Facing up to things & working through them, that’s what makes you strong.
My father passed away 3 years ago. Or rather…2 years and….5 months and a few weeks. Until this day, we have not in any way “celebrated” any holiday. I had Reed over one year for my birthday and we had a dinner, then the next year some of my Mother’s friends came by for my birthday dinner; Brother has had some friends over for his birthdays but on the down-low. And Brother and I have dutifully cooked for Mother on all her birthdays so far. Last time she told us as we were cleaning up after her birthday dinner that “next year” if we eat we should go out, instead of cook, because it was too much of a mess, but she said it in the agitated way, not the “I care and don’t want you guys to be tired” way (We eat her birthday dinners after she comes home from work, which is about 11:30PM, so we’re cleaning up past midnight).
On Thanksgivings/Christmases/New Years, we’ve gone to people’s houses (always with a complaint from her), but at home, nothing. No tinsel, no lights, no tree, no decorations at all whatsoever. The first Christmas after Father’s passing I put up a mini tree that Reed got me. I haven’t put it up after that. I was, just busy and…tired….this year.
The church is publishing a “yearbook” later this year for the parish’s 30th anniversary. Families had a chance to sign up to take pictures for the year. I asked Mother if we were going to take the yearbook picture, her reply was “No, we’re not a family.”
We’re…not a family? Really? Hahahaha, it’s so absurd it kind of makes me laugh in an upset kind of way. If we’re not a family, then what the hell are we? If we’re not a family, why are we still living together? Why do I still listen to her? Put my life on hold because of her? Why haven’t Brother and I moved out and just ditched her? If we’re not a family? How do you SAY that to your daughter? You’re father’s dead, we’re not a family? How, do you say that to your children, no matter how old they are, and expect them to understand and just accept the reasoning?
Ok, maybe she just didn’t want to take pictures. Maybe, she really, honestly believes that we’re not a “family,” I wouldn’t be surprised. But don’t say that! Tell me you don’t like to take pictures! Tell me there’s no time. Tell me there’s no point! Tell me anything BUT that we’re NOT a family!
So today, it’s the day before Lunar New Year’s Eve. We were talking about going up to my godfather’s house for a housewarming on Lunar New Year Day. She wants to leave for there at 11AM, they live near Potomac Mills…about 45 minutes away from here. It’ll take us maybe an hour to get there. But she wants to be back by 4PM or something so we can visit Father’s grave afterward. Why are we going somewhere for 3 hours….instead of staying home, cleaning the house (technically you’re supposed to do that before the actual New Year’s Day), eating meals together, spending actual time at Father’s grave instead of just visiting? So anyway, that led on to me asking something about us, us as in Mother, Brother and I, celebrating New Year’s, and she said “Có gì vui đâu mà làm?” Basically it means “what’s the fun to celebrate?” In proper English….”What’s to celebrate?” Which I guess means to her that there’s nothing to celebrate…Well…It’s New Year! Your son just got straight A’s on his report card. Your daughter snatched herself a chance to study abroad in Japan! You, your daughter, your son, are healthy. They have nice friends. They’re not bad kids? Are those not things to celebrate? Are those not things to be happy about? I asked her why she thought that there was nothing to celebrate. She nodded her head towards the picture of Father. I’m pretty sure she did, I couldn’t bear to look at her. I thought I would just completely break down. What kind of life are Brother and I expected to live? Are we to wallow the rest of our lives? I miss Father too. I’m sure that if we (I) ever did celebrate another holiday ever again, I’d probably have a nice, good cry the night before, or the night after, but I’d try and be strong too. I mean, obviously we’ll never go through anything ever again without missing Pops, but does it have to be like this??
I don’t know what to do but cry. Haha. We were eating dinner with a guest, so I tried to pass it off. I didn’t want to press it and start anything. But I couldn’t look at her anymore. I can’t say anything to her, couldn’t answer her when she tried to make conversation, so now she thinks I’m bringing up attitude, I’m sure. I don’t care. I don’t know what to do but just break down to myself. Ha….I wanted to talk to her. I told myself that maybe later I should sit down with her and ask her why she’s thinking like that. And explain to her that it upsets me. But that’s not how this family, which isn’t really a family, works. She’ll turn sarcastic. She won’t listen, she’ll tell me I’m right and she’s wrong and she’ll make me feel guilty for expecting too much from her. Is it too much to expect your Mother to be a source of emotional support? Too much to expect your Mother to be strong and to show you how to be strong? In this case, yes. (As I reread this for grammatical mistakes [cuz I do that] I realize what a ridiculous question that is. How long have I been living with her? How do I not know the answer to those question? How can I even think of asking those questions? Shouldn’t it be obvious to me by now?)
So I doubt I will talk to her. But I will have to avoid her for a few days. I have a temper. I’ve been able to control it so that I go for months taking in everything and then one day I explode, and I spend a few more months just taking in more crap and then I explode again. For the past few days I’ve been just taking stuff in, but if I speak to her anytime soon, I’ll explode again.
One time my youth group went to Mt. 2000 and I went to confession with an American priest, and I told him about my Mother and I completely broke down. So he told me that I can’t change other people, the only person I can change is myself. There’s only so much I can change about myself, and he’s right that I can’t ever change her. So every now and then when I’m angry but still sane I try to remind myself of that. I can’t change her. So there’s no point in “lecturing” her, which is what me sitting her down and talking to her is, no telling her how I feel, nothing like that. So I guess all I can do is do stuff myself.
When I move out, and…before I thought I would feel guilty…but under circumstances it makes more and more and more sense…if she continues like she is, I’m sure my moving out will make sense to her too (which might actually be impossible but, the way things are going, it’s so bad she might actually be able to see why I need to leave), for holidays I’m going to make centerpieces and place them all neat and nice on my dining room table. I’m going to put up turkeys and santas and hearts and lions. I’m going to put up tinsel and lights and ornaments. I’m going to give out candy (or be out getting candy). I’m going to bake sugar snowmen and chocolate chip leaves and strawberry arrows. I’m going to cook meals and invite Brother over, and Reed over, and friends over…and I’ll invite Mother too. And when she comments or criticizes I’ll ignore it and when she says something upsetting I’ll just tell her, “I’m celebrating.” You might not be, you might not want to, and for now you might not allow us to, but in the future, I’ll be celebrating.