Two blog posts in one day, how about that.
I’ve always felt unsupported by my parents, ever since I was a little kid. I’ve come to realize that I don’t think they intend to be emotionally unsupportive and may not even know that they are.
But I figured something out yesterday. My dad sent me a text saying he’d heard a song by The Cure and it reminded him of me (because I was a rabid, insane Cure fan as a teenager.) He said he hoped that would bring me a smile.
I replied that it did and that I really appreciated the smile because yesterday was a really rough day. His response to that: “Wishing the best for you.” He didn’t engage further and didn’t ask any questions.
So I messaged my mom after that and she said that my dad had told her what I said. So I told her about our emergency room drama from yesterday that resulted in finding out that my husband’s cancer is back. She was a little more positive and told me she’d be praying for him and that he should fight fight fight. A little more appropriate than my dad’s response but it still felt kind of dismissive. I’ve never once been able to really talk to either of my parents about the reality of what we’re going through. I’ve tried with my mom but she always tries to move me past the topic.
When I told my mom I was getting a job because I’d have to be able to support myself when J’s gone, she seemed totally taken off guard. I don’t know if she thought I shouldn’t be concerned with that or she didn’t realize his condition was that bad (I’ve never told her he’s stage IV, for example, only that it was “really bad.”)
But clearly she is unaware or pretending to be that through all of J’s cancer journey, I’m also having these simultaneous thoughts about how I’ll survive as a widow. Whether it’s a year from now or ten years from now, it’s something I have to think about and plan contingencies for. I don’t think she’s thought about the likelihood that he won’t make it. It’s a form of magical thinking, I guess, but I don’t have the luxury of engaging in it.
Meanwhile, my best friend’s response to learning that J’s cancer had returned was “OMFG, I am so bowled over to hear this devastating news. Shit shit shit fuck.” That just really validated my feelings and didn’t put any pressure on me to put a positive spin on a shit sandwich. I felt understood.
I often feel like I have to protect my parents from the struggles of my life. And of course my sister doesn’t seem to have as many struggles, both because she and her family are healthy and because she has a lot of money. I’m left feeling this distance that is more emotional than geographical. In fact, that was a big part of why we had to move away: I couldn’t handle being geographically close but emotionally distant.
I know other people deal with truly horrible parents, which mine are not. They’re human and fallible, just like everyone is. But the emotional distance and neglect is built into the very foundation of our relationship and it’s often really hard to get over that longing that they’ll be something more. I already know that whenever my husband does die, my parents are not going to be the shoulders I can cry on.
I used to think the problem was my fault but now I know it’s not. I know that this is just how they are. They’re very deeply uncomfortable with anything traumatic or painful and try to rush past it and pretend it’s not happening.
But that’s a problem when you’re the child and something legitimately traumatic is happening. You have to deal with it and the only way out is through. You’re supposed to be able to count on your parents for emotional support and I can’t.
Mother’s Day is always difficult for me because all the cards to choose from describe these emotionally warm deep friendships between mother and daughter, and that just doesn’t describe our relationship at all. I think it would make her happy to receive a card like that but I can’t do it. It feels too dishonest.
In many ways, I see my parents as more emotionally fragile than I am. While there’s no question that I’m going through some very hard shit that is likely going to change my life forever, I still have faith that I can ultimately handle it.
I just wish that I didn’t have to go through it alone.