Family is never simple. I was at my folks the other day as I was in the neighborhood. It is a good twenty some mile drive away one-way, so when I am not far I call and drop in for coffee and a visit. As a daughter of a Jewish family, I am familiar with the mom who wants to be in touch non-stop.
When I was nineteen, I took myself to live in London for a few months to apprentice at a hair salon. I had never been away from home. My mom, and my dad wrote me letters daily. They would arrived in the P.O. box of the college agency that helped young students and graduates get work visas in ye ol’ Great Britain. My brother later told a story of my mom going into my room while I was gone, and taking naps on my bed to soak up my ambiance. My space certainly spoke of me. I had rubber-cemented as if wall paper, images I’d clipped from fashion magazines of clothing trends and hair styles, make-up, and of course obligatory for a straight girl, images of hot men from GQ magazine.
Later, when I was working at an office job and about twenty-two, my mom had the one and only office job she’d had since I was born. Email was still new~ish. From her work she’d send a quick message asking me how my day was. I was editing law text. If I didn’t respond immediately to her email she would call me to make sure I was doing all right.
A few years later I dated someone who had a Phd in psychology. He explained to me about a little something called boundaries to help me with my family. I certainly had never learned about this from my folks, particularly my mother. It was then that I finally had the cognition to ask her not to call me every day, to let me call her maybe once a week or so. It was just not healthy for me to talk to her daily.
Five years ago the dynamics in our family relationship changed again. My dead-beat brother, who was trying to be an actor but who has never been focused on one project long enough to complete it, was not doing well. He had moved out at the tender age of eighteen with a boyfriend he met at college. For years he tried various angles at earning money, and wound up teaching as a freelance piano teacher, lessons to students. Needless to say, he never has managed to pay those taxes, and has amounted a large debilitating debt to boot.
My father, always the caring parent, asked my at-the-time twenty-eight year old brother to move back into the house. He did. And now five years later my brother has still neither paid his taxes, nor found a stable job of any sort. As well he does not pay rent, or utilities, or groceries. The list of expensive things he has paid for since moving back just adds insult to the situation.
For the first few years, particularly around the holiday season, my mom would call me and complain about the level of stress she had having him in the house again. I will say that she is not an easy soul to live with, is very demanding and particular, and borders on being verbally abusive to make often times simple points.
That being said, she would call and parentalize me by telling me about her divorce level stress she was under having my brother cohabitating with her in the same house. How as she did not control the finances; my dad has always worked the money earning jobs, she was not in control of getting my brother out of the house. He was like her father, she said, had a huge temper. Consistently he would wake up furious and in a terrible mood. I knew well what she spoke of. Yet, as a daughter in a four-person nuclear family, there was nothing I could do. No one wanted to hear my real life opinion.
Like when I mentioned to my brother and father, after my brother totaled his car and got a D.U.I., that maybe when he got his insurance money he could get a much cheaper car, not a giant S.U.V. with all the bells and whistles on it that cost him $700 dollars a month, the cost of which could be used for his own apartment to live in for the monthly price of that vehicle. Honestly, it seemed insulting to the parents who wanted to see him succeed as an adult, for him to live bill free in their home and make such cavalier purchases.
The very day he moved back home, right before my wedding, he told my future husband and I that he was glad to move back home because now he could finally be irresponsible. Irresponsible consisting of his moving back and going on shopping sprees on the internet, and buying such crap as Banana Republic socks, shirts…whatever he’d felt deprived of living on his own.
And five years later, he has never taken any advice. The parents have never set up any restrictions or boundaries. As a result this means that he has neither paid his taxes, paid any of his debt down, nor helped himself become a more stable member of adult society. But he’s an artist. Well…if he were living on his own, then maybe I’d have an ounce of respect for that.
I had to pull back from the family as a result; more so than just not talking to my mom but once a week. I realized as a working and busy adult myself, that there was nothing I could do. I could not solve anyone’s psychology, and at the end of the day it was not my problem to solve.
With these five years later; after several small strokes before he moved back in, and continued health problems including blood clots and whatever else, my mom has lost a bit of clarity. Perhaps as a preservation of sorts her mind has helped her memory become not all that clear.