“No,” I whisper, lying on my therapist’s couch, eyes shut.
“You haven’t said a word in five minutes.”
“I don’t feel like talking anymore.”
“But this is what you come here to do,” she says, as I hear her shift in the chair. She’s a very patient woman. I wish she weren’t a lesbian. I wish she loved me.
“I know,” I mumble, wanting to drift out of my blues. “It’s sorta an obligation by now.”
“Not on my side.”
“Okay. I’m not a quitter. Is that better?”
“You quit talking about your mother.”
“It was getting depressing.”
“Irv, What’s really bothering you?”
Man! She will not stop with the questions! “Okay!” I bark, eyes opening. “She made me lie! All right? So I punished her for a while.”
The room goes quiet again as I wait for, ‘Let’s talk about that.’ But she’s quiet now, crossing her legs and writing a note.
I sit up, looking at the door for an early exit. “I’m not good at punishing Mom,” I continue. “I tried to do it like my sister does but couldn’t pull it off.”
“Pull what off?”
“I didn’t take Mom’s calls for two days. All six of them.”
“And you have a sister? You’ve never mentioned her before.”
“‘Cause I don’t want to talk about her.”
“‘Cause she dumped me. And her kids dumped me. And they all dumped Mom too, until they needed stuff like Mom’s savings or a place to crash for high school reunions.”
“So how do you feel about that?”
“I don’t want to feel anything.” I stand.
Jesus! She will not stop! “Because I’m in a rage on behalf of my mom. She’s ninety-two, had to play maid, cook and abuse-sponge for my I’m-the-boss-around-here father for sixty-nine years. And the worst part of that, she still IS! Except now Dad’s senile, so when he orders her to do something, or yells, “What do you know!” he forgets about it and starts it again five minutes later. Mom does not deserve what my sister is dishing out!”
“And that makes you feel…”
“Like I should be leaving now.”
“Because if I don’t, I’ll think about last week when I called Mom and without warning, she put my niece on the phone and I hear on the other end, ‘Hi Uncle Irv! I miss you so much! We haven’t talked in a long time!’”
“Right, Julie! We haven’t talked because you refuse to communicate with me! Two years ago, at Mom’s birthday, I again tried to start some conversations. Twice you walked away as I asked you questions… about your life! And your conceited younger brother did that too! Little twerp!”
“Granted, you know that your mom, my sister, doesn’t take my calls or emails either, but YOU have grown up! You can think for yourself now and meet me half way. And since you’ve been accepting my birthday cash all these years, and jewelry, and iPods, and designer sunglasses, and concert tickets, I sort of assumed you might want to take a little interest in your benefactor.”
“But no! Uncle Irv has no relevance in Julie’s All-About-Me Universe. So here’s a reminder young lady: I haven’t sent you a birthday card or present for any occasion since you finally expressed your complete boredom in everything I do and say. It’s my passive aggressive way of letting you know, you’re out of my life girl! AND my will. And I hate your mother too!”
“Good, Irv… You let out the rage. How did you feel after you said that?”
“What?!” I turn back to my shrink. “I didn’t say that! I THOUGHT that.” I head for the door. “Gotta go.”
“Okay!” shouts my doc. “We don’t have to talk about that. Tell me what you DID say.”
I stop with my hand on the knob. “What kind of a guy do you think I am? You think I’d destroy Mom’s weekend with her niece and daughter being considerate for a change?”
“No one’s accusing you of anything.”
“Thank you! ‘Cause I played the role of good ole Uncle Irv and I asked Julie about college and what she’s going to do when she gets out, and…” I sigh. I can’t go on.
“How did you feel about that?” asks the woman with glasses and a note pad.
“I HATED IT! I did NOT want to talk to that girl and I did NOT want to be phony if I did. And I was. I followed the Podolsky playbook – we’re a loving family where everyone excels and is pretty and popular. Did I tell you Julie breaks all boys hearts? That’s according to her mother, my sister, who broke my heart.”
“How did she break your heart?”
“I told you. She dumped me. She stopped taking my calls and answering my emails.”
“What started the cold war?”
“Who knows? She won’t tell me…OR Mom. And when we stumble into each other and have to talk, my sister pretends nothing’s wrong. Who can figure that out?”
“You haven’t confronted your sister?”
“Sure I have. She tells me she I’m delusional. And that she loves me.”
“Maybe she does. In her own way.”
“Now you sound like Mom! My sister does NOT love me. She’s punishing me! Probably because I took away her power of attorney over Mom and Dad’s will.”
“Ohhhh…. So that’s it.”
“Nah. Her shut-out started way before the contract change. That’s why we couldn’t trust her and I had to take over. My family’s a mess.”
“But you don’t have to punish your mother about that.”
“I didn’t punish her. I called her, apologized for the delay and then told her why I was furious about having to speak to Julie.”
“And Mom said she understood how much I’m hurting about it.”
“And…” Man this is so complicated. I get exhausted just thinking about it. “Look…” I continue. “My mom, she rationalizes ALL our family’s inappropriate behavior. Has all her life. And I’m sick of the Fairyland BS. Every time my sister misses her birthday, Mom says, ‘Well, that’s your sister.’”
“What CAN she say, Irv?”
“She can admit she’s being manipulated and not stand for it. But she keeps taking it.”
“That’s what mothers do.”
“Some do, some don’t. But at least mine lets me rant and tell her how things are. And for every shitty thing I mention that happened to her, I end up talking about the good stuff that came out of it, ‘cause I know Mom would. And in the end, she makes me admit nothing is black and white, but thousands of shades of gray.”
“And that’s when my mother says, ‘Yes Irv. And that’s the way love is too. Sometimes you have to snatch what little of it there is and be grateful for that.’”
“She’s ninety-two, Irv.”
“I know. She could die any day and I’m still pretending I’ll live forever and I get worked up over who-loves-who-MORE.”
“And I admit I want to get even with my sister and her kids, and that Mom just wants to get through the day without more pain than she already has. I admit all that.”
My shrink nods.
“Maybe it’s a mother thing, this unconditional love. But I’ve never been a parent so I can’t fathom total acceptance. I suspect though, that if I did have children, my own feelings would take second place to the little ones I helped bring into the world. This is one lesson Mom can’t teach me. Right?”
My therapist nods again, pointing to the clock on the wall.
“Still, Mom accepts me for what I’ve become – a person who’s universe is pretty much about myself…just like my twenty-one year-old niece and her eighteen year-old brother.”
She points again.
“I know…we’re out of time.” I sigh. “But what IS acceptable behavior, anyway? What anger is justifiable? What’s more important? The honest expression of feelings, or feigned acceptance until one learns how to be Jesus?”
My doc steps to the door, opens it. “Hold those thoughts. Next week.”
This post originally published on Curiosityquills.com.