So if I can say it on here, why can’t I say any of this to my parents directly?
Well I have tried it, on lesser issues and failed miserably.
My maternal grandmother lived in the countryside, in the middle of nowhere in a house inhabited by animals when she moved in. We used to go down at least every Summer when I was little and frequently for other holidays as well. It was peaceful, with no television to interrupt and the only loud noises the occasional planes screaming down the valley or the tractor harvesting the wheat. I loved my grandmother very much as the warmest member of our family. We used to talk for hours over many a glass of tea, coffee and wine.
Anyway, this is not really about her. When she died, my mother, her daughter, put the house on the market on the basis that none of us had the time or inclination to take it on. We talked about each of us daughters picking out books and small things to take and of doing one furniture run where we each got a souvenir piece. Although nothing was hugely valuable, many of the pieces of furniture held memories that none of us wanted to let go of. We used to talk with my grandmother about putting labels on her things to say which daughter should have each piece. A pity we never actually did it.
2sis and her husband decided that they would take on the house as their holiday home and bought it from my parents (who had bought it from my grandmother for reasons irrelevant). We all thought it was wonderful that it would stay within the larger family. But that was it.
2sis kept all the possessions in the house, every stick of furniture and every book and nick-nack. My parents took one best dinner service. I have a silver souvenir spoon from Australia and a necklace that I lost (or that my ex stole and pawned). And that’s it, other than the small pile of books I packed in my suitcase the last time I visited.
I found this incredibly unfair and decided to point it out.
It took me a good year to get across that I was a little bit peeved. The most acknowledgement I got was “Maybe we should have done things differently.” That was it.
I did visit my grandmother’s house for a few Summers after it became my sister’s house when my parents organised these trips as Summer holidays for us all but it wasn’t the same. 2sis did say to me that if I ever managed to leave the children at home and happened to be passing then of course I could come and visit, but no more of an invitation was ever forthcoming and she never really made me feel welcome. My parents couldn’t cope with being on holiday and living with my children as well as 2sis’ brood so the peace and tranquillity went. Also of course I was now an adult and had to take responsibility for others and for meals rather than vanishing up a tree with a book and a drink as I had done as a child. So we stopped going.
I yearn for that place and the comfort my grandmother brought with it. I see no reason why I should ever go there again. With us moving as a family so many times it was the only place that lasted and that was there since my birth. Trying to untangle the emotions between the house and location and my grandmother are difficult as they are so intertwined but when I went there, I recharged my batteries and the most complicated decision I had to make was how many cheeses to put out at mealtime. Most of the time it was my grandmother, my mother and I and we just drifted along, going out when we felt like it and not when we didn’t, almost without a care in the world. My mother called it paradise. It was certainly a place out of time that was totally unique.
However when I tried explaining how it wasn’t the same any more with all the family there and staying in a house opposite and not feeling at home my mother said “I’m sorry you don’t care about the place any more; that’s a shame”. She was the person who when her mother got ill cried for an hour walking round and round the garden, knowing full well that her mother would never move back there to live. I thought she’d understand.
This is the pattern. I try and explain things, and I really did go over it again and again. My father didn’t understand emotional attachment to things, or why I would be upset, or what he could possibly do; it didn’t make any sense to him. It was turned around to being my fault for not speaking out more appropriately and for not explaining properly. My mother seemed to just misunderstand or refuse to understand what I was saying. I put in time and emotional effort into trying to phrase things so that they could understand. It exhausted me. And all I got after a year of it was “Maybe we should have done things differently.”
So therefore when we talk in counselling about why I don’t say things like my little rant at my mother or other things to them, my answer is that I just don’t feel it’s worth the effort. That I would prefer investing emotionally in people with greater chance of a positive outcome like friends and acquaintances, if not total strangers. That doesn’t solve the problem that I feel unheard by my parents, always have done and have no expectation of ever being heard by them; but if I never speak, they will have no chance of hearing.
And yet, much as it pains me, I just think, why bother? There’s no point. Does the pain of trying and failing exceed the pain of not communicating? I think it does. I know I’m scared of the fallout, the endless conversations starting off “your mother and I have been thinking about what you’ve said and we’d like to talk about it” where I try and be clear and make sense but don’t get there. I don’t want to get emotional about things in front of them. I don’t want to talk about myself in the smallest details and not get anything back. I don’t want to cry in front of them. I don’t want them to see how much they hurt me. don’t think they have earned the right to see how much they hurt me. Maybe I should show them.
Maybe I should. But I don’t want to.
I’m also worried that if I pricked their little balloon of satisfaction, the whole thing would come tumbling down and truth might come out. I would explain to them that I felt that we had a terribly dysfunctional disunited family who can’t communicate with each other, or really love each other, or even just care about each other. Family gatherings are calls of duty for all three of us daughters and our respective families. The only ones who enjoy them are our parents. We’re spread out geographically because we have no desire to be closer to each other. I genuinely love 1sis with love that’s freely given, not just because she’s my sister. I don’t really love 2sis; I’m honestly not sure about my parents; I love my grandmothers, both now deceased. As for the rest of my family we were never close enough to get attached.
Our whole family is a lie and if my parents understood and listened to anything I said, then they might eventually understand that and it would devastate them. So once more I am protecting them.