Monday, August 16, 2010

The Sorrow This Morning

I am sad. So very sad this morning. It's Monday morning, for one thing, a bleak, gray day, and my husband has already left for work, so the house is quiet, lonely. My mother arrives from Jamaica tonight, along with my niece on her way back to college. I am about to be very busy, too busy to tune in to what I feel, which can be good, except when the feelings lie unattended beneath the surface, coiled and waiting to strike.

The last time my mom was here, which was June to December of last year, I swallowed so much of what I felt because I just wanted to make her happy. But it was hard in many ways. My mom gets so distressed by what goes on in her big sister's household, the way my addict cousin behaves towards her 91-year-old mother. It breaks my mother's heart to see it and she cannot accept that she cannot make it better (you begin to fathom where I get my own fix-it stripe). And so she tries to explain to my aunt what she needs to do, how she needs to interact with her daughter, and my aunt, of course, doesn't follow her advice and my mom gets frustrated and hurt and saddened by the daily abuse (not physical, but abuse all the same) that my cousin metes out, the harassing and brow-beating my aunt for any dollar that comes into the house, the conflicts with the home attendants, the way she will take unused groceries back to the supermarket for the money, the mess she leaves in her wake, the intoxication. My mom cannot grasp that she cannot fix any of it. My aunt will not allow her child to be turned into the street, and no one will allow my cousin to come live with them (you cannot blame them) and the recent attempt to get her into rehab failed, so she is in my aunt's house to stay. My mother cries all the time at what her big sister must endure in her final days. "She doesn't deserve this," she weeps. "She was such a wonderful sister."

I can keep what I feel about the horror show over at my aunt's house at arms length most days, but when my mom is in town, her involvement is so complete, her desire to fix things for her sister so second-nature, that I spend all my time trying to shore up my mother's mood, moderate her distress, create a peaceful cocoon around her. I get sucked right into the vortex of what is going on with my aunt and my cousin and I have no real skin to keep the terrible sadness of it at bay. I absorb the mood around me. I drink it all in. And then minor shifts in the wind become major tragedies. My husband might be cranky over something at his job (he has a very difficult boss), and I will feel it as a deep personal rejection of our connection, when in fact it has nothing to do with me, with us. My son, engaged by his life at college, won't call or text, and I will feel that as abandonment and lack of love, even though I know better.

I am bracing myself for the emotional rawness I always feel when my mother is in New York. I love her dearly. I want her here with me. More than anything I want to make her happy and comfortable, to make her feel as cared for as she has made me feel my entire life. I want to take her places, fill her life with stimulation and experiences. But there is only so much I am ever able to do, given her increasing frailness of body and the larger realities of our lives.

I miss my kids. I feel so alone. The sorrow this morning is overwhelming.


  1. I'm sending you good wishes for your mother's visit. Maybe it will go better than you expect? Please try to remember that all these people are responsible for their own actions and feelings -- you're not responsible for them. Certainly do what you can to make things better, but realize there's a lot that's beyond you and realize it's out of your control.

    I'm sorry to hear the attempt to get your cousin into rehab failed. I hope she gets help somehow, someday.

  2. Steve, i hear you. And thank you, friend.