an hour and a half had passed, and we were running out of time. I was hot and cranky, and the woman told us we needed our boarding pass to get through or a confirmation of our flight. Which would not be a problem if I could actually access the Wi-Fi. Which I couldn’t. I stepped out of line, but my parents were at another agent. She was telling them they needed their boarding pass when I was finally able to access Wi-Fi and after much difficulty, pull up my confirmation.
I showed it to the woman, and she was making noises that it wasn’t enough. My father lost his shit and started shouting, “What kind of country is this?” at the top of his lungs. His eyes had that empty look in it that he had gotten when he screamed at my mom and me a few days after he got here (Minnesota). My mom was futilely trying to shush him, but it wasn’t working. I told him in a firm and harsh voice that he needed to shut up, that he wasn’t helping. After some inevitable sputtering, he quieted down. I also used the firm voice on the agent, and she finally, begrudgingly, let us through.
After we reached the other terminal, we had to go through yet another security to get to the ticket counter. Which was way across the airport. We had like half an hour to get our boarding passes (which I misinterpreted in thinking we had half an hour to get on the plane, so I was really panicking), and when Ian and I got to the counter, the man said all the people who were boarding needed to be present with their passports. I had my parents passports, but not my parents because my father was in much pain by this point. Ian went to fetch them, and my mom had started walking in our direction, so she approached first. My father, assisted by Ian, took much longer, but we finally got our boarding passes with roughly a half-hour to go.
It was a shit-show, and it was made more difficult by the fact that my mother just wouldn’t stop trying to make things better. I recognize this impulse in myself, and I wasn’t above reproach, either. In fact, Ian was the only one who was right the whole time during this ordeal, and we didn’t pay enough attention to him. My tendency is to get tunnel vision, focusing on the problem at hand, and not seeing the bigger picture. I get it from my mother, and it irritates me the hell when she does it. You’d think I’d learn from that, but instead, I simply double down on my own stubbornness. I’ve told Ian more than once that stubbornness is a family trait, and while I’m not proud of it, it’s definitely there.
In addition, spending a lot of time with my family makes me regress to how I was when I was a child. Not completely, and I’m doing better than I have in the past, but I’m still short-tempered, and I have no room for grace for my parents. Ian commented that I shut my parents down quick. He said he understood why given my past, but I don’t think he can truly understand when he hasn’t gone through the craziness that was my childhood. With my father, I wasn’t allowed to have any opinions. I learned to swallow what I thought, and I still do it to some extent now with my emotions. I don’t talk about them at all, but with other opinions/facts? I don’t hesitate to express them. I know I’ve gone too far in the other direction, but it’s hard not to feel like I need to assert myself. I know arguing with my father is futile. I know he won’t care nor remember what I say. I still find myself arguing because it infuriates me how confidently he states a blatantly wrong opinion. Or rather, something he thinks is a fact but isn’t. I feel like I’m killing myself when I swallow my tongue, and while I know that’s not the healthiest response, it’s where I’m at right now.
With my mother, the reason I shut her down is because she wants to dump all over me all the time without actually wanting my opinion. She wants a sounding board, and I know if I give her any opening, it’ll just increase the amount of time I have to listen to her obsess over my father’s health. In addition, she repeats things over and over again until I scream. I can understand what she’s saying the first time–I don’t need her saying it five more times just because. Also, I get impatient because she’ll ask me questions without actually listening to my responses. She has a running monologue running in her brain, and I feel as if she just wants confirmation for what she already thinks.
We had a long conversation the night before she left (which was drama in and of itself) in which she said that she’s come to understand through EMDR that her mother loved her in a different way–like my father. She said this was God’s way of blah, blah, blah. I admit my brain shuts down when I hear God because it’s a justification of whatever bullshit is happening in her life. For whatever reason, she has to believe my father loves her in his own way when the reality is that he can’t love anyone, not even himself. I would agree he loves her best that he can love anyone, but it’s still not love. I think she’s in denial, which as a psychologist, she should know exactly how it works, but it’s hard to see your own flaws.
My mom kept giving excuse after excuse why my father wasn’t so bad, and I was not having any of that shit. At the end, she said she respected my opinion. I said, “No, you don’t. Not really.” Which is true. She doesn’t respect my opinion because she doesn’t understand it and vice-versa. We don’t have a common starting point, so there’s no way we can actually respect each other’s opinion (because we can’t understand it, to reiterate). She said she respected me, and I think that’s closer to the truth, though not really. I respect her a great deal in many areas of her life, but not for staying with my father all these years.
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders because of my family situation. My mother apologized for making me her confidante when I was eleven, but she’s still doing it to this day. I’m sure her rationale is that we’re both adults now, but I’m still her child. She needs a peer with whom she can share, but she refuses to do that because she’s the therapist. Again, I understand that because I’m the same way.
I’m not feeling the crushing depression that has plagued me my whole life, but the last five weeks with my parents (minus the week they were on a cruise) have left me feeling constantly numb. It’s a low-level depression, but it’s laced with the thought that life really isn’t worth living. My parents are considering coming back in October so my father can get back surgery, which would mean them staying here for at least two months. I don’t know if I can deal with that and the complex stew of emotions that are roiling up inside me.