Sunday, September 26, 2010

Home Alone

I have a memory from when I was 15 that has emerged in the past 18 months.  Part of my having to deal more seriously with my NM is because of my children getting older.  Thinking about my children has brought back loads of memories of when I was their ages.

My oldest child has started high school.  You remember all the activities right?   It’s a new, exciting world with sports, clubs, new teachers, lots of homework as usual, and needing rides and carpools to get home from after-school and weekend activities.  My DH and I are the parents of three--one in high school, middle school and elementary school.  They each play sports—in fact the oldest plays two sports.  My DH and I (and the children) were invited to a family wedding next month which would involve 2 days of travel and 2 days of events, but we are choosing to stay home rather than try to farm them out for two days of school and sports games, etc.

I am truly shocked at something my NM and Ex-Step-Father did when I was 15 and my brother was 17.  They left us alone at home while they went on a vacation.  I’m not talking about something like the movie Risky Business, or like my DH’s stories of parents leaving for the weekend and they had a party.

My folks went to Europe for 4 weeks and left us alone.  This was in the time before cell phones.  Making a regular phone call from Europe was a big deal.  There were no neighbors (we’d moved to this new part of town 4 months prior), no friends and no family checking in on us.  I have no idea how they could have been reached if something had happened.  I believe she called us a couple times.

My NM had decided that November was a good time to go to Europe (less crowded).  She had never been.  So the two of them went to all the typical countries for a pleasure trip.   During the school year.  

She left food in the refrigerator and $200 for groceries and gasoline.  My brother didn’t have his own car so he used hers for getting to school.  He went to a public school located in our old neighborhood about 25 miles away (not allowed but I guess she broke the rules).  I do recall that my NM told my brother before they left, that she knew what the mileage was on the car and she would find out if he drove more than the expected amount for him taking it to and from school, plus a little for grocery store errands.  I believe he had his friends pick him up and take him out on weekends, but he did his share of driving on the weekend (what did she expect??).  There was  a bruhaha upon their  return on the mileage.

I was 15 and had been going to the same private school for years—my folks moved a lot around a large, metro area, buying, renovating and reselling our homes.  Luckily for me, changing zip codes did not mean I had to change schools every couple years.  When we had moved to this new n’hood four month’s prior, my NM had found a senior at my school who would drive me to and from school for a fee (many seniors did this to earn gas money for their own new cars).  

Well.  I got dressed in my uniform each morning and was picked up and taken back home each day by a senior classmate (hardly knew her) , and made my lunch every day.  I did my homework each day and studied for tests/did projects.  Who knows what we did for dinner (my NM reminded us and laughed for years at how the salad stuff she left in the fridge had turned to “green soup” while she was gone).  All of my friends from school lived spread-out over miles of this metro area so no friends nearby.  And obviously we had no outside activities such as sports or clubs.

It may be accurate to say that at the time, my brother (and maybe me?) did not have a problem at all with them being out of our hair for FOUR WEEKS.

But I’m a parent and I cannot imagine anything that would take me away voluntarily from my kids for 4 weeks…..with no one checking in and no way to be reached!  My NM puts her wants first.  We are all lucky that my brother and I were pretty good kids and nothing happened.  As I have just only recently recalled this event, I have shared it with my DH and some friends.  I mentioned it last year to my brother and he only vaguely remembered and thought it was for 2 weeks (believe me, they went all over Europe and bought furniture and brought back jewelry and clothes).  If I ever get into a conversation about stuff with my NM, I am going to mention it.  I can imagine that she will come up with some Narc-like reason or make up something about how it happened differently.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How I Went NC for Five Months...Sort Of

In my last post I described the escalating emails and calls from my NM, wanting to see if she could have her grandkids visit her for 2 nights during either Nov. or Dec. of 2009.  I felt she was getting extra ugly, demanding that I’d better return her calls, and I felt she was lucky that I had even offered that past summer to visit with the kids.  Going deeper, she should feel lucky that I even visited her even in the years before I had children.  And the kids had never stayed with her without me (we’ve had the “benefit” of living in different states)—she must have been out of her mind to think that I’d leave them with her for even a night, knowing how she is volatile and obviously disrespectful of me.

In Nov. 2009 I emailed her this:

I heard your voice mail today, and your words are very much bullying.  Just like your email below is very threatening and bullying.  I did not know that we have a business relationship so I do not know what exactly you mean by "bad business".

As I wrote to you in my email I sent you on 7/21/09 I stated that the boys do not want to visit you alone but that I can go with them or that you can visit us here.  You wrote me a mean-spirited email back and did not take me up on a visit.  The way you acted in front of them last summer is basis enough, besides everything else, to not even want to visit you again and yet I still offered. 

What you said in front of them, "Ex-Step-Father is a nice man, your mother is the one with the problem" is unacceptable.  Telling them it will be more fun to visit without me there, is disrespectful to me.  All the mean-spirited things that you say about me is unacceptable.  I cannot imagine what you have expected to accomplish.

The way you speak to Grandmother (and yes, I am aware that she is not perfect) is disturbing--the way you called her caregiver and went ballistic, the way you are nice one day to people and then mean the next, and even the way you lose your patience after being with the boys for just a day--it is very worrisome and I think you need some help by speaking to someone.

As I told you on the phone last time we talked, that this winter or whenever the time comes, I can come to FL and assist with moving Grandmother to a new place, or whatever the need may be.  If you want to talk or visit here, we can talk about safe topics such as TV shows, cooking, or what we've been up to.  Your lack of acknowledgment of my feelings after all these years of Ex-Step-Father, and other items add up to a lack of trust. 

You have had opportunities in which we've visited you in your two different homes, and you have been invited to our home to fly up and visit and you've said you were too busy.  After seeing the words that you have written to me this summer and the things you've said last summer, it is apparent how you feel about me.  You can call the boys on the home phone but a visit to your home is not going to happen.
--(My Name)

Whew, that felt good.  Then 4 days later I received this email from her:

My Dear (My Name),

I always wanted for you to have nice relationships with your relatives, including me.

I found your letter very hurtful.  In fact, you and your husband have treated me very poorly for fifteen to twenty years. I can not deal with it any more.  I am letting go.

I feel very sad, it is your sons who lose, and they had no choice.

Love your mom
P.S. I do not need help with Grandmother this winter.

That was a rare thing for her to sign off using the word Love.  “Letting go”?  Readers, I was relieved.  My DH was perplexed.  “What does that mean”, he asked?  That peeved him.  I was a little sad at first.  But Thanksgiving was coming and we always have fun with my in-laws.  DH told me I always had his mom and his family.  At Thanksgiving I told a little bit of this to one of my many SILs (who knows no details, only that my mom is a nutcase and our visiting DH's family at Thanksgiving speaks volumes) and she told me that I have lots of family who love me (the in-laws).  That felt good and made me cry. It helps so much having that. 

Readers, a few months before this when I drove my grandmother home and we spent 11 hours together in the car, plus three more days together, I heard many ugly things my NM had to say about me and about my GM.  I realized that my NM didn’t like me.  My NM was so mad that she couldn’t tell me what to do, mad that I married a strong man who knew her BS from day one, mad that her summer neighbors probably wonder why her daughter and 3 grandkids don’t visit.  And mad that I was getting buddy-buddy with Grandma, who has a little inheritance for my NM.

Right after that email from her, I Googled, “Daughters Who Don’t Speak to their Mothers” and found websites about NPD.  Eureka!  Wow!  I finally had a label.  I read websites for about a week or more, and then life went on and I slept really well.  It was so easy to push any bad thoughts out of my head and go off to dreamland at bedtime.

But I see now that although I was strong enough to write her that email, I did not think everything through.  I realize I did not want to be accused of, or create a scene of preventing the grandkids from speaking to her.  I didn’t address at that time that it is also not right to disrespect me, their mother, and still call them on the phone. 

Next, I will blog about how she would then call the kids every couple weeks, how they deal with it, what I say about everything to them, and why didn’t I realize that when a few months had passed, she’d get me on the phone this past Spring unexpectedly and ask again for the kids to visit her. (!!!)  Still learning, still learning, learning lots from your stories, and gaining strength from your stories.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Summer of 2009

After I described in my last post about how I emailed my NM that the kids would not be visiting her that summer of 2009, based on things I observed and concluded in the prior 12 months, things escalated. My grandmother (GM) was visiting my NM and her live-in partner (P) in their summer house, actually not visiting, but staying there in the house that she helped buy. In the summer of 2009 my NM drove my GM to this summer house for 4 months...way, way too long to be together.

My GM has always been very frugal (and therefore has the means to always help my NM when she needed a downpayment). Almost 2 yrs ago at age 87 she fell and broke her hip and can no longer drive, though she did up till then, and she can walk with a cane. Fortunately my GM had the foresight to pay for home health care insurance in case she ever needed it. My GM can have a home health care aid attend to her in whichever residence she happens to be so she had a woman assist her 6 days/week to drive her to the doc, therapy, the store, make her lunch, etc.

My NM has discussed with me for 20 yrs how my NM is getting to inherit the bulk from GM so you can imagine my NM’s frustration that GM is still kicking at age 89, and that my NM still has to deal with her. My NM has asked my GM to be in charge of all her assets but my GM has refused except for a checking acct.

That summer of 2009 the awful things my NM would say to my GM got worse. My NM’s partner (P) was ugly to her too. In Aug/2009 my NM overheard my GM ending a phone call with me saying “I love you.” My NM went ballistic to my GM and even called her home health care person on her day off ranting about my GM. More evidence of why my kids won’t be subjected to my NM.

I then made plans to get my GM from this summer house, drive her back to my house, and then next day drive her back home (an all-day drive). There were a few emails to me from my NM in which she told me she thought it was crazy for me to take off time from work, that it would be a long drive because my GM has to take a bathroom break less than every 2 hours and instead my NM was wanting to put her on a plane for a 2 hour flight, alone, and then alone in her hometown with no one to get her from airport and into her own home. My NM also tried to tell me things about my GM such as this email on 8/22/09:

“Remember this, GM is a user, you are only good if you are giving to her or doing for her. She lacks appreciation. While she is getting what she wants, she will butter you up. Your brother and certainly I, know her better than you do. After all I've done she has NOT told me "I Love You", in years. She takes All and gives Nothing in return! Both she and you have treated me with no love or respect. Shame on both of you. Remember, your children watch and listen. What goes around, comes around.
Your mother, who gave her all to you for years.”

In the meantime, my NM was telling my GM tales about how I am not perfect. About how I once took the family car when I was 17 when NM was out of town and my lame SF was still sleeping and I sneaked out and skipped school to be with a boyfriend. (Well, hell yeah I did. One of the best days of my life at that time …..Reader, are you laughing? I am. That was THIRTY years ago).

End of August 2009 DH and I drove to get my GM and my NM was not at home and I successfully got my GM back home after a long, long drive in which I heard everything my NM had said about me and at which time I realized I would never, ever have feelings for my NM. After all these years I realized that she does not like me, let alone love me. The previous summer I realized she has no respect for me and no regard to what I have to say.

My kids would get a call from her now and then on our home phone to hear about back-to-school. Earlier in the summer I emailed her about how they won’t be visiting her, but that she was welcome to come to our house.

Then I get this email on October 11, 2009:

“I want to entertain the boys for two days/one night, either Thanksgiving or Christmas week. Respond ASAP. Mom. Also, time for the boys to phone me.”

Do you see how bossy she is? As if she had the right to tell me what to do? I also rec’d vm’s with that same message to have the kids call her. I ignored all calls. I was processing….. But she kept calling.

On Nov 6, 2009 she emails this:

“Call me that we may discuss the holidays. (My Name), attempting to keep the boys from me is bad business. It will backfire. Let's make a logical plan. Mom”

And then the next day I rec'd a vm from NM:

“If you are not going to take my calls, I am going to show up in your driveway and you are going to have to deal with me then.”

I had finally had it. I wrote her back 4 days later.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My NM is Very, Very Mean

The good news in the short term is that we don't see my NM very often. My NM is just about retired and has a summer home in a different state than her other home. My NM has used my grandmother (GM), over the years to help her with a downpayment on a home about 12 years ago, and a business (that failed and my 88 yr old GM is still trying to sell this property now). For this summer home, my NM told my GM that she won't be allowed to stay in this summer home unless she (GM) paid for half of it. In another post I will describe how mean, so horribly mean you won't believe it, my NM is to my GM. And how I cannot stand meanness to an 88 yr old woman (who is not perfect, but doesn't deserve the wrath of my NM).

In the summer of 2008 the kids and I visited my NM at this summer house and I saw again how my NM picks at my kids and picks at me and the visit did not go well. There was a lot of meanness said to me and my issue is that I do not react immediately. I tried to ignore her for a few months and then on the phone I told her how I felt about how she treats my GM (and my NM has a common-law partner who is awful to my GM as well) and that did not go well and we rarely spoke on the phone afterwards. I wish I had clearly written to her at that time how there'd be no contact.

In Dec. 2008 my GM got sick and had to stay in a convelescent home alone for 3 months. My NM visited her about every 1.5 weeks (my NM lived 10 miles away). I flew for a Fri-Sun and visited her each day and stayed with a girlfriend. My NM wanted me to stay with her BUT only visit my GM on Sat which was my NM's "day" to visit her. I declined, rented a car and say my GM each day. My NM went ballistic and later said horrible things to my GM (who was trying to recoop) about how I really just wanted to visit my friend and only saw my GM for a cover-up.

Then in April 2009 on the way to the summer house, with my GM in tow, they stopped by for a 2.5 hour visit. My NM announced that she nefver thought that at age 88 my GM would still be around and my NM would have to mesh her in with my NM's plans at her own retirement age. Mt NM also threw a hissy fit over our choice of summer plans--that the Nat'l park we chose was not worth it compared to another Nat'l park SHE had been to. We all laughed about it for days later.

For years she has been saying she wants the kids to visit her without me--like for a week over the summer. This has never happened. Even when they were younger she asks if "one or two" can visit. Or maybe I can "put one on a plane to see her and she'd pay." Readers, my kids are the type who get compliments when we go out to eat. They are quiet, respectful, and stay outside to play all day. She'll say to the kids on the phone and in person that summer of 2008 "we'll have FUN without your mom here!"

After our family road trip which was FANTASTIC, I finally emailed her that they would not be visiting her alone, and that they actually do not want to visit her. (She visited us twice when the kids were very young. They are now 14, 12 and 9 Other visits have been me taking vacay time and doing a 10 hour drive. DH would rather have 4 root canals than visit her). I am always polite in my emails. I have been respectful to my NM for way, way longer than deserved. Here is what I emailed in July 2009:

"Hi Mom,
The kids returned a couple days ago from a trip on since July 7th. They went with me to a meeting then we all visited a brother in law at the beach. Then I flew home and they continued on for a visit to the Keys with DH.

I have to tell you that I can visit with the boys for a weekend such as the weekend of Aug 1st and 2nd, or the weekend of Aug 16th, or a later weekend. They do not want to spend a week there. And frankly, I have issues with some things that happened last summer as well as in the past so I am not keen on them staying there without me. Sorry to have to put this into writing. We can rehash the past if you want, or we can acknowledge that there are issues.

Again, I am able to come for a weekend, and you are always welcome to visit us here as well.

I do have to go out this evening but I will have the boys call to chat..

Love, Me"

(I realize I should have cut things off--why did I offer visits? A HUGE part of me felt like I should not tell her she can't see the kids).

Then she wrote this back:

Dear Daughter,
I have realized for the past decade, it is not the kids lack of desire to visit but your refusal to allow them. If I were an angel , you or your husband would have an excuse as to why they couldn't spend time with me. Bonding time has expired. You should be ashamed of yourself for these actions or lack of; Face it, you cut off (stepfather), your brother and when did you last call your GM, let alone me.
I gave my all for you, my princess. For what? To be treated with NO priority. Well missy, it's time you woke-up, forget yourself and realize what the kids have to lose. Tell them the truth why they have been denied grandmothering, plane trips, Disneyland and more. A disappointed mom and grandmother. I loathe to tell you that you and your spouse are not perfect. Most relatives try to overlook short comings and dwell on the good of each one. "

(BTW, my NM rarely signs anything to me or the kids as Love, Mom. Also, my name or nickname is not missy. That is what she wrote to me, a 46-yr old woman who has never needed a dime since the day I graduated college 25 years ago).

August 2009 got even worse. I will fill in more, there was a lot more meanness and there was NC from Oct 2009 till April 2010. I should have nipped this properly in the summer of 2009 (or even 2008!). Because.....she's baaacccckkkk! More very soon.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One Christmas Eve

When I was about 30 years old and DH and I had been married for over 5 years, we bought our first home a month before Christmas.  We didn’t have children yet, and like many young couples we felt obligated to see both sets of parents during our few days off over  Christmas holiday.  My NM and step-father (SF) at the time lived about 3.5 hours away.  That year we’d planned to drive to see my folks after work on 12/23, go back home the 26th and then drive in the opposite direction on the 27th for a couple days.  We had planned an “After the Holidays” party at our house on 12/30 to meet new neighbors and invite old friends.  For some reason, I can’t remember why, my NM wanted to be there—she didn’t visit often.

My DH used to always say with humor that a visit to or from my NM had a 24-hour time limit.  After that, things always went downhill.  On this visit there was a big situation just after the 24-hour mark.

Their home was on a mountain with not much to do except hang out or cook and eat.  My NM loves to have a big greeting and show everything in the house and show all the cooking she had done.  She doesn’t get it that how you treat and respect people makes a family feel warm, not the gourmet food, or the d├ęcor.  You can’t have a normal conversation.  Unless you talk about a recipe or a TV show—those trivial topics are fine.  DH and I sat together a lot with his arm around me.  I remember my mom saying, “I haven’t seen you in a while—why don’t you fix up a little and make your hair all gorgeous like you can do.”  I had to remind her I was on a mountain, in a house with the 4 of us and didn't think I needed to be dolled up.  And I don’t think my SF liked seeing me cuddling with DH (the SF was a pervert--more on him later).

The big situation happened on Christmas Eve when my NM told us that she was bringing her dog to our house with her when she would stay with us for a few days for our party—but my SF would be staying at home.  Her dog was a real nervous Nellie, and not trained (not even house-trained) that pees when it meets people, jumps on everyone, and barks like crazy.  We told her it wasn’t a good idea for this visit as there’d be music, people coming in and out, and us showing our new home to friends and the dog would have to be crated and wouldn’t do well with that. (BTW she made a point of not training her dog saying that “she was done with any rules”, i.e. if the dog jumped on my lap when I was eating she’d say “Your problem is that you are not scooted into the table far enough.”).

Well.  She went ballistic.  Cried like a three-year old.  Told me how she paid for my schools, my wedding, did everything for me, and look what she gets in return.  “A slap in the face to her.”  SF chimed in too with the same comments (he was always mad at me and evil and followed her suit.  He was uneducated and originally from another country—a pattern so that my NM feels super smart and in charge).  I don’t remember what I said, but I do recall that since DH was there he was vocal and rational and stuck to the point such as, “This is our new house, and a house-warming party and this is about a dog."  Well, she retired to her bedroom for the night.

So, DH and I retired to our room too and then we left at dawn.  On the drive back home I cried a little and DH said, “Sorry you have to go through this.”  And I said, “You know what?  It sort of feels good.  It feels good knowing I won’t talk to her.  I’m kind of glad that this happened. I feel some relief.”

And then the next day we schlepped for hours and hours to another state to spend a few days with DH’s family (normal, nice people, but we were worn out and went back to work exhausted).  We made a vow to not do this traveling the next year--we needed a peaceful Christmas.  The next year we went away to a couple of bed and b’fast places and made some wonderful memories, and 17 years later we still talk about those memories.

After that fiasco I think we went for maybe 5 or 6 weeks without talking.  My NM sent me a letter about how she had always done everything for me, how hurt she was, etc.  I saw her again over Mother’s Day weekend. Time went on and it was never addressed, regular phone calls ensued and she occasionally visited when there was a conference in town, or on her way passing through for a day.  There used to be strong bond and I held on.  When I was 4 years old and my brother (BPB) was 6, my parents were divorced and my NM worked hard as a single mom.  She remarried when I was 7 and divorced again 2 years later and we lived in several different states and I started my fifth different school when I was in the middle of 4th grade (she always did what she wanted and never seemed to wait till summer to move!). 

All these years later, seeing her only maybe once a year, perhaps prolonged hanging onto that bond, prolonged it till it was just a thread, and now these last couple of years I reached the end of the rope.