Monday, March 23, 2009

The Parental Units Trap

Whew! Just survived a weekend with Ye Parents.

Is it just me, or does everyone have a similar problem? I come back from a visit with shakes, completely exhausted from the emotional conflagration. I go through every excuse in the book not to see them for another six months.

This past year I actually DIDN'T go to their place for Christmas. (Went Thanksgiving instead.) Got the whole Guilt Trip laid on me (of course my absent sister didn't), but by golly, for once it was a peaceful holiday! Think I'll try that again this year. Maybe I'll even get a tree.

Mom's recollections of her life back before marriage when she was in the Air Force, involve a lot of breaking rules, standing up for herself and having fun. Her nickname was "Happy." Me, I don't recall her ever smiling that much. (And I don't think it was me what made her that way. I was a perfect child.)

Now in their eighties, Mom and Dad have become concentrated versions of themselves. These days Mom sits in her recliner working silently on solitaire or watching whatever's on the TV while Dad talks and talks even if no one's around (occasionally Mom says, "Uh huh" if he pauses because he gets mad if he thinks no one's listening), and flies into absolute rages at the tiniest thing.

I remember being seriously upset by the situation when I was in high school, and it wasn't just teen angst at work. For a couple years they did seek a shrink's help. Mom seemed to be fine with all the verbal abuse. The problems kept flaring up with me time and again through the years. These days I put in my weekly phone call -- dealing mostly with the weather -- and that's that; duty done (along with a bit of financial assistance).

My friends and co-workers seem to have the same type of problems and also dread visits.

So: how did we survive our childhoods with them if now we go KA-RAZY if we're with them for more than three hours?

How do we get back on a non-lethal emotional playing field with our parents?

I'd welcome any ideas. I mean, they're talking about the entire family getting together for a week this summer at Myrtle Beach. I think that's the week I have to work overtime...

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