So after 25 years of divorce my mother’s side and my father’s side are destined to collide.
My graduation went smoothly, seemingly, so did my sister’s graduations. But then my sister got inducted into the hall of fame for her alma mater while my mother was in Europe. And so, my aunt and uncle stood in for my mother…
I went with my father, knowing they would be there, warning him they would be there. He seemed unfazed.
Stuck in a gym full of people milling about, no direction to their movements, the air growing steadily warmer from their jacketed bodies, with my silent father, as we scan the crowd for mines… Also known as my mother’s sister and her husband. Praying that when we found them my sister wouldn’t be with them so that I wouldn’t have to go and greet them while my father stood his ground, silent.
And people wonder why I’m wary of weddings or births or funerals…
Don’t get me wrong, I love my father. He may actually be the best man I’ve ever known. But that stubborn streak that allows me to hold grudges?? Yeah, totally got that from him.
See my mother wanted a divorce. So my father gave her one. And then her family ceased to address his existence. With the exception of my Grannie and Auntie B, all has been silent on the western front for twenty odd years.
In my mother’s world, she and my father could just get along. They could sit together at my sister’s tournaments, they could plan weddings and share expenses, they could have a drink, or at least be sociable when they meet in public forums… Heck, sometimes I think she wants joint Christmas mornings!
In my father’s world, well, there are a lot of things he’s like to say to her, I’m sure. So for the safety and sanity of all, unless it specifically has to do with my sister or I, he’s keeping his d*mn mouth shut and avoiding contact at all costs.
So of course we run into my aunt and uncle. And of course, coming from my mother’s world, they greet my father with an air of convention and restraint (or strained convention?) and he mutters “yeah…” as he passes them to see an old colleague who happened to coach at my sister’s school.
Not the most graceful, I know. He’s not perfect. But in his defence, what we’re they really expecting? You ignore someone who was once part of your family, your intimate community, for 25 years and just because you’re in the same room as him, that’s supposed to change and he’s supposed to be fine with it?
Meg & Co. over at apracticalwedding.com talk a lot about how people aren’t necessarily going to change their behaviour just because you have a special event going on. The best that can be asked for is a modicum of civility or avoidance on the day. After all they’re here to celebrate and support one or two people, not to mend fences or rehash old grudges.
I mean it’d be nice if a wedding or graduation or fancy dinner did spur some mending of fences, but it’s unrealistic to assume that it can happen on the day. If necessary, action should be taken beforehand, I believe, so that things go more smoothly and everyone knows what to expect.
In this case, my aunt expected civility and my father expected avoidance… I think my father was basing his expectations on history, and my aunt was basing her expectations on the mystical dogma of society… which if she actually knew my father at all, is a laughable assumption.
Now, who’s dreading her mother’s return from Europe, and the upcoming familial hell known as Thanksgiving???