Friday, November 8, 2013

Reflections on LA

First off, I’d like to say that as always, it sure is nice to be back home. Going back to LA had its fair share of positive attributes, including eating good Mexican food, meeting my niece, and seeing my good friend Glen, not to mention reuniting with my brother, but for the most part, it was exhausting and I found myself pining for our home in woods of New England. Who in their right mind wouldn’t?

Or as A&N said, visiting my mom was “interesting,” which probably the best way to put it. I had sincere concerns about going back there, not the least of which was that I hadn’t seen my mom and my brother for over 10 years. My worries over my mom was that she was going to be mean and vindictive, and that my brother was going to be insincere and greedy and it was going to cause me to be a jerk. Both of these situations are how I remember my family, but my concerns did not completely come to fruition. Part of it was that I decided to suck it up and not react like I’d always done in the past. I know my brother is trying his best to get along with me, but my mom will always try to goad me into battle, or at the very least, hurt my feelings or make me mad. It’s no wonder I haven’t been home in such a long time.

To complicate the matter (why are there always complications?), we had a busy few weeks prior to the visit, with trips to Ohio and the kids going to camp. Going back to LA was just one more thing, but going back is what we did. I think nobody had more concerns about this than R, because she knows my mom and she knows how difficult this was for me, but she had the rational POV and just kept telling me to go with it. No matter how mean or tactless she was going to be, don’t react and start a fight, just nod your head and smile.

My mom has mellowed out a lot, no doubt, but she can’t seem to toss out a few barbs now and then, it’s just in her DNA. She has two methods of attack: the direct critique, where she flat out says what she thinks (regardless of the fact that it’s usually wrong), and indirect attack, which I think hurts even more. Now I grew up with these assaults, so I am sort of used to them, even though they anger me beyond words. I was not, however, going to allow her to target the kids, no matter what. There was just no way I was going to stand by and let this happen, despite R’s entreaties for me to just let it go. For the record, what I say to my mom makes absolutely no difference in how she interacts with people, but I still can’t stand around and say nothing, especially when it involves the kids.

Since we arrived in the evening and went straight to bed from exhaustion, we were spared the assault until the next morning when we woke up. Interestingly enough, my mom spared me from her usual comment when she first sees me, which is “You’re fat,” or “You’ve put on so much weight.” I kid you not, she has said this to me every time she sees me, before even saying hello. It’s the first thing out of her mouth, so naturally it starts the interaction off on a bad foot. This time around, she didn’t say it, and even later stated that I seemed to be at a pretty good weight. That’s as good as it gets.

That did not stop her from commenting on other things in my life, including my hair, which she says makes me look like a girl, which I guess is true; my choosing to live like a hillbilly in rural New England, also kind of true; the fact that I haven’t visited her in 14 years, which is very true, but not completely accurate since it’s been more like 12 years. Now I can deal with (sort of) all this, but when she says things about the kids, it simply infuriates me. Leave the kids alone. Our kids are well behaved, too, so they don’t deserve these attacks, but she simply can’t help it. To worsen the matter, all my anger and scorn make little to no impact on her behavior, it may even encourage her, she just keeps going on.

Case in point, she felt the need to comment on their hair (indirect: why do you cut hair like that?); their backpack (direct: that backpack is so ugly, I’m going to buy a new one); their clothes, (indirect: I’m going to buy some shorts that aren’t so long and ugly); the fact that they wanted to help make breakfast (I don’t like to see men in the kitchen, only girls should cook). She felt the kids don’t eat enough and literally tried to force junk food and sugary drinks down their throats, which is crazy when you think of how critical she is of being overweight. Kudos to A&N for not giving in, though a little junk food is okay.

My mom also felt the need to tell all of us that we clearly hadn’t taught the kids how to properly greet their grandmother, after which we all had to shower her with attention and affection before going to bed and in the morning. At some point, it just becomes a bit of a joke. How contrived can you possibly be?

I have to say that despite how awkward and unpleasant it can be, she has mellowed out a lot, especially with me. I just didn’t feel as oppressed as I usually do, though I still think she needs to put a lid on her comments. And though we weathered our fair share of attacks, my brother got it worse, in my opinion. When we were growing up, he was always the golden child, which was fine because it deflected attention away from me.

Now, he is no longer the golden child, for several reasons. Unlike me, he never finished college, and education is what it’s all about in my family. Plus, he’s gained a considerable amount of weight, for which my mom attacks him relentlessly. As much as I didn’t enjoy being targeted, I felt really uncomfortable with the way she went after my brother and worst of all, his daughter. What’s crazy is my mom really likes my niece, but felt the need to comment on how ugly her clothes were and even worse, that she thought her butt was getting too big. How do you say those sort of things to your own granddaughter? My brother and his daughter see my mom a lot more than I do, so they must be used to it, but it’s still awful to see and experience.

Now I could go on for days about how my mom treats people, or rather treats us, but at some point I need to just get over it and move on with my life. Part of that is living 3000 miles away, but it’s also about just living our lives the way we want to, in a place we love like New England. I think we prepared our kids for their visit, and truth be told, I think they had a nice time and were able to just roll with my mom’s quirks. Plus, they got to see LA and eat good Mexican food and see all the fancy cars in that part of town. At one point it seemed as if every car around us was a Benz, Porsche, or a Lexus. We even saw a few Lamborghinis and Ferraris, which you never see out here.

All in all, as ugly as I’ve painted it, the trip was fine. Most of the negative energy was directed to me, and she left the kids alone, though living with her is a bit of an exercise in self control because she is the way she is. On a huge positive note, she got to me A&N, who got to me T&T, and it was a nice time. I will say this, hanging out with my mom is a lot more pleasant when my brother and niece are there, because we are all bonded in the common goal of survival. There is value to that sometimes.

I also feel like a huge gap has been bridged, and now we can keep in touch with my mom and maybe even go and visit her again in the near future. I think it will be sooner than 14 years, that’s for sure.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Joseph Voves for the pic.

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