That phone conversation sent me into the dark place… that place where I go when I feel emotionally trapped. I’ve been to that place oh so many times over the years. I’ve lived there for months at a time. I don’t go there very often any more, but when I do, I go with a new awareness that makes the pain deeper, and therefore shorter lasting. There was nothing I could say… nothing. Anything I said would have made me look like the ass hole. I couldn’t believe the tone in his voice, the matter-of-fact way with which he spoke… the absolute void-of-emotion conversation we were having. He was leaving to go back across the ocean in less than 24 hours… no desire to see your sister who is one of the greatest people you’ve ever known??? No NEED to see her and hug her and say thank you, I love you, one more time? No. Nothing but a slight obligatory tone indicative of a family member who is obligated to appease another family member just by showing up when is expected. And then my mind started spinning…
Of course he was acting distant to me now that he’d come home and my parents were completely and amazingly supportive of his situation. He’d called them and told them and given them a few days to think it over before he called back to tell them he was coming home to marry Rachel. I finally spoke to my mother about it and her word-for-word comments were these,”I mean, what are we supposed to do, but be supportive? We can make a big deal about it and worry about what everyone will think, or we can just accept that this is what it is and love them and be the supportive parents that they need us to be right now. It could be a lot worse.”
Pause still for shock and awe.
My jaw nearly fell off my face. After a few seconds of speechlessness, I managed to tell her how proud I was for her and how right she was. I told her I was proud of her three times. She acted surprised… and finally said, “Well, ya know, we’ve been through a lot, Ellie, and we aren’t going to be the kind of parents that aren’t there for our children. I can’t tell you what some of my cousins went through with their families and the lack of support they received. We’re just not going to do that.” She talked a little bit more but I tuned her out… I told her I was proud of her for the last time and we said goodbye.
I shared this apparent awakening with an old friend and was able to laugh about how I feel that I have a right to take credit for some of that obvious emotional growth and development that has occurred in my parents… I like to think I broke them in with my bi-racial marriage and all. They ignored my husband’s existence for 2 years and lectured me about how they’d burn in hell before they had black grand-babies… they told me at the age of 25 that I had no “idea” what I was doing and that I “better stop it now” before it’s “too late.” Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they meant by “too late.” They never reacted well to any situation I found myself in. They were never supportive of me in my darkest hours when I needed them the most. As proud as I was of them for the way they were handling this situation, their ease and acceptance just dug the knife they planted in my heart many years ago in just a little bit deeper. That is a pain that is profound and very energy consuming to cover up when they are around.
So, here was my brother, home and spending time with my mom and dad who completely and almost immediately embraced him and the girl they once said they could not stand. They surrounded him with the love and support he needed almost immediately, as he said they would. He told me, “they don’t have a choice, they’ll love her and be supportive of her because our family is amazing and that’s what families do.” It has taken me years of therapy to realize that they very much do have a choice when it comes to what kind of parents they choose to be. I am finally beginning to understand this. Parents always have a choice as to how they will react to their children. Herein lies the “ME” part of this chapter.
In my frustration, I tried calling my parents, no answer. I tried calling my sister, no answer. I just could not bring myself to seek comfort from my husband, who had the knowledge to offer the most compassion, but lacks a general ability to actually show compassion, which presents an obvious problem. But, I decided to tell him anyway because quite frankly, he was the only one who knew the history and sometimes I just can’t be bothered explaining it all, nor do I want everyone in my life to know the drama that is my family. I explained to my husband that I was feeling hurt by the entire situation on multiple levels: hurt that my brother was showing no interest or even care about whether or not he saw me before he left the country, hurt that my parents had shown him such support and love when I never have been able to receive that from them. I told him that if it were not for me and all of the things I “put them through,” this would never be. His response did not shock me… he told me “Don’t even take it there, Ellie. Don’t even take it there. This isn’t about you or your parents…” I stopped him and calmly explained that the situation involves me because of the bond I have with my brother. I explained that I am allowed and should be granted full permission in my own house to feel things as I need to feel them as I adjust to the situation. I explained that he must understand my shock and awe at my parents behavior considering that I had received such opposite behavior from them on multiple occasions in my life. Certainly, he could understand that?? Apparently not. So, I told the blog. 😉
They finally came by; it was after their dinner reservations, around 9pm. I’d just put my son to bed. As soon as I saw him, all the anger and hurt I’d been feeling all day naturally disappeared. I hugged him and told him to please keep in touch once he was back home. I’m a bit of an over protective sister at this point and I do recognize that I have some adjusting to do, but who wouldn’t?