I haven’t spoken to my parents in two weeks. My mother called twice and left one message. She sounded off. Not quite angry, but definitely a little curt. Maybe uncertain? I can’t imagine she knows what to do now anymore than I do.
Part of me wants to end the stalemate. I could call and pretend like everything is alright, but everything isn’t alright and bullshitting my way through a conversation won’t actually help. Things were said that can’t be unsaid, and behind every bit of pleasant small-talk, I’m going to hear “abandoning your soul to eternal damnation” and “that church is a cult” and “this is rebellion.” It makes me wonder whether they’re constantly hearing “I’m gay.”
Part of me wishes she would keep calling. For years, I’ve been the “black sheep” of the family, the one who didn’t quite fit. I’ve always been half-afraid that my parents wouldn’t miss their squeaky wheel all that much. Seeing her number show up makes me feel sad and uncomfortable, but also a little more loved.
Being part of a family is complicated. It comes with so many rules and expectations, so much baggage, that it’s a wonder any of us become sane adults. And everyone’s family is a little fucked up. It’s just how the world is. No one survives the passing on of however many thousands of years of accumulated history and war and politics and life and evolution without a few dents and dings. Nobody comes out of a family without a few quirks. No one’s childhood was actually like Leave it to Beaver.
But there’s “everyone’s family is a little fucked up” and then there’s “my parents might be living in an alternate reality that only exists inside their heads.” There’s quirky and then there’s I-can’t-talk-to-you-regularly-and-also-function-like-a-real-human-being. We’re officially on the bad end of that spectrum in a lot of ways.
Baggage isn’t the only thing I left home with, though. In many ways, I’m quite proud of my family. I come from a long line of amazing women, strong individuals who made it work for their families despite difficult circumstances. I come from people of incredible faith, and the fruits of that faith can be seen in churches planted, lives changed, and ministries grown. Both of my parents were raised by blue collar workers but went on to finish college. My father even has a master’s degree, and my mother is considering going back to school to get an MBA. These are the stories I grew up on and the shoulders I stand on to accomplish anything in my life.
Sometimes when I’m cooking dinner or driving home, I really want to call my mom, but it’s not actually MY MOM that I want to talk to. It’s this hypothetical version of my mom who divorced my dad sometime during my college years and stuck up for me when I was depressed and supported me when I decided to get an MPH instead of an MD and is always willing to listen and talk through things, even if she’s uncomfortable with them. I think that the woman who is actually my mother would be capable of at least some of that if she weren’t also married to/enmeshed with my father. It makes me sad. I’d really like to meet that person, but I’m not sure she’ll ever actually exist. Instead, I hope that I can become that person. I hope that I can overcome some of the baggage my mom never got past and become the person that she couldn’t be. And I hope that the next generation of our family will benefit from that.