Tag Archives: parents

Smile, Though Your Heart is Breaking: My Memoir

The older I get, the more visits with the parental unit become concrete episodes of psychological disorder ripe for analysis, versus emotional jabs to the heart. An obese, hot-tempered and narcissistic father dying from not one but two-types of cancer yet beating the odds thus far despite terminal illness, and a mother who has no ability to process emotion and who lives solely for capturing life in posed photographs where everyone looks happy, never mind how they actually feel.

When I hear of yet another occurrence of my father jabbing my mother with his cane or throwing her phone against the room, shattering its screen, or him calling her any number of degrading terms, I can’t help but blame the victim, or see them both as victims, as she has no ability to empathize with others, only to nag and focus solely on the illusion of happiness in moments captured on camera with no context to the disorder and discomfort underneath.

If I were to write a memoir, perhaps its title would be – Smile, though your heart is breaking. I had rationalized throughout my life that every family takes photos, that smiling and looking pretty in pictures was a normal part of life – which is it, if not to the extent of addiction to photographs without having the ability to live in the moment. The measure of the success of any life event or family outing could be measured in two ways — did my father not have an outburst, and did my mother capture photographs of everyone smiling at the camera with our eyes open and teeth showing just the right amount.

Yesterday, I had to stop my father from flinging across the room the $700 point-and-shoot camera I had purchased as a gift to my mother for the wedding. At dinner with my grandmother, sister and parents, my mother asked the waitress to take a photo on her phone, which inevitably didn’t come out that great because it was dark and the phone doesn’t take good pictures, so she asked the waitress to take another photo on the camera instead. This prompted my father to threaten to toss the camera across the room in a way where you knew he was serious. His mother luckily talked him down and the photo was taken by the waitress, albeit with my father purposely with the back of his head to camera.

Earlier in the day, a friend from childhood came over to visit. She was in town as the same time as I was by coincidence, but she actually had planned to see my parents at the time when she didn’t know I would be there. She came over and talked to us for a bit – time wise it was not ideal as we had to leave for dinner with my grandmother. We had to say goodbye and get going to be on time, but of course, my mother needed to take pictures of us smiling for the camera. My father nearly struck her with his cane, but company was present so he somewhat behaved himself. He took a swing as to threaten, but did not get near her.

I hear that this year when they were at their winter condo in Florida, with no one watching the moment, he struck her on the side. She knows that’s not ok, but at this point it’s just her life.

Mom complains about going to the hospital with my father for his surgeries, and shares that she is not looking forward to “taking care” of him if (when) his cancer gets worse. It breaks my heart that she can’t empathize or sympathize with her husband of all these years, of another human being who is dying of cancer and who has his best years behind him. But then I remember all the things my father has done to her, and I can’t blame her for her reaction – though it would be the same if he were a loving, kind man, she’d still only care about herself. She’d still complain about how the events are harming her life, not showing any modicum of care for another human life.

Smile, though your heart is aching. Smile, even though it’s breaking. — I see my family infrequently, and when I do, I always remember why I moved so far away. I wish I could have a close relationship with them, but that just isn’t in the cards…

I knew, getting out of the car, that my jeans had shifted too low and my shirt to high, and my stomach, plump with the roundness of a long winter’s depression and its related binge eating, was protruding in a non-flattering fashion. My father, of course, had to comment. “I am going to say it,” he said, and I knew what was coming. He paused, for a moment, clearly about to say I look fat but instead shifting the language to say “you should change before we go to grandma’s, she won’t appreciate how you are dressed.” I took a deep breath and said “I just need to pull my shirt down,” and left it at that. Years ago the comment would have been more direct towards my weight gain, but I think at this point since I have a husband he doesn’t bother me with that, only the inappropriateness of my clothing choices, despite having just traveled to visit them.

I know it could be worse – much, much worse. I’ve heard stories of friends who have parents who have done horrible things, or who just weren’t there at all. Parents who were divorced, who got remarried, who dated abusive men or women and alcoholics and drug addicts. Plenty of people are born into much worse situations – perhaps into loving families, but in areas of the world riddled with war. Few, in th history of time, come from healthy, stable families. Some do. And those who come from stable households often struggle with life when it gets rough unable to handle any imperfections. Perhaps in a way being hardened early is a blessing as life only gets more emotionally challenging over time, with the loss of loved ones built into not one the status quo, but the inevitable.

I’m trying to break free of all of this to find myself – before I have my own family. I have a wonderful husband who is everything to me. As I said to a friend the other day — one can be grateful and still miserable. Today, that’s me. Grateful, but broken. Appreciative, but empty. In awe all that I have, but have long forgotten what happiness feels like, my mental definition of the emotion locked in as a moment where I tilt my chin lightly downward, pull my shoulders back, open my mouth slightly with lips tilted upwards at the smile, and wait for the flash to capture the shell of a person who appears to be having a wonderful time.

The Slow March of Death: My Father’s Cancer and Necessary Denial of Mortality

Yesterday, I joked with my husband that it’s difficult to say “poor dad” in any scenario. My father, with his chronic narcissism, is quick to blame you with a massive guilt trip for any slight mistake, to debate your opinion to the ground telling you you’re flat out wrong, and to make thousands of careless mistakes only to get extremely angry at you if you dare to call him out on any of them. Yesterday was a day when “poor dad” would be the tinge of empathy I feel for him bubbles to the surface.

It has been nearly 10 years since the doctors told him that he has an aggressive form of late-stage prostate cancer and he had “two years” to live. He is 67, and with all his health issues – his obesity, his diabetes which he fails to keep in check, and the cancer which was supposed to take his life long ago, has surpassed the lifetime of Carrie Fisher and many others who have died too young. Still, there is never a good time to die, and despite his personality shortcomings we all want him to live as long as possible and as comfortably as possible. I had a bit of a breakdown years ago about his looming mortality, and then as time passed and the drug concoctions they put him on started to slow down the growth of his cancer we all just put the thoughts of death out of our minds. He briefly lost weight and seemed a bit happier. Then he returned his old habits – overeating, yelling horrible things at my mother, and being his typical anxious, narcissistic, grouchy self. Continue reading

Why I Can’t Even With Small Talk… And Medium Talk Even.

What are you supposed to talk about with your family that isn’t god awful over the course of a normal dinner out? I don’t see my family all that often, so you’d think we’d have things to discuss. Yet the conversation usually goes something like this, in no particular order…

  • How is your job? Do you still have a job? (It’s ok. I still have a job.) There’s nothing really more to discuss about my job because no one understand what I do and it’s not interesting to them, so that’s pretty much the extend of that conversation.
  • Politics – whoever is in office is doing a good job or isn’t and everyone at the table will have an opinion but according to my dad his is the only right open
  • Did Mr. HECC apply to grad school yet? Is he going to get another job / figure out what he doing with his life? (*this comes up only when he is not in the room)
  • Other family issues du jour as long as it’s about “not our direct family” — cousin tried to attempt suicide? Let’s all solve her problem over dinner. Aunt and uncle about to get a divorce? Good idea or bad idea — it’s the perfect time to debate this.
  • Let’s gossip about whoever else we all know…
  • Complain about something else…
  • Be sad for a moment about someone who has passed away…
  • Return to complaining or gossiping.
  • Bonus – not yet, but you know they want to bring it up – when are you having kids / buying a house / growing up like a real adult now that you are married…?

Do other families talk about anything else over dinner conversation?  I guess all that’s left is entertainment and sports, and since I don’t talk about sports that leaves talking about television or movies or books or other productions. But that conversation is rather bland and again someone at the table has an opinion that must be right even if I hate the show clearly I’m in the wrong on that one.

What should families talk about? Or, for that matter, what should people talk about? I occasionally like to tell stories about things that have happened but most often I don’t know what to say. Even with friends / peers / coworkers this is an issue. I never know what to talk about.

 

My Parents Are Actually Not That Great with Money

When I grew up I knew two things to be fact – my dad was talented at earning money and my mom was equally talented at spending it. My mother constantly complained about us not having a lot of nice things – and we indeed were upper middle class and not a millimeter over the upper class line – but we had it rather great. As my father worked a professional job requiring his math brain, the money kept rolling in. And my mom (and I) would keep spending it.

But despite the “every time we come back from the mall” fights on spending it never was  a “real” issue. We weren’t in danger of losing the house. My private college tuition was paid for outright. So was my sister’s private school for a learning disability and then college. Apparently at some point my father’s company was sold and he did fairly well for himself in his stock and income appreciation. My parents should be comfortably set for life and then some.

However my father (who was told he had two years to live about nine years ago, mind you) and my mother have spent and spent and spent post “earning” years and with the stock market underperforming all his estimates about his finances didn’t quite pan out. Shocking for a man who made a career out of calculating risk. Yet, here we are today, with my father looking at all the numbers involved in the family finances and he can’t make heads or tails of it. There’s a massive home equity loan out that has to be paid back fairly soon, and there’s little left on it to borrow at this point anyway. He wanted to spend a lot on my wedding but, now that I better understand their financial situation – I realize it was not a good idea. It’s not that they are broke – they have social security and pension money coming in… about $100k a year. But in order to afford not only my wedding but also a winter condo they bought in the southeast and renovations to that condo and fixing a bunch of things breaking around their main house there is the reality that my dad had to pull out a bunch of money from the IRA bumping him up into a higher tax bracket so most of the income they’re making goes to taxes.

So they have to in the next few years pay back about $200k in home equity. How? The idea seems to be either from a reverse mortgage (which as I learn more about I really don’t like) or taking more money out of the IRA and paying a lot of taxes on it or, well, there aren’t many other options. The money is there, but it isn’t. They’re so much more fortunate than most people their age (due to smart saving at least and the possibility of a one-working-parent household being able to afford a nice life and a decent retirement) but their spending is just out of control. It’s not just my wedding – which theoretically my father had budgeted “forever” for – it’s the lack of acceptance of 1 – what life really costs and 2 – what their life really costs.

My father keeps talking about how they’re going to have to “get frugal” and I can’t help but laugh. They aren’t exactly going on luxury vacations but my parents do spend. My mother has no concept of money and I worry she’s going to eventually spend every last cent of her retirement money leaving her with “just” the monthly income – which at some point may not be enough to pay for her care. I’ll help, of course, as much as I can – but I’m stuck in the reality of my world which = I cannot ever afford a house, I cannot figure out how to save enough for my own/my family’s retirement, even on my current substantial income (which will not last because I’m about to completely crack in my current career and my next step is something less profitable but more personally fulfilling, I hope) – in any case, I’ll need to help out of guilt knowing how much my own life has cost them, but it’s still frustrating that this didn’t have to happen… they were doing so well and then they had to put an addition on the house and had to buy too-nice further for the vacation property and had to get a new dress for every wedding-related event coming up (I’m glad I talked my mother out of purchasing a $2000 dress for my wedding when the $300 dress she got looked WAY better than the one the fancy store was trying to sell her.)

I just worry too because I know that in so many years my father’s cancer will eventually end his life (I hope this is a long time out but who knows) and my mother will – god willing – life a very long time. But as bad with money and gullible as she is she’s suceptable to all sorts of scams and con arts and just about any potential way for her money to disappear. My dad likes to talk to me (so awkwardly) about how he wants my sister and I to get an inheritance – and I can’t comment on that because on and hand I think inheritances are just plain awful and unfair and should not be allowed and on the other hand the world we live in is one where people can or can not afford to, say, buy a house or send their kids to college due to such mini dynasties. It’s not a topic I’m comfortable talking about and I certainly don’t want to be the person held responsible for convincing my mom not to, you know, spend that money that one day would possibly end up trickling down to me and my sister – even though I honestly don’t want it if she needs to spend it, I just don’t want to see her getting conned. I worry I’ll have to be the responsible one because my sister knows nothing about money and clearly I’m the best educated on the topic (I don’t know how that happened but anyway, it happened.)

My father was even asking my advice on how to repay the home equity. I have no idea. $200 is a lot of money. It took me a very long time to save $200. Now I have almost double that. But it’s all locked up in retirement funds and such. It’s about half of the cost of their actual house. I don’t understand home ownership and the whole taking loans out against your property. It seems like he has a really great rate (2 percent?) so maybe that’s a smart/good thing. But it’s only smart insofar as the needed to spend the money. It’s my wedding but it’s more than that for sure. It’s just this nature of spending and spending and spending and being delusional slash not wanting to deal with the time to come when they really do need to be “frugal” in their own middle class sort of way… not something my mother has known how to do for years. I worry they’ll lose their home – though my father said that will never happen – but I’m starting to doubt his ability to predict these things. He seems rather surprised about how much taxes he owes in general and how things add up and money keeps disappearing. He seems perplexed that the stock market didn’t perform strongly so his networth shrunk more than expected and he didn’t have a backup plan to deal with this. And this all has led me to the conclusion that my father – the math guy – the financial industry risk expert – is actually really bad with personal finances. I worry for them, and I also hope somehow I can do better with my own family and wealth. I’m beginning to think that all starts with NOT owning property – EVER. Rent is expensive but at least it’s not handcuffs.

Mother’s Day: Being Thankful for an Imperfect Mother

Now that I’m 31 and of age to be a mother, I acknowledge that age doesn’t actually poof make you mature enough to be a good mother. Mother’s are just little girls that grew up and made little creatures that they have to take care of – who then go on to become mothers (or fathers) more often than not before they have their own shit together.

I must be thankful that my mother was not a drug addict or alcoholic. She was not a thief, sex trafficker or Russian spy. For all this, I am grateful.

When I see a bunch of my friends post pictures of their mothers on mom’s day and say “thanks to my best friend” I have to wonder what it’s like to have that kind of figure in your life. Don’t get me wrong – my mom and I talk all the time. But we talk at each other. Not to each other. And, without a nurturing bone in her body, she never once was the type of mother who was “there” for me when I needed it most.

My mother embarrassed me time and again in my life in terms of oversharing my “accomplishments,” trials and tribulations to anyone who might be willing to listen – but the worst of it came from how she, along with my father, completely warped my world view and sense of self. I was trained from a young age that all that matters is being brag-worthy. That I’m inherently special and worthy of praise. Yet any shortcoming, any slight imperfection, was not something that I could work on and fix. It was just ignored. Replaced with some story of grandiosity which fueled my oft confused ego.

I’m grateful that despite my mother’s unyielding self-self-absorbtion, she doesn’t have an evil bone in her body. Her acts are just frustrating, inconvenient at best and nails-on-chalkboard annoying at worst. In the most meaningful moments of life, her only though is if she and the others posing around her look good in a photograph. She is just entirely void of the ability to empathize with others. Her own growth was stunted by her narcissistic mother, who is evil and selfish. My mother is selfish but not in the same way. She’ll put her needs above others but she won’t be angry at said others if their needs end up coming first. Her entire life since age 18 has been in an abusive relationship with my father. She’s never cried. Not even behind closed doors. Her emotions seem to have been stunted as a small child, and were never recovered.

There are worse mothers out there. Ones that go out of their way to use their own children. Ones who push their children to do things that they wouldn’t want to do otherwise. Even when I came out as bisexual she cringed but didn’t kick me out of the house (she hoped it was a phase.) And, in terms of being present versus not in my life, my mother was always there – I’m not sure if she was always there for me, but she was always there. Involved in the school PTA, all of my teachers and administrators knew her well. Everyone in the school knew my mother. Her entire identity, at least once I was born, was created by the accomplishments of her children. Without a sense of self, there became an impossible pressure on her kids to be special enough.

My mother did not teach me about love. My mother stayed when my father screamed and threw ice water in her face or when he grabbed her arm and threw her across the room. For all the effort my mother put into outside appearances in terms of dressing nicely and wearing makeup, she didn’t worry about my father’s repeated humiliation of her in public. After being out of the work force for so many years, she was too afraid to get divorced and have to return to the employed life. She enjoyed her life of shopping and lounging by the pool in the long summers and actively involved in her children’s schooling. She saw her own child getting beaten with a belt and said nothing, even though she knew this wasn’t right. She let her young child start to abuse her, because her child learned this was the only way to stop her chronic nagging. She was a victim, still is a victim, and was incapable of escaping the borderline personality disorder eggshells she walked on throughout her life – first with her own mother, and then her hot-tempered, violent husband.

I feel sorry for my mother. Sorry that she will always be incapable of having her own life. Sorry that she does not have the emotional depth to have a fulfilling adult relationship. Sorry that happiness in her life is defined by buying more and more things, even though she’s never actually happy. The normal state for her is anxious, constantly panicking about what needs to be done, yet never accomplishing much at all.

My great worry is that if I do have kids one day, I won’t be able to be a good mother. I know I will try to be more nurturing and caring, more there for them when they need it and out of the way when they don’t. I’d love to be the type of mother who one day, when my children are all grown up, is referred to as a close friend and confidant. I want to be a strong figure, with a satisfying career and sense of personal accomplishment, to show one example of a successful life and ideal, loving relationship.

And all the while I wonder who I’d be today if I was born to one of those mothers who – maybe is strict – but who knows what it means to love and care for her own children – to, outside of financial means, put her children’s needs ahead of her own, especially when they are young and most vulnerable. All of the crazy in my mind – the constant panicking – the inability to get things done without someone telling me I’m absolutely awful, and having to prove them otherwise – my recurring failure to lead a stable, normal life – or to stand up for myself when I should instead of burst into tears – is something that is so ingrained in me, I can’t shake it off. So much of that is due to my mother. My father had quite the influence as well, but since it’s mom’s day I’m writing about the female component of my parental pair specifically.

So as much as I miss my mother, I’m glad that I moved to the other side of the country. It makes me sad that as the years go by there will less and less time I can spend with her. It’s terribly upsetting that if I do have kids, she will barely ever see them – even though I imagine she’d be a better grandmother than parent, especially if my father isn’t around to scream and make for anxiety-ridden situations. I wish I could flip a switch and suddenly she’d know how to feel – how to care – how to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around her. I know that sounds awfully silly coming from someone such as myself who is also so self absorbed. But at least I have some awareness of the fact that this world isn’t all about me – or my future children – or my life. I’m just a speck in the infinite universe. I’m lucky and unlucky all at the same time, but more lucky than not all things considered. While some of what I have has been earned, most has been obtained through chance.

She would never be able to grasp that. She just doesn’t care about other people – or herself. She is driven by a relentless, all-encompassing need to have stories to tell about others who would want no part in the tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do You Really Want Kids? The Case for Being Childfree

The term “childfree” is all the rage these days. A new book “Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed – Sixteen Writers on the Decision NOT to Have Kids” is getting its spin in the spotlight. Not surprisingly, everyone – and their mother – had an opinion on whether or not any woman should become a mother. If you don’t have kids, as the book’s name suggests, you are called various derogatory terms, as if somehow the choice not to bring another human being into the already overpopulated, resource-strained world is the most selfish thing a person can do. I for one acknowledge that the choice to be childfree is anything but.

That said, I do want children. I don’t think there is a logical reason why beyond biology; I’m absolutely terrified of my ability to be a good mother – judging by my management skills and hatred of confrontation and overall disorganization and poor time management ability, one could easily make the case why I should not be a mother. I’m 31.5 and it would be just as easy to spend the next eight-and-a-half years of my life doing what I’m doing now, until it’s too late, at least naturally, to have a kid or a litter. I could just say, you know what, I don’t want kids, and I’m not going to have any (my parents are expecting me to say this any day, especially since I’ve been in a relationship for nine years and have not yet so much as gotten engaged.)

I don’t know if there’s every a good reason to have kids or to not have kids. If you live a non-religious life, as I do, there’s no god from above throwing shade at me and my partner for not popping out the maximum number of new psyches one body can produce. There are people out there who love kids and people out there who loathe kids in equal parts, and some who love kids never have them by choice or by default and some who hate them have a gaggle to their own dismay. Some who love kids have them and then secretly hate them, and some who secretly hate them, have them, and realize that the meaning of life is seeing the world through their child’s eyes.

Perhaps if I had some sort of outstanding career where I was happy jet-setting around the world, creating art or performing on broadway or directing films or writing novels which leave no time to be distracted by little brats screaming bloody murder in the background, I’d think that a childfree life would be the way to go. But I’ve gotten to this strange point of limbo in life. At 31, with nearly $350k in savings (on paper, anyway), and a career that, while sucking up the majority of my waking life, inspires me less than a calculus class, I know that I am fortunate to have options that few have, but I there is something horrifyingly missing from my life today. It isn’t a big fancy house or even a big fancy job. It’s family.

Family, of course, can mean many things. I grew up with a large extended family – myself being the oldest cousin – with just one sister and two parents, but well over 15 attendees to any holiday family gathering, my childhood was filled with the dramatics of a family mixed with Tri-State Jews, Italians, and Cubans, which was lively to say the least. Of course as a child I never really appreciated this, it was just the way life was. It was yet another holiday, another family event to go to, and as I transformed from the only child of the whole family, cute and the center of attention, to the oldest cousin who was meant to behave and help entertain the young ones or be bragged about relentlessly by her narcissistic parents who would overstate her accomplishments, I didn’t have what one would call a healthy relationship with that family. Still, it was family – a family I’m sorely lacking today.

Even though I doubt my maternal instincts and abilities, I also feel inspired to build a strong, solid family filled with love and care. One where perfection is not the expectation and flaws are equally rewarded and cherished. My boyfriend and likely future husband is such a quiet, calm, introverted individual, I fear our family will be so small, mellow, and quiet without the organic melding of a localized large extended family. I’ve considered moving back to the east coast just to be near family — my parents are having a portion of our giant clan over for seder tonight, and I will yet again miss it — but I don’t know if that would really help or hurt my desire to set up a healthy family dynamic sans the consistent crazy of my own parents.

When I think about my life, you know, the next year or ten years or thirty or eighty of it, I no longer have this crazy desire to be the next Idina Menzel or Ellen Degeneres. All my life I thought what I wanted was fame, to just be someone who people knew and loved and would be willing to talk to, someone who wasn’t this oddball in the corner hoping for her shot to be not only accepted by lauded for her esteemed personality and thoughts. I thought that was core to who I am, something that would never change. I dedicated my early 20s to auditioning for local productions, sacrificing potential jobs which conflicted with evenings off for rehearsal, not because I thought I’d get the lead or because I really believed I had the talent to ever succeed in the performing arts, but because the drive was there. It was gnawing, visceral, relentless and the only iota of a self-propelled intention I knew to be true. Even that, the one thing I thought I knew about myself, it seems, is fleeting.

I wouldn’t mind being known for doing something great – writing a best selling novel or, heck, one day the grande reveal of this blog once it becomes more than just a never-ending self-absorbed tale of depression, anxiety and poor career choices (I’m surprised anyone actually reads this thing, but if you are reading, hello) – but what I really want to do, what I really want more than anything in the world, is to be able to go to the park with my kids and watch them run around and laugh and fall down and get up all over again. I want to have teenagers who I can relate to deeply due to my extended, perhaps pervasive adolescence, and help them grow into their own. I want to raise children who learn that they can do anything they want, that it doesn’t have to be something worthy of bragging about. That their destiny is their own. You know, I’ll never be a great employee. I’m not built to be an award-winning corporate, execution-oriented, results-driven robot. I think I might be built to be a mother. Well, I guess you can say, of course I am.

My Parents, My Aunt’s New House, and Taxes

If my father were to find out that I hadn’t filed taxes for four years, I would never hear the end of it. He would basically tell me I’m a horrible, disorganized person who is so irresponsible. I hear his voice now, sighing my name in judgement-filled disappointment. And that judgement would kick me straight in the stomach yet again, because I’d believe that there is something truly wrong with me, and that I’ll never be able to resolve my deep-rooted mess of a self.

But when it’s my own father who hasn’t filed the taxes, well, then the world is out to get him. He is being kind of enough to co-sign a loan for my divorced aunt who is attempting to purchase a house, and in order to do this they’ve asked for two years worth of back taxes documentation. Well, he doesn’t have that because while he’s paid what he believes he owes, he’s never actually filed for 2011-2013.

The reality of the situation is that both of my parents could be in very big trouble for not filing taxes. It sounds like he has actually paid the amount owed, but he can’t know for sure because he hasn’t actually filed and filled out the paperwork. My mother is concerned about this, of course, but whenever she brings it up with him he will go off on her and call her a jerk. He really likes to call her a jerk.

It’s so unfortunate for her to be in this spot where she has absolutely no control over the finances. If they were to be audited they could both be thrown in jail. Now, you could say that she should be more pro-active in ensuring her own taxes are filed on time, but my father keeps all of the financial information in boxes that even he isn’t able to find easily. He’s been procrastinating on filing taxes because everything is a giant mess. I wonder where I get this being a mess thing from, hmm.

To be “fair” to my father, he does have terminal prostate cancer, and I’m sure he doesn’t want to spend his remaining days doing taxes. Maybe in his mind, since the doctors told him he would die five years ago, he was putting it off so that he’d never actually have to deal with it. Who knows. It’s hard to task a dying man with filing paperwork to the IRS, but he’s lived much longer than the doctors have thought and he typically spends his days not schlepping up to Sloan Kettering in NYC watching television or napping.

I’m concerned about my parents, but there really isn’t anything I can do. My dad is so ridiculously stubborn and he won’t change that. He spent a good ten minutes yelling (over the phone) at my aunt’s loan officer because he thought that he only had to show two years of taxes for 2013 and 2014, and in fact they need 2012 and 2013. Well, he just loves to yell. He’s just so angry and I don’t know if I’ve ever met a person with more anger in his heart – no empathy at all for other people just trying to do their job – no concern for his own wife who he could be setting up for jail time. No, he’ll just spend all his time screaming at everyone else, because the whole world is against him, clearly.

What is a grown adult daughter to do in these situations? My mother is dealing with her own mother’s finances and taxes, which is quite ironic given she doesn’t have a handle on her own. My mother doesn’t get sad, ever – as the daughter of a narcissist herself she was not allowed to have emotions – but she is clearly frustrated by my father’s failure to just pay the taxes. She laughs it off with her nervous laugh, because her only emotion as far as I can tell is “anxious.” There is nothing I can do, but it upsets me that my father, even after all of these years, even after he has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, even after his children have grown up and removed that stress from him, is still as bitter, selfish, and full of rage as he ever was. I’d like for there to be a day when he finally realizes that the world isn’t out to get him, that criticism can be constructive, that people deserve to be treated with respect. But that will never happen. I only get to hope that my parents do not end up in jail and my dad finally files the taxes.

My Parents, the Snow Birds

I never thought the day would come. Sure, all the other Jewish parents from the Tri-State area eventually buy a winter home in Florida, but my parents weren’t like that. They were just too east coast. They were too cultured. They were too… not that.

But, after a trip to Florida and dealing with the long cold winters, they’ve decided it’s time to take the plunge and purchase a winter home. Property in Florida is relatively cheap, so I don’t think it’s a terrible decision, but it’s just kind of unsettling to me that clearly it’s that time in life when this choice makes sense to them. I’m also perplexed by the amount of money they’re putting into fixing up the northeast house (and seem to be ignoring any set budgets) while now planning on spending half the year in a whole other state.

I’m not actually surprised by my mother’s interest in the half move – she loves her summers and long days by the beach and hates winters. She also grew up in Southern, California. But my father didn’t seem to be the type. I get that he has trouble getting around now so being in a place where snow and ice isn’t an issue also makes sense, even though his cancer doctors are in NY. This whole situation is rather surreal and yet another step in everyone getting older, myself included.

This also means that I will no longer be able to take a side trip to visit my parents on work trips, which most often occur during the winter months. It’s just the end of an era, and one that I wasn’t quite ready for, despite being over 30 and needing to get over this whole ironic nostalgia for my, in reality, quite unhappy childhood.

To Invest or Not to Invest?

Another surprise from left field – after offering to help front the money for my father’s credit card bill and have him pay me 50% of the interest they would charge, and him blatantly refusing such a preposterous suggestion, now he’s throwing around the idea that I should invest in their Florida condo. And he’s not joking.

The thing is, they have the money to pay for it outright, he just doesn’t want to pull his funds out of his 401k at the moment. And it wouldn’t hurt for me to have some investment in actual real estate. I haven’t run the numbers but logically it doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. Since I’d be investing in property owned by my parents, in the long run half of that property theoretically would be owned by me whether I invest in it or not. More importantly, though, is that if I were to purchase property in Florida for my parents to live in, the tax situation would get tricky. I’m not sure how it works – would I make them pay me rent? Pay me back for the loan with interest? Or would I just remain co-owner, or heck, buy the entire thing outright?

I’ve considered buying rental property before, but not property to rent to my parents. That just sounds overly complicated. And I’m not that interested in buying a condo in a 55+ community in Florida. The other piece of the puzzle is that while I haven’t been the best at saving liquid funds for a down payment of my own, if I put money into the property in Florida I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford a house of my own. So it seems like a really bad idea, even though it would provide the opportunity to diversify my portfolio a bit.

In any case, I have to get used to this crazy new world of my parents as “Snowbirds.” I’m not sure I ever will, but they sounded happy calling from the state, happier than I’ve heard them sound before. So that’s a good thing.

Happy Birthday To Me… an Awkward Conversation with My Father

It’s past two a.m. on my 31st birthday morning. I’m already in this odd mood and exhausted, not in the mood for any sort of serious conversation. Unfortunately I started to doze off on the couch which meant at 2am I had to walk past my awake father in the kitchen who apparently had something he had to get off his chest. No, he didn’t want to wish me a “happy birthday.” What started as a somewhat kind “do you want to talk” inquiry launched into a tirade about how my father is upset that my boyfriend hasn’t proposed to me yet and that, at the same time, he hasn’t said hi or thank you to them in the time he has been at our house, which has now been a few days on and off.

I understand my father’s concern – and he’s expressed this many times before – but this time it was clearly more pressing for him. It made me quite uncomfortable. My response is always that I’m not sure I even want to get married and maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I have a good job. I can take care of myself. Etc, etc. My father, being of the traditional mindset (who refused to get a divorce despite it being obvious both him and my mother would be much better off apart from each other and who also pretty clearly hate each other and/or love themselves too much to ever love another person who doesn’t fuel their narcissistic supply) is freaking out that 1) I’ll never have children and 2) That I’ll have children out of wedlock and 3) That I won’t live the life he envisioned for me.

This may be fairly typical of parents from that generation, and I understand that he’s also looking at not having many good years left due to suffering from terminal cancer, so I try to be sensitive to this, but at this point I don’t know what to say. I want to just scream at him – what do you want me to do? You think starting over now, even if that was the right thing to do (which it isn’t – my boyfriend and I are going to be together permanently and already have discussed this) – how would starting over help matters any? Do you really think I’d be able to find another guy in this world who is as compatible with me and obtain a marriage proposal and jump into having kids before I’m too old to even have kids? It just doesn’t make any sense. Logistically, love aside, I’m best sticking with my current option if the end goal is grandchildren.

That said, I understand that he is upset that my boyfriend hasn’t said hi or thank you. What can I say, my bf is an odd duck – but so am I. He’s shy and he grew up in a household where social norms were far from the norms. While I have social anxiety and struggle to act like a normal human being I have learned, I guess thanks to my parents, how to fake it. They’re so good at faking it that they can convince people who don’t know them well that they’re an actual sane, lovely couple reaching their senior years. It’s amazing how my father is so completely delusional about many things – caring so little about his own appearance or other’s emotions yet being so overly paranoid about how other’s chose to live their lives. I wanted to shout “fine, if you have an issue with him then we just won’t visit again.”

At this point marriage is on my mind too, though, and I know in some respects my father is right. While I’m not sure I actually want to get married due to the marriage penalty taxes and huge potential losses in annual income, I’d like to think that at the least my boyfriend would have proposed by now and we can discuss it. Tomorrow is our 8.5 year anniversary. I know he’s been waiting on me to learn how to keep my stuff organized in our house (which is a huge challenge due to ADHD) so I have to hold up my end of the bargain before he puts a ring on it and we can discuss whether we want to get “real married” or “legal alternative to marriage married.”

Regardless, it’s going to be an awkward week at my house, to be sure. I just hope no fireworks are set off.

Welcome Home: Tick Tock Tick Tock

One of the things I had in mind when I lost my job was spending a chunk of time with my family — the time that I rarely have to see them. I could, I thought, apply to jobs aggressively from my parent’s house and also look for a position on the east coast at the same time. My ideal goal was to have a job with a start date during my visit so I could focus just on quality family time – I mean, the most quality family time I can have with my little circus of a family.

The older I get and the more I visit my parents, the more I realize just how my psyche is completely off kilter because of their crazy, and process it a little better. It’s not always so easy though. Yesterday I was extremely depressed and found myself alone in my childhood house with tears pouring down my cheeks unable to handle both being sick, the anxiety from job negotiations, and the passing of time.

My grandfather is ill in the hospital and all of his six children have flown out to be with him and my grandmother. It sounds like this may be it. He fell, broke his shoulder, and his condition has quickly regressed. I’m an hour away from the hospital but I can’t visit because of this stupid cold that I’ve gotten myself due to all the stress and not sleeping. I’m getting better and I’m probably not contagious but the last thing I’d want to do is visit him in the hospital and for him to come down with a cold that may or may not have been my fault, only to become ever further ill and to get the blame for it. I also don’t want to miss out on the last opportunity I have to see him. I may go visit today but I’m not sure what to do.

And while I did manage to secure job offers before coming out to visit my family I did not finalize an agreement and start date, so I’m left wrecked with this horrid anxiety that’s pushing me into a deep depression. It hasn’t helped that I’ve been stuck in bed for two days trying to kick this cold. In the back of my mind I’m also freaking out about turning 31 in two months. I feel like maybe things are partially falling into place in my life and yet they aren’t quite locked in yet. I know from the outside things look hopeful but every day is a struggle with depression. Every day I have to remind myself that I should be happy to be alive and not the other way around. I wonder often if I have bipolar and try to remember my life’s ups and downs and try to pin where I am on the spectrum now, in 2014, this year, in the grand scheme of time. For the moment that would be down, quite down.

At breakfast my father asked my mother to pass the maple syrup. My mother, who hadn’t used the maple syrup in a good fifteen minutes, took it and poured it on her pancakes as soon as he asked her to pass the syrup. He, in typical my dad fashion, got extremely annoyed at her and started to fume. Her thought process is that she’d use the syrup first and then hand it to him so he could keep it on his side of the table, as if it would be as hard as climbing Mt. Everest to ask for it back should she need more. His thought process that she was doing this just to spite him, as he asked for the syrup so she was going out of her way to be rude to him. My mother is a lot of things but malicious in intent she is not. I was worried that he was about to make a giant scene as he often does, but luckily he wasn’t in the mood. My parents are just these two big children who never learned how to think about anyone but themselves. If I take it all in from an outsider’s view it’s quite entertaining. There they are, back and forth, every day of their lives, bickering about all the things that don’t matter because they can’t take a moment to think about the other person and their well being. I walked downstairs this morning and found a giant vat of ice cream upside down on the kitchen floor. My father says he asked my mother to put it away last night. She says she didn’t hear him. So it melted and someone knocked it over onto the floor. It’s always the other’s fault.

Last time I visited my mother accidentally left the laundry room sink running when she went upstairs to do something and it overflowed. She wanted to call the company that charged her $2000 last time to dry out the carpeting but I was there so I found a company that would do it for $500. My father came home and of course was angry at her but it was what it was. A few weeks ago, apparently, she flooded the sink again. Another $500. Another frustrated and angry dad. What a farce! Those two. And that is who taught me how to be a human being. It’s amazing that I have empathy and awareness at all.

A year into remodeling the bathrooms in the house it’s still the topic du jour. They don’t seem to enjoy discussing bathroom design as every bit of the conversation turns into a fight. “Tile to the ceiling?” “No, that’s a terrible idea!” “Do it yourself then.” “You won’t like what I come up with.” And on and on and on. You’d think that my father with his terminal cancer and who knows how long left to live would be doing something other than spending all of his remaining time remodeling a house, but I guess it keeps his mind off reality. It’s something to do. It’s his money and he can do with it what he wants, he just doesn’t seem to enjoy it much at all with how much stress it causes.

As I wandered around my – parents – house yesterday, I found little that I remembered. They’ve changed so much. The trees in the backyard separating our neighbor’s yards and ours – the ones I hid under as a child when I was sad and needed to get away from things – have been cut down – leaving a huge lawn but no privacy. The kitchen has been completely redone and walls knocked down with a huge modern living room that is home to a large TV, a new bathroom, laundry room, and garage made usable for cars but filled with junk and made unusable again. The living room  has new carpeting and the wallpaper has been replaced with a hideous blue paint that clashes with the sofa and curtains that remain from my childhood. Upstairs the only thing that remains is my bedroom, which I’ve selfishly fought to keep in the same arrangement it has been since I was seven years old. I know it’s terribly immature to want to keep things the way they are, but as everything changes and I’m forced into the rest of my adulthood, I feel somehow oddly comforted by returning to sameness even if it was a place where I experienced many years of depression and solitude.

I don’t really feel like I have a home anymore — I’ve been living in apartments for a good 12 years now — and without home comes a jolting sensation of constantly being off kilter. I’ve found a home in my boyfriend who I plan to spend the rest of my life with – in his arms where I can be quiet and at peace with stillness, and in his eyes where we can have a thousand hilarious conversations without a word. But I still feel the lack of a home, still look to my childhood house – where I lived until I was 17 from the day I was born – as something that is partially mine, even though it isn’t at all. If my parents wanted to they could redo my room and make it into the adult guest room it should be, not one decorated with early 1990s wallpaper covered in remnants of adolescent collage and sticky tack.

It’s this lack of stability and just growing older which is causing my current depression. It is life. Everyone goes through it and I’m no more or less special than the next person who confronts their own aging process and watching others around them grow older and pass, places change and become unrecognizable, the safety of home diminishing as adult life teaches us we are on our own and it’s up to us to make the life we want, no one else will be able to do it for us. It’s exciting to have the freedom to make the life that I want but terrifying to accept that it’s my responsibility and to let go from the safety net. I’m old now. I mean, not old, old. But 31 is an adult. It’s the age many women have children or are about to. It’s not this murky extended adolescence, it’s straight up adulthood, complete with an aching body which can no longer deal with a red eye flight and spring into action the next day or sitting on an uncomfortable chair for hours without straining her back. It is life.

What I want now, more than anything at all, is to find peace with cutting this string to my past, to stop only finding contentment in being the center of attention, that childhood fancy which drove me to where I am today. I just want to be the type of person to give and care and love. I want a home to make my own and a family and friends and enough money where I can invite them over for dinner and cook amazing healthy meals and entertain and travel and see the world.

…I want to somehow truly make peace with my parent’s crazy, to be thankful that somehow I’m nearly 31 and both of my parents are still alive despite ration saying that one of them would have likely killed the other by now. I am the product of narcissists and so is my sister and we’re both dealing with it in our own ways, both depressed, both fighting for a chance at a good and happy life. I have gotten so far and yet so often I fall back and I look ahead at all the challenges in front of me and I gasp for air, panicked, trying to comprehend how I can handle all that is the future, never mind the present. This is my depression. This is my life. I am ready to change but I’m still trapped in this quicksand. It tugs me down into the earth and I can’t move. I know I just need to lift my damn leg up and take a step but all of the sudden I just forget how to walk. I need to relearn all over again.