Monday, July 07, 2008

Maxing Out Emotionally

Spent the long weekend with my parents. Dad is at home recuperating from major surgery. Between hospital and SNF he spent almost eight weeks in inpatient care. He is a very private man and doesn’t really like for anyone to know his business so he has sworn my mother to secrecy over the details of the matter. She has been very good about keeping his secrets with one exception. She shares with me because (1) I’m his daughter so she thinks I have a right to know and (2) she knows I can keep a secret. If it were ever to get back to him that she has shared with me the details that she has shared he would be furious with both her and me.

That’s really a huge burden to place on anyone, holding a secret about your failing health. As primary caregiver, Mom has little relief in any way particularly since she can’t really ask for help without giving away at least a little bit of his secrets. In some ways, I understand his desire for privacy, and many times see a bit of that in myself, but it seems unfair to my mom right now. Nobody but the medical professionals they see, and me, understand what he is going through. The medical professionals don’t know, however, that Mom can’t get assistance. Only I am privy to the strain this is putting on her. I offered to take some time off and come help, but she adamantly refused. I guess her thinking is that if I did, Dad would suspect that I know more than I’m supposed to know.

On top of all this, my grandmother (Mom’s mom) is in the hospital a state away with pneumonia. While Mom would normally head down there to see about things for my grandmother, she can’t because she has to be home to take care of Dad.

Emotional Crisis #1:
Worrying about Dad’s health.

Emotional Crisis #2:
Worrying about Mom’s wellbeing given all the stresses in her life.

Emotional Crisis #3:
Worrying that my grandmother is suffering alone.

Now you would think that would be enough right there for one weekend, even a long three day weekend, but then you would be wrong. In our family, when the dam of emotional crises bursts, it releases torrential amounts. This is no stick-your-finger-in-it-and-plug-it leak. No indeed. This weekend was if-emotions-were-floodwaters-we-would-have-covered-more-than-the-great-Midwest-floods-of-2008 time.

This weekend I summoned the courage to tell my parents about the impending divorce. They knew that W and I had not been getting along for a while, but I hadn’t come out and ever said that we were living apart and getting divorced. Now I have. I dreaded it, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I talked to Mom alone and will let her share the news with Dad. I didn’t specifically intend to tell her this weekend, but the opportunity presented itself, the time seemed right, and I spilled my guts. Turns out that Mom and Dad have never been too keen on how W treats N, but of course they never said anything out of respect for me and my marriage.

Emotional Crisis #4:
Dealing with the emotions of talking about the breakup, again, and then processing the relief when the response I got was supportive rather than critical.

But of course we couldn’t just let it go at that. Oh no. Mom decided that now that my marriage is over she could tell me why my brother (FU) has refused to speak to me or allow me access to my nieces for the last four or more years. Apparently, FU hates W and didn’t want W around him or his family. My parents learned this when we were temporarily staying with them a few years ago and going over to FU’s house with them when they would babysit my niece (they only had one at the time). Apparently, he told them that they were not to bring us with them anymore because of W. Their reply was that if we couldn’t come then they wouldn’t be coming. Apparently, this has led to my parents being on the outs with FU ever since then. However, they chose not to ever share any of this with me because they didn’t want to hurt W’s feelings. Now with W out of the picture I guess it’s okay to share it with me. I’m still not sure that I believe FU’s only problem was with W, but I am sure that was at least a part of it.

Emotional Crisis #5:
Dealing with turmoil of learning just how hated W has been in my family and trying to decide how I feel about them feeling that way, them not telling me all this time, and them telling me now.

Thankfully, N missed all of these discussions. He was busy playing with the boys next door so much this weekend that it gave time for ample discussions without his presence. The discussions sure left me tossing and turning Saturday night, and not just from the horrible mattress in my parents’ guest room.

I was grateful to come home yesterday afternoon and to get away from the emotional crises for a while. Then again, why should changing locations make any difference. Why shouldn’t someone heap some more on top of me?

W decided last night would be a good time to broach the topic of splitting assets between us – in detail – as I’ve been bugging him to do for some time. Apparently, he has studied “Divorce for Dummies” and has learned to kick the ex-spouse when they’re down. I listened, half heartedly, but I refused to actually hold a discussion on the topic. I told him I was tired. I told him I would discuss it soon, but not last night. I didn’t tell him why. He sounded frustrated at my refusal to discuss it last night, but I just couldn’t muster the strength or energy or interest. I was wiped out by my weekend. I need a bit of time to rejuvenate.

Emotional Crisis #6:
Feeling overwhelmed when that one last straw hit this camel’s back.



Nancy said...

My sister's first husband was the type that made her say "it's hard enough to be married to him, I can't imagine how bad he'll be if I'm divorced from him." I think she, too, was amazed when she realized that our family had always bitten their tongue in regard to his behavior and were all pretty much relieved when she finally divorced him. We probably should have said something sooner, but just like your family, we thought we should have respect for the marriage. I do wish though that we had at least called him on his bouts of bad behavior when it took place in our presence--over and over.

Desmond Jones said...

Your brother's name is FU?


Jeni Angel said...

You know, it's alwasy damned if you do, damned if you don't.

My brother dated someone and I was the only person who openly hated her and told him. And it caused a HUGE strain in our relationship. After he broke up with her, everyone told him how much they disliked her and he was just floored and hurt that no one said anything.

There is no easy right answer. In his next relationship, I told him why I did not like the person and why she wasn't suitable and then let it go-he knew how I felt, but I was then respectful of her and his choice of her. It definitly worked out better this time (though I was right about that bitch).

In any case, no one n your family was trying to hurt you by not saying anything. If anything, they were trying to show you love by not verbally bashing someone you loved.

My point is, don't feel too bad about this. Would you have left W all those eyars ago if they said soemthing? You know more than anyone that things are they way they are for a reason.

(Sorry to ramble on)

Bunny said...

My family is blunt enough to be very straightforward about how they feel about Spousehole. They weren't that blunt before we were married, but they feel pretty comfortable with it now. That doesn't mean they shun him - in fact they do what they can to help him out since even if he's an asshole he's still family. When Spousehole moved to S.C., they even gave him one of their credit cards in case of an emergency.

But that's the kind of family we are - we share everything, the good and the bad, and we support each other through the good and the bad. It's annoying as hell at times, but immensely important to know that no matter how bad I screw up they will have my back.

I think you should have shared a little with W just so that he would understand why you weren't able to discuss asset allocation right at that moment. Just that your dad and your grandmother are not well and you stressed out enough from worry for them. That should be enough for a normal person to back off for a while (but I know W perhaps doesn't qualify as "normal").

Hugs, honey. I hope your grandma makes it through the pneumonia and comes out strong, that your dad decides to share his illness with others so that the burden is shared across many shoulders, and that your mom finds the strength to handle it all. (Though I think she should go to her mom for a while and let your Dad deal with the consequences of his failure to share information with others. But I'm a bitch about these things.)

freebird said...

Wow, that's some can of worms.
But yes, sometimes families, however well you think you know them, can surprise you. Sorry to hear of all the crises.

Trueself said...

Nancy - I think most families bend over backwards to be nice to the in-laws even if they can't stand them. You're right though that it would be good to call them on their bad behavior when it happens.

Des - Well, I picked those initials as kind of appropriate to our relationship with each other.

Jeni - You're right. It's a tough line to toe. How much is too much to say? How much is too little? It's a tough call, and I certainly don't hold it against my family that they didn't say anything because I know they did it with the best of intentions.

Bunny - Actually I had already shared with W about my dad and grandmother. That's why I felt like he was deliberately kicking me when I was down.

FB - Yes, it's quite the can of worms. Now that I'm back home I'm just choosing to live in a wee bit of denial for the moment. Self preservation seems the order of the day right now.

Val said...

Sorry to be late to the emotional-crises-convention! (I've been out of town, my annual pilgrimage to NM) Hopefully things are straightening out & you will now have some time for serious introspection (like I did last week ;-)