Thursday, January 12, 2006

Getting closer

This one is about my folks, and it's a little long, so I apologize- on both counts.
After a couple of terrible years, my parents (especially my Dad) and I are slowly getting closer again. They took the coming out thing pretty hard and there was a long time when every interaction with Mom was strained and painful, while there was no interaction with Dad- he and I barely spoke for a couple of years. That was four years ago. It was awful. Especially with Mom, because she and I were so close when I was a teenager. I know many teens are embarassed by their parents, but I never felt that way about her, and we had so much fun.

About a year and a half ago, something changed, and I don't know what it was- maybe it was just the realization of how much we were losing- missing out on our conversations, holidays, just being a cohesive family. Combined, I think, with Dad having what he thought was a near-death experience- it turned out to be nothing much, but he was upset by it (I think I would be, too). He was dehydrated from too high a dosage of diuretics, and felt like he quite literally couldn't move out of bed one morning. He thought he was dying, and according to my mother, said to her "Tell Kate I love her." My mother being a career nurse (thus, having no sympathy for anybody's whining) told him to get in the car so she could take him to the hospital, and when it was apparent that all he needed was some fluids, she replied "Tell her yourself."

Later on that summer, Mom must have had a conversation with him to the likes of "They're both being invited to dinner, and you're going to show up, or else." She invited J and I up to their house for dinner (the first time I was ever able to bring a girlfriend home) and we nervously went. Dad was mysteriously missing for a while (he is often mysteriously missing), presumably going for a drive and convincing himself to show up and be nice, and he came in about forty-five minutes late. We had dinner, where J was introduced to our family pastime of intellect-grueling political debate over meals, and we retired to the living room for tea afterwards. I was desperately and pointedly bringing up J's most Dad-baiting qualities and things they have in common- being Air Force vets, getting their Masters degrees, hobbies in photography, etc. Bing! The photography part struck the right cord (Dad has been really into photography since retiring a few years ago, including starting his own business), and he was off! Background info: My Dad loves to lecture on very specific, often inane, subjects to one or more sorry souls for hours on end, similar to his love for driving unsuspecting passengers on unbelievably long routes on what should be 5-minute trips in the car). He invited J to the computer room so that he could show her the online photo-finishing service he uses, and spent the next two and a half hours telling her all about non-digital photography. After snickering about it long enough, Mom and I decided to rescue J. As we left, there were hugs all around (I was practically crying on the way home because I could hardly believe my Dad just hugged my girlfriend) and things have gotten slowly better since then.
We've had our share of fights and difficult conversations since then (the most recent of which was about whether or not they would attend my wedding- see archives for that story), but I certainly never would have imagined four years ago, being in this good position with them now. When it was still really bad, my middle sister and I joked that I had really done her a favor (as she had had the most difficult relationship with the `rents of the three of us), by coming out to them- I was officially demoted to Least Favorite Daughter, and she actually got to enjoy the middle for a while. I'm fixing to regain my favored status! SO, a couple of new things have happened in this process since J and I have moved just 10 minutes away from my parents. The first couple of things were a little unnerving. I expected the unannounced visits and such, but really! First Dad walked into our apartment and scared the crap out of J- she hadn't heard him knock and the doorbell didn't work (we have since bought a wireless doorbell to avoid the potential catastrophies from that). Then, he showed up at the laundromat while I was folding. Because he saw my car. And then sat in a nearby chair in uncomfortable near-silence until he decided to leave. Hm. I'm not nearly as weirded out by these things as perhaps I should be, but they are in the category of things about living so close to the folks that aren't exactly fabulous. This however, is far outweighed by the things you learn when spending more time together- such as discovering that my Mom made a picture-frame-quilt-wall-hanging-thingy, above their bed with five pictures in it. Grammie and Grampa B, Mom and Dad, Barbara and Will (oldest sister and bro-in-law), Sarah and Tim (middle sister and partner), and me and J. In the middle are embroidered the words, "Families stiched together by love seldom unravel." So we're not there, yet, but we're getting closer.

1 comment:

Trista said...

Wow, the quilt thing is AWESOME!

And yeah, proximity to parents can be a bit unnerving. Like when my dad was supposed to come over and help us with something, and he came over early and beat Kristin to our home by about a half hour, so he just BROKE IN and started working. She was unnerved to say the least. I am used to the fact that my father can break into any house built before 1990, so was not the least bit surprised. But he's agreed not to break into our house anymore -- probably because of a few things he's seen that he was never meant to see and that he most certainly wishes he hadn't!

I am so glad that things are getting better with your folks. I'm sure the proximity can only help.