Travel is over, and I am home. I managed to stay healthy through my journeys, but now that I’m back, I feel that tell-tale scratchiness at the back of my throat. The price of travel, I suppose. No matter how much fun you have, or how relaxing it may be, there always seems to be too much indulgence and not enough sleep. Throw in a bunch of strangers locked into an airplane together and germs spread and take hold.
I’m a little surprised it took this long to catch up to me. Though I suppose if stress is a factor than this final stage certainly fit the bill. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, at least, not in the way I expected.
Without even the need to declare a ban on politics, my parents and I kept our opinions to ourselves. We managed to enjoy each other’s company sometimes, and other times I just had to take a deep breath and walk away. While my Mother never once brought up any of her right-wing conspiracy theory nonsense, she did at least more than once let her homophobia out to tromp around over my sensibilities and our relationship.
If I had to hear the phrases “I’m fine with homosexuals, but…” and “the liberal media are shoving it in our faces.” We might well have had the knockdown drag out fight I was dreading from day one. I managed to respectful disagree and she managed to drop it. I was going to say “respectfully drop it” but it was more begrudging than respectful.
Of course, I was expecting their problematic views, what I wasn’t expecting was how much older they’ve become. Health issues have plagued them both, and it’s been years since I’ve seen them in person and I was surprised how much they had aged in those years. Their mortality suddenly became very real to me.
In a moment of quiet one morning I sat with my father having coffee and the we touched briefly on what would happen when they’re older. It began with a story. My Dad mentioned that his neighbor put his house on the market and said he’d go live with his daughter if it sold. Then it turned out his daughter had no idea that was his plan.
I asked that he please give me some notice before doing that.
“So you can have time to move?” he said with a note of resignation in his voice, as if he really believed on some level that I would do such a thing.
“So I can have time to find you a nice retirement home about 10 miles away,” I responded. We both know we can’t live together, especially not me and my Mother. Our relationship has been too strained for too long to make peaceful co-habitation remotely possible.
We lapsed into silence then. I’m sure we both wondered what would happen in the future, two neo-conservative parents in their declining years and their leftist, pagan only child. Common ground is in short supply between us.
In a way, I suppose I’ve lost my parents already. I don’t know who they are anymore. They are not the parents I loved as a child, who taught me to appreciate nature and science, to love animals and be kind to people— all people.
The man who taught me to question religion and embrace atheism is a Christian apologist who actually defends those who claim that the rest of us are “destroying Christmas” and seems to think that the separation of church and state only applies to other religions.
And my mother, who first taught me to stand against bigotry and racism turns out to be a homo/transphobe who keeps trying to get me to engage in “discussions” where she tells me how I should be convincing my son he’s wrong about his gender identity/expression and sexual orientation.
I’m particularly angered by her insistence on telling me “what I should say” to my son because it implies that she thinks I am merely lacking the words to express these thoughts myself. I am insulted that she thinks I might share in any way her hateful and selfish denial of my son’s identity. I can’t convey how much I do not share it, and never will.
It’s too great a divide, I think, to build bridges. Perhaps mend fences— make them tall, strong and wide (about ten miles wide) to keep their world view out of my sight and vice versa. Maybe then we can get along well enough to get by.
One thing at least came out of this visit, it impressed on me that I need to let go of the past. Clinging to the memories of what was, makes it harder to move forward into what will be. It’s true with my parents, and its true with other things in my life as well. I cling to things because they were important once upon a time, and I don’t want to admit that they no longer are.
People change, things change, and acting like they haven’t, doesn’t change the change. It merely delays the inevitable.