A letter from home

More rain today. It's got to be frustrating for the farmers here in northeast Alabama—no rain all through the growing season, and just as they start to bring in what little cotton grew here this summer, the deluge (courtesy of tropical depression Helene) comes.

Overall it's been a positive day—very quiet, very restful. I had a good shopping trip—I had a coupon for a nice percentage off at Lane Bryant and so I used it today. There were some good end-of-season bargains, and I'm sure that my co-workers will greatly appreciate my having a couple of new shirts to wear!I think what's got me disgruntled is this email that I just got from my mother, back in Arkansas. Here's the first part:


Haven't heard from you in awhile, seems as if we communicate less and less these days. I am assuming that no news is good news that is all I have to go on now days. I'm not to sure if you want to communicate or not either. Seems as if I kind of cramp your style here lately and you really don't want much to do with the old folks anymore. We are ok. Working hard and today it finally rained here and it was such a nice change in the weather. Sis and Carl will probably get married one day this week maybe…

*sigh* I honestly just don't know what to do about this. I know it's been a couple of weeks since I emailed her. I can't quite characterize my relationship with my family as "strained." I can't really characterize it as much of anything these days; mostly because I feel such a sense of distance from them. It's not a bad thing or a good thing, it's a total absence.

It's like hearing from another world. My sister is getting married to a man I've never met (and whose last name I don't even know). After that takes place I'll have two stepnephews whom I don't know at all, but who my parents will treat like grandchildren. I am a name and a picture to my nephew Dakota, just as my friends and co-workers are only names to my parents.

I blame myself for a lot of this, because I know deep down that I've been responsible for my parents drifting out of my life. At first I did it out of anger, at how I was treated when I was in high school and college. Now—a couple of years after moving away—the person I am now is gradually losing her frame of reference with her parents.

There is so much history in all of this; so many events that, had they turned out a little differently, might've made so much of a difference.

Things really started spiraling out of control back when I was a child. By the time I entered junior high, the pressure from my father to not just excel, but to win at everything, was so intense that I lost my ability to cope with the pressure in any reasonably healthy way. I try not to think about all the screaming and yelling—even now, I try desperately to avoid confrontation because I just don't know how to handle it. By eighth grade I had a full-fledged eating disorder.

(So much of this seems like it happened to a different person….)

By my senior year of high school I was in pretty desperate shape. I know that my teachers at school were fully aware of what was going on at home; my mother was a teacher at that school, and I know how much teachers talk, especially when they sense that something's wrong with a student's home life. There was one morning that I absolutely bottomed out.

By that time my father was grounding me if I didn't bring home straight A's—and sure enough, there came a time that I didn't. (It was in chemistry, by the by.) My mother had decided to hide my report card from him, but he found it, and all hell broke loose that morning. He was screaming, Mom was silent, and I remember grabbing my books and fleeing out the back door. My mother drove me to school that morning. I alternated between crying and silence for most of the drive.

I went to class and just put my head down on my desk. A few minutes into the first class period, the counselor pulled me out of class and let me stay in her office for a couple of hours.

It was sometime that morning that really solidified my decision to leave.

So I went to a college that my father made it quite plain that he didn't approve of. I got worse at coping. I put myself into counseling—I was an absolute wreck at that point. I lasted one counseling session before walking out. I met Jeff the next year, transferred out of that college, and started distancing myself from my family. Jeff begged me to go back into counseling. I finally did, although he practically had to break my kneecaps to do it. After nearly eight years, I got my eating disorder under control.

And I moved away.

Since leaving, my relationships with my parents changed. I don't think my mother ever really believed I'd move away; nobody in our family ever did…for good, anyway. My perspective now tells me that my father's attitudes were caused by 1) a combination of long-term medications that changed his personality and 2) the frustrations of dealing with an academically gifted daughter.

My father's changed since then. He's become a lot more genial. I think a grandson's been good for him. My mother has also changed, but I'm not sure if her changes are for the better. She became partially deaf after a freak ear infection damaged her auditory nerve in her right ear, and since then she's not the independent woman I remember. She's…well….timid at times, and somewhat clingy because she rarely sees me.

On both counts it leaves me puzzled. I find it hard to talk to both of them, because they're not the people I remember. My father isn't the angry person I remember, and my mother, well, sometimes it seems like she's the daughter and I'm the mother.

I don't know what to make of this. I find it hard to reach out to my father, because I don't really know him. When I filled out my information for a passport, I realized that I didn't know his birthday. My mother, on the other hand, is someone that I really don't have much in common with.

I started over when I moved out here, and it was one of the loneliest and most painful things I've ever done. Jeff can tell you—the first six months, I was miserable. But I think in those months I started to get an idea of what kind of person I really was. The person who came to Alabama as a newlywed in '98 isn't the same person who is writing this post right now.

I don't know what kind of place my parents should have in my life. My upbringing tells me that I should have them in my life, no matter what. But way down deep inside of my soul, there's that 14-year-old kid who had never heard of the phrase "eating disorder" and just thought she was a freak, but just didn't want to be yelled at anymore.

She's the one that doesn't answer emails from her mother.

I'm just not sure there's a good solution to this.

A happier post tomorrow, I promise.

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