Tuesday, April 05, 2005

When life gives you lemons, you make lemon pavlova.

As I said earlier, I started my ‘wireless’ living early. In all honesty, I was so busy with household stuff that I wasn’t touching my laptop or pda. I did have to use my cellphone though. My cousin from Wisconsin was visiting and we were playing phone tag for the first 48 hours.

His mother wanted to visit and she asked him to meet her in the city. Here begins the craziness of my family. She lives in Indiana. They both took separate flights. My aunt feels she needs to have one child by her side during any trips, even to visit extended family. It’s sort of like a security blanket, I suppose. So my cousin spent endless hours coordinating flights so they both could land relatively at the same time. What they failed to put into account is that their respective airlines had different terminals. Long story short, my family acted like a taxi service between terminals B and A at LaGuardia.

During his first two days, my mother took them to AC to play slots. My aunt doesn’t gamble. So essentially, my cousin and my mother spent all night gambling while my aunt napped in the hotel room. Throughout the two days, my cousin kept trying to call me. Bad reception, meetings, missed calls and just plain idiocy led to an endless game of phone tag until I finally left a voice message saying I would call him at 1:30pm sharp and to be in an area of good reception.

My cousin and I both agree that our family cannot make a plan and stick to it. Nor can they make an easy plan. Everything is complicated. It’s not that they don’t try. Ok, they don’t try but us young ones do. Take meeting up for a family lunch on Saturday.

My cousin tells me my mother and aunts have suggested a get together for a lunch on Saturday. To make this easy the parties involved shall henceforth be, Manhattan, Bronx and Long Island. My brother, cousin and I say, “Fine. Tell us the time and place and we’ll be there.” This is typical of our family. If you want to suggest it, you plan it. Every day for the next three days, we’re calling our parents. “Have you figured it out yet? Let us know.” You would think by Friday evening, a plan would be in play. No. It takes us calling our parents to tell them they need to give us firm plans.

The Golden Girls: “Well, Long Island wants to make it a late lunch in Queens.”

The Young Ones: “If we’re supposed to go visit our grandparent’s grave in Upper Westchester, why the hell are we going to go to Queens for lunch?”

The Golden Girls: “Anyone else hear it’s going to thunderstorm? Let’s just wait until tomorrow and play it by ear.”

The Young Ones: “If we wait, it won’t happen until god knows when and I’m not spending the last day of my vacation waiting for you guys.”

The Golden Girls: “Well, why don’t we all go when we go.”

The Young Ones: “That means no lunch. Is that ok with you guys.”

The Golden Girls: “Whatever.”

The Young Ones: “Fine.”

Anyone else get the impression that we’ll all do our own thing and leave it at that? Exactly.

Now, I need to just give you some background info. It’s customary for us crazy Chinese to visit our dead ancestors at least twice a year if you live close by or at least once if you don’t. Since our grandparents are here in NY, my family, (mainly me, only because I know how to get to the cemetery with my eyes closed.) escorts the pilgrimage for visiting relatives.

Friday night after dinner my mother asks us to get in touch with my brother to inform him about the plan. Since my brother is with his girl, we get his voice mail.
Fast forward to Saturday. Tim and I have agreed to leave at 11am and get the cemetery stuff over with. We’ve left two more messages for my brother and decide as a courtesy to call my mother to see if she needs a ride. If my brother isn’t home, then she’ll need a ride. All hell breaks loose at this point.
At some point my mother got insulted that we weren’t going together. When we agreed we’d go our separate ways, she didn’t include Manhattan as a separate entity. Because she’s insulted she tells my brother to go without her. Now, the whole damn visiting of the cemetery was for the benefit of the old folks and now it seems as if the old folks have not gone. So there we were, my cousin, my husband and I soaked to the bone standing next to our grandparents grave asking ourselves, why the hell are we here?

I get a call from my brother that the whole thing is ridiculous and that he’s not going to the cemetery in the rain. He goes shopping for furniture. Can someone hit me with a 2x4?

Well, at least my mother can’t say I’m defaming the ancestors, I think. We drop my cousin off at my mom’s and the ride just gets better.

The next two hours are spent with my mother in tears, chain smoking while my cousin and my husband ask her what’s going on. I spend the first 20 minutes just listening. When I finally say something, she screams at me and asks why I keep interrupting. My cousin points out that I haven’t spoken a word. Long story short, everything she said to me during our phone call was reiterated. The three of us reminded her that although her relationship with her parents was of a passive aggressive nature, our relationship was not. If she wanted us to know how she felt, she’d need to tell us. If she keeps bottling it up, it only hurts herself.

Mom: If I let everything out, this family wouldn’t be a family. It would be a family always arguing.

Pantrygirl: Instead of a family that doesn’t speak to each other?


A few more bursts at me and allusions that I take my husband’s side over her side came out. I let them roll off. I kept quiet. I’m wasn’t going to sink to her level. Lrudlrick finally got her to stop freaking out after he told her that no matter what, children or otherwise, we’d take care of her. Which is all she wanted to hear anyhow. Like I said before, my dad took care of her. My stepdad takes care of her. All she wants to hear is that someone is going to take care of her.

Now, before you guys wig out. I know I’d go nuts if the day came where I had to live with my mother. I also know that what she thinks of being taken care of is completely off the definition Lrudlrick and I define as ‘take care of’. Do I feel like there was enabling? Hells, yes. But after 2 excrutiating hours, there was no where else to go. We left it vague and ended it.

Will I call my mother? No. I’m not closing my door. I’m just not going to be a part of what she calls a conversation. My cousin came up to me later and said, “Your mom is living in a dream world.” No shit. What struck him as impossibly unrealistic is the notion she has where all your money should go to the family member with the most need and vice versa. We told her, if you can’t take care of yourself first, then you won’t help anyone by perpetuating the cycle. She looked confused and I’m sure she still doesn’t understand.

Our door is extended to our respective in-laws but if we can’t take care of ourselves, it would be that much more difficult to take care of them. Everyone gets it but my mom.

So how do I feel after this insanity? Frustrated, as always. I’m angry my husband married into my crazy life. I’m tired but also a bit sorry that I’ve in essence given up on ever having a good relationship with my mother. I just know it is what it is and it will never be the picture my mother has nor will it be the one I’ve desired. You get the cards you’re dealt and you make the most of it. I wish my mother could understand that.