Homeward Bound, Part Eleven.
Yeah…that’s a thing. Both my sister and I attempted to curb my high strung mother’s penchant for melodrama, but in the end, that was a pretty Epic Fail.
After only two days, she was firmly off of “guest behavior.” Random confrontations with my father, who was in no condition at all for them, started. Loud, kind of indulgent confrontations that could easily have been avoided. Discussion, at length, of the overall tragedies going on around her, and pretty much how they all impacted her, making her life all that much the harder. My cousin’s car konks out on the road? That’s tragic because it stresses out my mother, not because the car repair was going to cost anything. It became a tone and a trend, and rapidly became kind of tiresome.
Any conversation could become the set up for a confrontation…but more importantly, and confrontation where the person talking to her was made to look somehow at fault. Agreeing was rapidly established to be a flawed strategy, since many times she was setting up a straw point to create a “gotcha” moment. My basic strategy of not engaging much at all worked out to a degree…it kept confrontation with me to a minimum.
Not engaging involved a three part system:
1. Not even thinking about any old slights between the two of us.
2. Not taking any bait intended to bring up rule number 1.
3. Cautiously navigating anything said around me for possible verbal traps….and keeping my cool when they were discovered.
This worked decently well. Until “guest behavior” was over, and she pretty much started calling people out over next to nothing, and then being abrasive with them if they weren’t okay with it. This went on for a while on the Saturday night I was there, until she finally decided to be adversarial with my father while i was in the car with the two of them. Adversarial actually doesn’t describe it well. in fact, along the way, she was pointedly sarcastic about my sister and me instructing her to not engage in any “drama.”
At that point, I invoked the simplest solution.
“Pull over. I’m getting a car service. If you two can behave yourselves tomorrow, call me. Otherwise, good luck.”
There was some unintelligent arguing with ME about not pulling over, and how I needed to “deal with it.” That lasted for the thirty seconds of my disbelief. When I opened the car door anyway, without bothering to wait for the vehicle to stop, my father obligingly came to a halt.
I am completely unaware of any strategy to playing “Chicken.” Either the other guy blinks, of the thing I’m managing collides with the other guy’s thing. That’s it. I would have thought that they knew this about me, but…hey. It has been a while.
I think that my mother fully expected me to take the bait, as it were, and be combative. A very close friend had explained to me just before I left how @#$%ing stupid that would be, when I could just leave at any time, and not have to deal. My main strategic error was in mentioning to my mother that confrontation would be met with that. She’s cunning.
I am convinced that’s why she chose to get confrontational in a small, inescapable by reasonable people, MOVING environment. In her mind, no place to go, so no way to avoid the issue. No way to not be the thing she expected from me…shouty, loud, angry, and so forth.
I know it bugged her that I just walked it off. Literally…I actually WALKED it off.
The next day, she chose to argue about dinner. Constantly. To the point where it started to wear on me. I had decided by that point that my parents were not buying me another meal…I would be picking up the tab for one. As a result, the dinner plan kept being changed to thwart this plan, because it somehow insulted my mother.
That wore on me. It started to get rough.
However, at dinner, I saw my Dad with the check. A large party had been assembled by this point, so he was studying the check for some sort of mathematical mystery that will go unknown, because I yanked it from him.
My mom began to protest, but to be honest…it’s hard to not look like a jerk when your kid wants to buy you dinner. My sister’s husband threw down his own card with the speed of a gunslinger, and then my other sister’s husband followed suit. They confided in me that they had never been able to win that argument before, while my mother glared at us from her side of the table.
To be honest, I don’t think I’m ever going to have a real relationship with my mother, which is kind of sad. Still…I love the way today’s two panels came out, so she pretty much inspired a fair amount of my work. At least this week.
“Homeward Bound” is pretty much ending. I’ve pretty much worked the content of it out of my system, and am ready to move on.
Eleven parts so far…that’s a big continuous arc for this strip. Usually, it’s FAR more random. We’ll get back to that randomness soon enough, True Believers.