Update: Family

Today I phoned home at the usual time for our Sunday call.

The first thing my mom said was, “Your grandmother is driving me crazy.”

My grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and we spent most of the call talking about how difficult it’s been for my mom to take care of her.  She’s going to need round the clock care soon, and this is a huge burden to my mom.  Being the oldest daughter, she feels that she’s the one who is responsible for taking care of her.

As an only child, I get that sense of obligation.  I feel it three times a week when I dutifully phone home so that my mom knows I’m not “lying dead in a ditch somewhere.”  If I forget a call, she becomes frantic with worry.

I feel it twice a year, in summer and at Christmas, when I spend a week with them.  The three of us sitting in different rooms, watching different TV shows.  I wonder about what will happen when she gets old and needs to be taken care of.   Will I be as dutiful a child?  Is the only thing that connects us now a sense of obligation?

“So I got your book.”  She says, finally.

“Isn’t it cool?”  I ask, happy that she finally brought it up.  I hold my breath, nervous about how she’s going to answer.

“Yes and no.”  She says.  “You’re an adult and you can live your life any way you want, but I don’t want to know about it.”

I feel as if I’ve been punched in the stomach.

“But I want to be able to share who I am with my family.”  I say.

“I’ve got enough stress right now.”  Is her response.  “I just want things to keep going the way they are.”

I was a teenager all over again.  Being rejected by the people who raised me for something that was as natural a part of me as my eye color.

I thought that in the intervening years since I’d first come out to them, she’d had time to grow and come to terms with who I am, and that maybe this time she could be accepting.  I’d taken little things that she’d said as signs she was coming around, like when she talked about liking the TV show Will and Grace.  She isn’t religious, so I don’t even know what her problem with who I am stems from.

Carlos seems more upset by her rejection than I am.  He feels that maintaining a relationship with them takes an emotional toll on me that’s damaging.  That I’m not doing myself any favors by talking three times a week and visiting twice a year out of obligation.  But his parents are accepting and supportive.

I’ve had a lifetime to grow accustomed to rejection.

Who my parents are, like my eye color, or my sexuality, isn’t something I can choose.  Maybe I’m just ridiculously thick, but I still hope that eventually her attitude will change, and she’ll be able to love me for who I am, and not for who she hoped I’d be.

So at the end of the call when she said, “I’ll talk to you on Tuesday?”

I said, “Okay.”

“Your dad and I love you.”

I said, “I love you too.”


4 thoughts on “Update: Family

  1. Wow. She has no idea, I think, how lucky she is. You are the best son a mother could hope for, seriously. I really hope that one day she realizes that, and also realizes that she loves all of you.

  2. She is staying where she’s at because it’s comfortable and is not being forced to change. Change is uncomfortable and most people do it only when they are forced. She feels like she has nothing to lose, but she does – you. If you don’t illuminate that, you don’t really get her and she doesn’t get you. You have tried to illuminate that, with the book, and still nothing, right? Well, then she loses you is how I see it. She needs to hear from you to know you’re not lying in a ditch, and you need her to be able to talk about your ENTIRE life.

  3. okay i just have to say this, because i grew up just 54 miles from Lance and i know Texas… it may be that Lance’s mom is never going to be what a good West Coast mom would be about her gay son. i find it telling that Lance says it feels like he’s a teenager all over again; most likely her attitudes have not changed much in the past 15 years either. but at the same time i can say that she loves him and supports him even if she can’t evolve into what we’re told will happen with our parents once we come out and open their closed minds (hint: it doesn’t always happen, despite the best efforts). i guess if it were me, i’d remind myself of all the guys i’ve met from that part of the country whose parents basically excommunicated them once they came out. coming out is not easy, but there is much worse rejection to have to face than dealing with the awkward “we don’t want to talk about it but we love you” relationship. that is basically what i have with my parents. it’s not ideal, and i’m certainly jealous of guys who have open, comfortable, welcoming parents… but it could be worse.

    another thing is, when parents are ready they usually signal it… they ask questions or want to visit. but she’s never shown any interest in knowing about his bfs. it’s ashame, yes. but i wouldn’t condemn her. this is really difficult to accept for small town texans. parents can change, but it doesn’t always happen on our schedule.

  4. Jonathan makes many valid points .. I would go one further and this is not totally about your mother, but your own validation and some issues of unresolved self worth.

    I do think scaling back some of your obligation is something to consider, especially if its because you are taking time to spend with Carlos’ family as a nonsubtle way of reinforcing the importance of him within your life.

    She may or may not change, more likely than not … she won’t and you can’t force it .. you can try but force when it comes to emotion rarely ends up the way you want it. So instead you might need to change … and you definitely have with the influx of Carlos but at the same time you continue to support a relationship which is superficial in tone, deep within its roots, but stagnant in growth. Perhaps its time to foster another plot .. maintain ties to the old, but not invest energy into something that is unlikely to flower.

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