Update: seeing my estranged parents after 5+ years

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by trinityroyal, Sep 20, 2010.

  1. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    It's been just over a week. Sorry I haven't been around on the board much, but I've been holed up in the back of my head, just processing things. A lot to think about.

    First, the important stuff:
    Little easy child and his team won the play-offs!

    I am so very proud of him. He was such a good sport, didn't boast or gloat, cheered up one of his friends who was on the 3rd place team, etc., and handled all of the family issues like a true gentleman. What a trouper.

    And now, the other stuff:

    My parents were both there. Although I was sitting quite far away and didn't really get a good look at them, I was stunned at how much they have aged and how haggard they both looked. My mother in particular looks shriveled and old and drained of life. I could see the shape of her bones underneath her face, even from all the way across the field. She used to be so pretty, so vivacious, and now she looks like a sad, sick old woman.

    The whole time we were all there, and in the week since, I've been expecting to feel...I don't know...something. But I don't. I don't feel anything but indifference. A bit of mild puzzlement. The sort of distant pity you have for someone you don't know very well who is going through a hard time. But no deep feelings. No anger, no sadness. No fondness. Nothing at all. Where feelings should be, there's just a void.

    But I've also been thinking a lot about the distance, the estrangement.

    I'm just so confused...

    Do I want to re-establish contact? Not really, because I treasure the peace, happiness and stability that their absence has brought to my life. But will I regret that later if I remain apart from them and then one day they're gone and I've lost my chance to do otherwise.

    My mother looks so very ill and sad. What if she needs to go into a nursing home someday. Could I live with myself if I knew she was alone there, and not visit? At least to make sure that she's receiving proper care and not being mistreated?

    What about my babies? Will they be upset someday that I prevented them from knowing their grandparents? How do I answer their questions later, if and when they come up?

    I'm just not sure...

    No decisions for now, just letting things bubble up and settle back down. But I'm truly at a loss...
  2. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    I think that your feelings are quite normal for the reality of what your relationship with your parents is.
    I have these thoughts about my parents as well. They are now 82 years old and I have not voluntarily seen them in a decade. in my humble opinion, regardless of what you do, you will have regrets about your relationship with your parents when they pass. We all have regrets about the things we could have or should have done when that day of reckoning comes. I think it might be more helpful to think of it in terms of "Will I regret having given up my peace of mind to conform to someone else's idea of what the relationship should have been after they die?" For all I know my parents could live another 15 years. There's no way I would put myself in that position for 15 more years. Would I say goodbye at the last moment? I honestly don't know. But there's a difference between saying a last goodbye and living a misery.

    You could do that without being an active part of her life up to that moment. You could do that without having to have contact with her even at that point. If she ends up in a nursing home and things are going poorly I'm certain that someone in your family will be judgmental enough to let you know that they think it's your fault, and that will give you the opportunity to try to fix it, or not. Don't put the cart before the horse.

    Your older children do know them and can certainly have contact with them if they want. No one is stopping them. Your younger children don't know them from Adam. At some point they may ask, and you can cross that bridge when you come to it. in my humble opinion, you're their mother and you know which people are good for your children to know. These are your decisions to make, and if you feel that your parents would undermine your relationship with your children, you are the one who has the right to say that they stay away. You wouldn't invite a toxic person into their lives if they weren't related to you. You shouldn't feel obligated to do so because of genetics.

    {{{{{{{{Big hugs}}}}}}}} and congrats to Little easy child!
  3. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I can't tell you what to do, Trinity. I know I had similar feelings of detachment when my dad was ill in the hospital during what turned out to be his last week alive. I felt strangely detached when I was in the same room with him. But once I left the room, and certainly once he was finally gone, all those conflicting emotions came flooding back. Maybe being in his presence sent me into "safety" mode -- I've been trying to protect myself from his influence since I was a kid and only finally "perfected" the force field around myself after years of practice. It's hard and it's conflicting. You don't want to be hurt, but you are left longing for some kind of relationship that satisfies the emotional need we all have to connect. I realize that even had my dad survived and lived another 20 years, I never would have achieved the level of connection with him that I needed. He just wasn't capable of that kind of change. His own baggage was too heavy, his own scars too deep. By now, he'd petrified himself over a lifetime of fear, anger and denial.

    You'll have to decide if reaching out on your part is worth the effort -- both for yourself and your kids. Whatever you decide, it will be right and no one has the authority to question it.

  4. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Way To Go little easy child!!! Woot!!!

    I don't know Trinity. My kids grew up basically without my side of the family except occasional short visits other than with my Mom, but even with her they were fairly brief and maybe once a year. My dad stepped back into my life at a time I needed him very badly. While I know his wife at the time was his motivation, I still will never forget what he did for me and my kids. (or her either) But even after that the relationship sort of shriveled up and died. I have only heard from him when he is at my brother's and my brother puts him on the phone.

    easy child and Travis sort of took this all in stride. Nichole however longed for extended family. There were times she'd actually get angry with me and refused to listen when I explained. As an adult with her own child......she views it differently. She realizes I was protecting them from from the harm my family could have potentially cause them. And while she still wishes she could've had that extended family, she's not longer angry about it and accepts it as something that just has to be that way.

    I have no "love" or any real feelings for my bio dad. My Mom and I have managed to form a friendship of sorts..........age has mellowed her a bit, or has matured me to the point where I can handle her better. I dunno. But you can't make there be feelings where no feelings exist. Appearances can be deceiving. `
  5. ML

    ML Guest

    Whatever you decide, you have our love and support. Love, ML
  6. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I cant tell you what to do or expect. Mine was a twisted mess. Congrats to easy child though. Awesome.
  7. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    This is the key, really, and what I mustn't lose sight of, regardless of what I end up doing. Thanks, Witz. And thanks to all of you for sharing your stories and perspective. It's good to know that my confusion is normal, and fitting to the situation.

    I don't think I'm going to make any decisions for a while. I'm just going to store this in the back room of my head and let it sit for a while.

  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Congratulations on the big win!!! Woo hoo!!!

    "Will I regret having given up my peace of mind to conform to someone else's idea of what the relationship should have been after they die?"

    My thoughts, exactly.
  9. Fran

    Fran Former Site Owner

    Trinity, why does it have to be all or nothing. You can contact your mom and see how it goes. If she is destructive and difficult you can pull back.
    My way of thinking is that we have the life our parents forge and then we have a life that we forge. If our parents thinking threatens the stability of the life I forged then
    they have to be more distant. I won't let anything they do or say interfere with my relationship with husband or my kids. Nothing comes before that.
    On the other hand, I'm not someone who can turn my back on family in need- but it is mostly on my terms. I expect absolutely nothing from my parents. They didn't give us that sort of support and nurturing when we were kids and they don't seem to have the ability to see what is hurting us. Don't expect anything now. Be polite, expect them to be polite and anything else that comes from the relationship is gravy. in my humble opinion. If things go into a negative spiral, walk away.
    Fortunately, I am so removed emotionally that for the most part my hurt is minimal. I'm doing the right thing for me, for my kids and for my family to the best of my ability. I'm hoping that good stuff will continue to flow back to me in other ways.

    I think you are wise to just stop and ponder what and how this works for you. Your priority is your husband, your kids, your life. I just always wondered if I never got to say good bye, would I break something in me that was unrepairable. I would walk away in a heartbeat if it threatened the stability of my family.