Until fairly recently, the approaching holiday times brought much anxiousness and guilt. Most of these feelings have been removed now that I know there won’t be any invites to get together (we live 10 hours apart) nor will there be a horrid phone call conversation on Thanksgiving Day.
A long, long time ago when DH and I were first married we drove after work the day before Thanksgiving to my NM’s and we arrived at 3:00 a.m. We went to a lot of effort to be there for us two, young, poor newlyweds. Thanksgiving Day was fine—it was just us and NM, stepfather and grandmother. The day after Thanksgiving we saw a friend of mine and then after dinner that night we wanted to go to a sports bar to watch some college football.
It is a pattern of my NM’s to throw a fit if we have any plans of our own while we are visiting her for a few days. This particular Thanksgiving was one of the first times, but they are numerous, and occur around holidays when we’ve visited. We went out and she pouted and was mad. I had always done what she wanted and learned from my DH (who is from a normal family) that this was unreasonable and crazy behavior. My DH doesn’t have the best memory, but he always remembers this visit and how she threw a fit because we wanted to hang out with some young people like us for four hours instead of sitting at home with her. If DH were to tell you a story about my NM he’d sum it up as “there’s a 24-hour of visitation, and then it all goes downhill fast after that”.
Ever since we had children (ages 13 and under now) we’ve wanted to drive the 6 hours to my in-laws and have good Thanksgiving times with his large family, including lots of cousins for them to play with. You can imagine the exclamations ahead of time from NM: “Why do you always go there!” (and it is not always the parents-in-law—the Thanksgiving Day dinner alternates between my in-law relatives’ homes every year within the general vicinity).
Once there, it is always heavy on my mind that I need to make the phone call to NM to say “Happy Thanksgiving”. About six years ago, right before our dinner, I phoned my NM and after I wished her a Happy Thanksgiving she said with venom, “Well what’s so happy about it? Everyone else in this town is out and about with their grandkids and families. Maybe we’ll just move away to another country.” I quickly got off the phone, relayed it to my DH in private, cried, and he pretty much said Fuck ‘em—you have this family here, and then I got over it. I am very lucky to have married into a family that of course isn’t perfect, but does not have these kinds of issues.
One year ago this month I had finally emailed my mother and addressed her bullying tactics and that my kids would not visit her without me there and that is when she replied back that “she is letting go”. That was the first Thanksgiving that I felt no dread and obligation to call. She did contact me this past April to ask again about having the kids visit her but we did not and although she suggested visiting us on a particular weekend a couple months ago, that weekend was not good for me (luckily because I don’t feel like seeing her).
In a couple of days I will be with my in-law family including about 10 brother and sister-in-laws and many nieces and nephews, and enjoying my time off of work with my DH and our kids.
When my NM’s NPD came to light for me a couple years ago I was filled with despair that this situation was a part of my life for the past 40+ years and for as long as I live in the future. That was an overwhelming, depressing, helpless feeling. But I have now realized this year, that because I feel no obligation to call and deal with the aftermath, and because I did not receive an inquiry as to my holiday plans, I feel free to enjoy the people I am with, free to enjoy Thanksgiving.
It feels good to think about what I do have in my life, and not what I don’t have.
One of the good things I have is your strength you share in your stories of similar situations. Happy Thanksgiving!