Something’s Broken (and for once it isn’t me)

Posted: 5 April 2011 in observations
Tags: , ,

My parents have just been visiting for three weeks.  I had a fortunate childhood and I like them well enough, but my mother (previously known here as the VVM) has a complex set of mental illness and emotional damage that makes her less like a mother and more like a particularly sensitive time bomb.

It has taken years of visits to recognize that two or three days before she leaves for home she stops speaking to me, has no opinion about anything, trails behind on any outing – and by behind I mean a block or so, not just a bit – and waits for the opportunity to take something I’ve said and twist it into a personal attack.  You can imagine where that goes.  No place good.

In the end, I spend hours wondering what I could have done differently, and I can usually find something.  I said or did something that she could take wrong.  This time I carefully watched every word I said and until the very end of her last day.  I’d be proud to announce that I’d averted crisis except that it’s impossible.  She dissolved anyway.  She attacked other people, less so than she usually goes after me, but I stayed out of the line of fire until all the signs came anyway.  Even though I didn’t say anything, it happened anyway.

She lives on the other side of the country and our visits are annual at best.  It doesn’t matter that she has contentious relationships with other family members.  It doesn’t matter that I love her very much.  It doesn’t matter that she treats me differently than my sisters.  What matters is that I don’t know how avoid another visit.  I can’t stand the idea of doing this again now that I am completely sure it isn’t my fault.

Sure, it could be so much worse.  But it sure as hell could be so much better.


  1. I think that knowing the fault doesn’t lie with you will matter so much more the next time this happens…will make it easier because you won’t have to question yourself quite so much. Just keep reminding yourself that you can’t and shouldn’t be responsible for the behaviors of other people. Even if you *had* said or done something wrong, you’re not responsible for the ways people react to that.

    • meridith says:

      that’s a really good point. I always think “if I could just be a tiny bit nicer…” but really, you’re right. how she acts is up to her.

  2. Nomads By Nature says:

    All you can do is love her. I wish there was a magic wand to take the pain and self-doubt away. Love is the best wand.

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