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Monday, June 25, 2007

Vacation from hell

This is going to be long and difficult, much like my relationship with my mother.

The truth is, I am not sure she is a very good person for my son to be around. Hubby and I are really very concerned about several issues and we have no idea how to address them. I don't even know how I can present this so that it makes any sense whatsoever.I didn't blog all last week 'cuz I was on vacation (in a matter of speaking. It sure didn't feel like one!) nor the week before 'cuz I was busy taking my car to multiple mechanic shops to make sure it was ready for the trip, and doing other stuff to get ready.

The Car
Let's start with the car. I have been taking it to the mechanic for over a month now. Basically, every time I got it back, something else went wrong. This spring has been just terrible for dancers, but I still was doing all right up until about the 5th or 6th mechanical problem, at which point my savings was depleted. Mom lent me the money to handle that and two more repairs.
I did not ask for this money; she offered it. I will also pay it back.

My Family (such as it is)
Now, our summer family vacation is a strange thing. You have to understand my family (nobody does, but that's OK) to really get a handle on this. When I was 15, I met the first great love of my life. Call him Mike. We got engaged very young, and I was probably the only girl in my Junior class with a diamond. When Mike was 18, he left his parents' pathetic and abusive home, and came to live with my widowed mom and me. Within a year, I wanted to end my relationship with Mike, and things became ugly. I finally moved out, and Mike remained. I have no idea the relationship Mike had with my mother after I left, but what I do know is that he eventually married (and so did she) and to this day he calls her "Mom." Mike and his wife Sue have 3 kids, all about the age of my son. My kid calls them "auntie" and "uncle," and vice versa.

Back in the day, one of the things that complicated my relationship with Mike was my preference for MALE friends. To be fair, he was justified in his jealousy ( Both my husbands and several other lovers were drawn from this pool of friends). In particular, he could not stand my two good friends Bill and Ted (Yes, we had many excellent adventures together) and Ted's 1966 Mustang convertible. Ted was my best friend in High School and remains so to this day. He is now, of course, my husband.

So yes, my high-school finance is now my son's uncle, and my high-school best friend is now my husband. (None of us knew Sue in those days, thank the gods, or it could get even more complicated.) Did I mention our 20th reunion is coming up this year?

Now for the roster for the family vacation: My mom (and up until this year, her second husband, who had a stroke on vacation last year and passed away last August), Mike and Sue and their tribe, and Ted and me and kiddo. Mom (and step-dad) pay for this extravaganza every year. (In the first few years, all his kids were invited too, but they stopped coming after a while. )

Further Complications
Usually, each couple takes its own car on the trip. Some days we all do something together, and some days each family splits off to do something on their own. This year, I had no car. (Ted's car does not count. It is strictly a to-and-from-work hoopdie)

Between the car drama, and my oldest cat Sula needing emergency veterinary treatment, medicine, and boarding, (another $500) we were really ready to cancel vacation. Even worse, Ted's dad had a pacemaker put in 3 days before we left, and we didn't even know if he was going to make it. The only reason we decided to go was for my son's sake, because he was so looking forward to it. And my Mom lent us more money. The hitch? We had to take her car. With her in it, of course.

My Mom
Here is where it really gets complected.

Nobody understands my Mom, not even her. To say my Mom is timid, negative, whiny, stubborn, and manipulative, is like saying the Great Wall of China is a good-sized fence. She is what some self-help books call a "toxic individual." Before I get too emotional about this, let me just give you a brief rundown:

She finds fault with everything, no matter how inconsequential. For example, she criticizes random strangers of the street for their hairdo or dress. (Not to their faces, of course)

She thinks she is better and smarter than everyone else. Her one semester of Community college and her semi-regular attendance at community theater make her more educated and cultured than anybody else. (At this point I always feel compelled to whine "And I have 2 college degrees, dammit! And I lived in Europe for 4 years. I saw castles for God' s sake!")

She is afraid of everything. Snakes, cows, horses, owls, the dark, you name it. If there is a legitimate thing to be concerned about (small children playing close to the road, for example) she will amplify it to the point where she will want all the kids to come in from the playground because a car might jump the ditch and hit them. If she can't find a plausible threat to occupy her, she will make one up. (Jason, pythons in Wisconsin). Need I add, she has absolutely no sense of adventure?

She has no tolerance for any viewpoint other than her own. None. In a related issue, she is unable to differentiate fact from opinion. In her mind, her own opinions are facts. False information that she believes to be true or wants to be true is fact. (She believes meat cattle are treated humanely, for example, because the government would never condone cruelty to animals.) True information that does not fit her perception of reality is "just someone's opinion." If someone challengers her version of the "facts" she will defend it by saying "I'm entitled to my opinion."

She takes everything personally. If I don't like her choice of restaurant because there is nothing for me to eat (besides being a vegetarian, I have some food sensitivities) I can't point it out because she will get defensive and launch into her routine about how she (the wronged party) just wants everyone to have a good time at this nice restaurant that we (the unwashed masses) don't appreciate, and why do I have to be such a food weirdo, why can't I just shut up and have a nice burger on a white-flour bun like everybody else?

And there absolute worst part is, no one can have a logical conversation with the woman. Not only is her mind made up already, but if you even hint at having a dissenting opinion, she shuts down completely. This is impossible to describe except by analogy. Picture a turtle sucking itself into its shell. Or a clam snapping shut. It's like that. It's almost imperceptible, but unmistakable.

So to tie it all together
Here I am on vacation (supposedly) with my car in the shop with an unspecified amount of pending repair work, my cat at the borders with an unspecified bronchial infection, my father-in-law less than a week post-op, and a pathetically small amount of expendable cash. I am stuck in the car with my mother who believes that I am her chauffeur, and my husband who is rapidly beginning to hate my mother. Because I have no wheels of my own, I can't leave the hotel without Mom, who will not do anything without Mike and Sue. I spent exactly 7 minutes alone with my husband the entire week. At every meal, the foremost question in my mind was, "Does this restaurant serve alcohol?" For convenience and economy, my drink of choice in the hotel room was Bacardi and Diet Coke (Because you can pour the Bacardi in the top of the can and walk around with it.) I killed a fifth of Bacardi in a week. Well, OK, I had help. But still . . .

But wait, there's more
To be continued in another post . . . .

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