Forgive me if I use this space to complain, whine, and try to work through some of my personal issues.
I got what I considered bad news yesterday about my mom Mami Deer. She’s fine, physically-speaking. That annoying, persistent cough that I know she feared was lung cancer (we have a bit of hypochondria running through our family like a herd of rampaging elephants) turned out to be a new symptom of her asthma. What I’m upset is that she has, for the, oh fourth? fifth? gone back to a man who I think is bad for her.
Some history- my dad died when I was 14. Mami Deer had literally never been alone without a man in her life. It wasn’t something she liked or was cut out for. She was not independent, although my father left her financially independent. She didn’t want to be independent, she wanted a nice man to be with, to have take care of her to some extent. This man was the brother of one of her best friends and despite the fact that they lived in different states, they started seeing each other. She moved to where he lived, even though she hated it there. They got married eventually. A few years after they got married I started getting yearly phone calls about how unhappy she was. Then the calls became more frequent. She left him. My sister and I helped her that time- I was there just after she made the decision and my sister drove with her across the country when she left the (new) state that he lived in. After a while Mami Deer went back to him. Then they decided to split up. She moved to a new state, one she really felt was perfect for her and which, on a visit, she felt a profound, spiritual connection with. They got back together again, although they continued to live in their own states, with their own houses. They broke up again, and my mother sued for divorce this time. It’s been maybe two years since that divorce. Mami Deer moved to the same place that I and Bear, my brother, live, which also happens to be 45 minutes from where this man lives. She’s been lonely. So she’s gone back to this man, first as friends, and now as partners, although they have no plans to get re-married.*
My problem. I never liked this man. I first met him before my dad died and I couldn’t stand him. I found him arrogant and rude. Then they got together. I was a teenager, still grieving for my dad, and didn’t like him. It didn’t go well. My mother explicitly told me that she was choosing him over me. I grew up a little and learned to be polite. They chose to get married my first ever week of college (which my mother knew full well) and so I didn’t attend the wedding. Bear was too strung out on drugs to attend. My mom grew up a lot- really transformed herself- during the first 5 years of their marriage. She quit drinking and smoking (both of which he does in excess). She embarked on a spiritual journey that involved reading deeply about a number of different religions, faiths, and beliefs. She attended workshops and conferences and retreats. She stopped doing the things he liked- hunting, drinking, fishing, drinking, smoking, drinking- because she’d never really liked them to begin with. She grew up into a more independent, self aware woman. This, I believe, is when their relationship began to sour. Although he had always been passive aggressive I think it became worse. He insulted her and her intelligence with regular frequency. He never did any of the things she wanted to do or made any concessions to her life. I think he was confused how/why he was married to this woman who was completely different from who he thought she was. I started getting these phone calls, detailing all the (emotional) hurts he inflicted on her. There was the time he told her he would choose cigarettes over her. The time that he told her that he would keep shooting Great Blue Herons even though she loved the birds and begged him not to shoot them anymore, they were eating his fish. There was the time she was going into anaphylatic shock and he wouldn’t take her to the hospital (she had to drive herself). There was the time she had pneumonia and was in another state, alone and he wouldn’t come to her to take care of her, although he was retired and had no job; he wanted her to drive herself up to him, sick sick sick as she was. That time I had to restrain my sister from getting on a plane and nailing his balls to the wall, as she put it. Through all of these times and the countless others, I have heard about every last detail. I have served as her sounding board and her therapist, reassuring her that she is doing the right thing by leaving him, agreeing that he is not good for her, etc. etc. Mami Deer has since realized that this kind of thing was really inappropriate and has apologized but that unfortunately does not erase all that I know about this man and their relationship. Each time Mami Deer left him I felt filled with relief. Every time she goes back to him I am filled with horror.
And so I find myself again filled with horror. I know she is lonely, she has told me. She tried, very tentatively, to date other men (well, she went on one date with one man back in her old state, and two dates- coffees really- with another man here). She found it too complicated, they wanted too much of her time, she didn’t like that she didn’t know their particular dysfunctionalities. She wants her own life, and for a man not to impinge upon it. But she remains profoundly lonely. And frankly, I think she thought she would be more involved in my life and my brother’s life once she moved here. But we are grown-ups, with our own lives. And when she hangs out with us, and my best-friend gigglygirl (we are often all together) she thinks, why am I hanging out with all these kids? And did I mention she is lonely? So she has gone back to this man. Because he’s there. She knows all of his faults, but she knows what they are, rather than having to contend with the unknown ones that might be lurking in other men. And he won’t impress himself on her life, he has never, for one instant, been interested in being a part of her life. He is interested primarily in his life and if she comes along for it, great. Whereas this used to be a problem for her, it’s now a good thing- she doesn’t want to share her life, she just wants to be a part of his, for part of the time, so she doesn’t feel lonely.
I don’t want her to be lonely. After all, I love her. But it is because I love her that I don’t want her to be un-lonely with this man. Unless he has changed dramatically, has stopped smoking, drinking (or at least reduced the drinking- he has embarrassed her frequently by his drunken-ness and gotten a DUI once- in a town where he was a judge!), has become less passive aggressive and emotionally manipulative and stopped being so amazingly arrogant. Then he might be the right man for my mom. But I have a hard time believing all these things have happened. Meanwhile, my mother has placed her emotional health (not to mention her physical health- she’s got asthma! he smokes!) in the hands of this person. Again.
I find myself thinking, maybe they’ll break up again! Since they’ve broken up just as many times as they’ve gotten back together, maybe I just have to wait for the inevitable? I find myself sobbing with pain, watching my mother knowingly choose to place herself in a bad relationship again and again is painful. I find myself filled with dread at having to interact with this man. For awhile I will fake politeness and cheeriness and pretend that everything is just fabulous, act as if this isn’t a profoundly weird situation, and that I don’t know all this bad stuff about him. But soon I will stop faking, because I’m not so good at that, it drains me emotionally. Will I start to believe my own acting? Should I decide to place more emotional distance between me and Mami Deer, although this will hurt everyone? Should I shoulder through as best I can, relying on the sqvirrel to help me through? Should I try to see this man as little as possible, although that means spending less and less time with Mami Deer? Should I, for the sake of peace and the love of Mami Deer, accept it all and try to find something to love and respect about this man?
*It is possible, even likely, that I have missed an incident of breaking up and getting back together. They happened with such dizzying frequency that it’s a little unbelievable.