Families: The ties that bind (and gag)
My apologies to Ms. Bombeck for subverting her book title. But I cannot think of any title even half as apt as that one. Let me just say: This trip is turning out to be emotionally exhausting!
First there was the whole to-do yesterday. Today, I was less weepy. Partly, I think, because my blood sugar wasn't at basement level. But also because I had to keep busy with work. Of course, there's also that thing about slowly accepting upsetting facts/situations.
Today, though, was full of an entirely different set of painful feelings. Tim and his dad, Marc, had a brief spat. Tim went to the bedroom to calm down and avoid his dad, who had snapped at him without much provocation. His dad sat on the couch and grumbled.
Frankly, I was sick of the whole process. Tim feels like Marc always takes Matt's side. (Tim's closer to his mom, Matt's closer to his dad. Not uncommon, but it does have its effects.) Tim will get frustrated when he thinks his dad is protecting Matt and never listening/caring about Tim's side of things. His dad gets frustrated that Tim is always on Matt's case (even if most people could see why).
I get the impression that Tim's tough-guy act fools Marc into believing that nothing he says really has any effect on Tim. Incredibly untrue. But, if you think that nothing you say really affects someone, you're apt to be extra mean. That just further convinces Tim that his dad only really cares about Matt. And so the process speeds onward.
Maybe it's just being a relative outsider (no pun intended) but, to me, the major problem seemed clear: Marc just didn't know how much his actions and words hurt Tim. Like I said, Tim is great at the tough-guy routine. But deep down, there is a part of him that still aches for his dad's explicit approaval.
So I told him that his words really did impact Tim more than he might think. That when he snapped or otherwise reacted, it made it really easy for Tim to think he was always siding with Matt.
This led to something between a discussion and an argument. I was trying to stick up for my husband while still acknowledging that this was their house to do with as they pleased. It's not technically any of our business. Right up until they call us and complain about all that's going wrong and stressing them out about Matt and his his girlfriend du jour.
Tim joined in the conversation. He was pretty blunt about how his dad's actions made him feel. The words "second-class son" were uttered. I almost felt sorry for Marc, who seemed really taken aback by all this. I think he had honestly been oblivious to most of this problem. He seemed pretty genuinely bewildered, at any rate.
There was definitely some tense moments. Like when we pointed out just how ridiculous it was that they kept taking Matt back. Marc countered with all the things he'd done for Tim. All of which, we pointed out, were several years ago. Tim had grown up and was trying to be responsible. Matt was happy to live off them.
At one point, Tim started packing up our things and declared we were leaving. His dad asked him not to go. That, I thought, was big. Maybe not as big as Tim would have liked, but it was a good start.
Even so, there was still a lot of back and forth. A lot of offense/defense. A good chunk of denial. A very different take on things, depending whose side you looked at. The basics of any family argument that has its roots in decades of keeping score.
I think the basic problem is that Marc is the kind of guy who thinks love is shown in grand gestures. Tim, like me, is all about the day-to-day stuff. So when Marc helped Tim out over time, he thought he was making his love clear. But Marc failed to see that inaction can be a gesture itself, such as well Matt keeps getting his way.
The whole thing just sort of petered out, after awhile. We all headed for rooms to take a breather. After about 20 minutes, dinner was ready. Marc was lying down. Tim's stomach gets pretty upset during/after arguments. I got him to take a Tums and said we could always get food later.
So dinner was just the three females: me, Nadine and the 20-year-old. (Let's call her A from now on, for brevity's sake.) Good food, weird ambience. Nadine and I just didn't discuss the huge debacle that had taken place. A had been on the phone at the time and apparently missed the whole thing. Even after Tim joined us mid-meal, no one referred to the argument.
After dinner, Tim and I left for a couple of hours. We got to bond with Tim's "cousin" Patty. (Her mom is Tim's mom childhood friend, so Tim has an "Aunt" Judy, whose daughters are Tim's "cousins.") It was fun, and I wasn't as bad at pool as I'd remembered. Still a long way from good. But not completely terrible, either.
When we got home, Marc had resumed his normal place on the couch watching TV. We headed for the room, where an envelope had been taped to the door. Marc had written us a note. It was actually pretty touching. Basically that he's sorry that we feel the way we do, and it's just that he's not good at expressing feelings. But that he was very proud of Tim and proud at how well we take care of each other. And that he would try to do better in the future.
Like I said, it's not as big as Tim might have wanted. But it's a start.
He also gave us some Regal movie tickets that he'd gotten while he was a contract worker at Boeing, and instructed us to go see the new Transformers movie. Which was pretty sweet, overall.
So that was our day. I hope tomorrow is a little simpler. I'm not sure I can take anymore meaningful exchanges.
Or, for that matter, revelations about Matt's new girlfriend. While I'm trying not to dislike her just because of the circumstances (which she had little to no part in), she's not making it very easy otherwise.
She's very, very young. And she chides Marc with wildly inappropriate, laughing remarks about kicking his ass when he's a smart-aleck. I guess what's even weirder is that it's almost a creepy flirtation thing. Like when those boys at school like a girl and so give her hell all the time. Very unsettling.
I also found a very interesting fact out: She has $5,731 in the bank. Before you go thinking I'm super sleuth material, I passed by while she was on the phone to her bank. She repeated that number pretty clearly. Apparently her roommate has been opening her mail. So I think she was checking her balances and making sure no accounts had been opened/linked to.
The actual amount of money isn't the issue -- just the fact that she has monetary assets. See, she told Nadine and Marc that the aforementioned roommate had stolen $180 cash while she was in the hospital. So she couldn't get down here to Sumner. I guess she doesn't fully understand how banks work.
Oh, and she regaled us with tales about the mistreatment of her childhood cat. Apparently she tied firecrackers to its tail. Another time, she stuffed it in a barrel with something. I think it was more firecrackers. But the real treat was the last act. She (well, she said, "we" but didn't elaborate) put it in a microwave and turned the device on. They actually killed it this way. She laughed and said, "That's when we had to get rid of the microwave.... I hate cats."
Did I mention that we were all still sitting at the dinner table? We had finished eating but still... Up to that point, I was appalled but had just made slightly snarky observations that I don't think she even heard like, "I take it you're more of a dog person." But after the microwave thing, I just sort of stared.
I probably should have said something about how awful it was. Instead, I just kept thinking of all those crime dramas I've watched that refer to torturing small animals. You'd be amazed how many of them find ways to point out that it's a good indicator of sociopathy. So I just sat there wondering if they had to torture any and all small animals available, or if they could be just very concentrated on one kind. (She's very sweet and loving with the dogs in the house.)
I also wondered how it came to be that this girl has brought three children into the world. Especially since she still has at least partial custody of two of them.