I left the agonizing discomfort of my parent’s home about 7 years ago when I left for (real) college. I moved myself 3 hours away, packing everything I owned (which was essentially everything, since I bought and paid for a large majority of my own things) into the back, front, and middle of my 1987 steel gray Lincoln Towncar. Of course, I had forgotten a few things, and asked my mom to hold on to them for me until I had to go back at Thanksgiving. I say “had to” because the college I attended did not allow students to stay in their dorm rooms over holiday breaks. So, I had the choice of homelessness, or going back to live with them over holiday breaks. I could have lied and said that I was allowed to stay in the dorms and moved in with the international students in the temporary housing dorm that is set up for them, but I wasn’t smart enough back then to lie that effectively. Besides, I’m an only child, and going to see my parents, no matter how secondhand smokey and cat piss filled it was, is my duty as a kid. Right?
That’s what I thought, until I moved into my first apartment. My roommate’s family came down to help her move. Mine did not. In fact, each additonal apartment I moved into had the help of the other person’s family, but mine was no where to be seen. You’d think, as a parent, you’d want to help your child pick out their first house, and help them move in, or even at least visit from time to time. But that is not the case of my parents. A house is forever, they can see it whenever. But is a graduation forever? I’m one of two people IN MY ENTIRE EXTENDED FAMILY, BOTH sides, that has graduated from college (don’t get me started on high school graduation rates). Nope, no interest in coming to that. Or my graduation for my master’s degree. In fact, I didn’t even attend my bachleor’s degree ceremony because I was so sad, and a bit embarassed, that no one was there to watch me get something I had worked so hard on. I worked for an on campus catering company at that time, so I chose to work at the after graduation reception for one of the schools I was graduating from.
My parents don’t have any money. They heat their home (trailer) with propane tanks from gas grills because they cannot afford to get an entire propane tank filled at one time. They use this gas to heat their home, water, and run some of their appliances. They went without “real” food for a couple of weeks this summer because my dad didn’t have any work coming in, gas prices were too high to even get gas and go to a food bank, all the indicators of hitting rock bottom.
They still had cigarettes, though. So things were dire, but apparently not too bad. A cigarette is just as nutritionally sound as a Big Mac, right?
Let me bring the focus back to the point at hand. Seven years, no visit. Our car has a bad heart (read: engine could explode at any moment) and isn’t really fit to drive the 3 hour trip to my hometown for a holiday visit. I’ve actually returned to my hometown twice in the past year, but I have not gone to their home. As a matter of principal. If you can afford cigarettes, you can afford to rent a car (my dad is a firm believer that any car, new or old, will break down on you, so you should always buy old, therefore, they never have a working car) and drive your asses down here.
Well, I can’t really go with a crappy car. I could rent a car and go up there, but… wait! Solution! How about I give THEM the money to rent the car, and they come down here! That way my mom can visit her sister who lives a few towns over, and my dad could visit his dad, who lives a county south of here! And, hell, they could visit their only daughter too.
Their answer to my proposition? Let’s start with my mom. Here are some excerpts from the conversation.
“I can’t leave the cats. They can’t go a day without food. If I left extra food out, the ‘coons would eat it and then I’d be out the money for feeding them. The water would freeze and they’d have nothing to drink.”
“The propane tank might blow up, and if we aren’t here to stop it, it’ll burn the whole house down. We’ll be out the money there too ’cause we won’t be here to feel the heat. That costs money, Nat.”
“Your dad will refuse to go. There’s no way he’ll drive all that way just for one day”
And the ULTIMATE gem:
“Well, I guess I could give up going over to Evonne’s and exchanging gifts on Christmas Day. They’ll be disappointed.”
Note: Evonne is my 46 year old cousin, who has 3 children, ages 17-20, who all have children of their own.
I’ll let you collect yourself and close your ogling jaw.
My dad’s responses:
“No promises, but I’ll think about it”
“Now, don’t take this the wrong way, but your mom is real particular about those cats. She won’t leave them for a day”
“It’s such a long drive. 3 hours down there, then visiting all day, and then 3 hours back.”
“What’s wrong with your car?”
NOTE: I told them I have the money saved up, no cost to them, for two whole days of rental car fees and gasoline.
I told my dad that I wouldn’t be coming up over the winter break I have from school/work because I had a lot of things to do and I couldn’t leave for even a day, and that I had to work. All of which are true, and I will be helping to take care of some special needs pets over the holiday break that require medications and can’t be left alone for more than 12 hours.
So, they aren’t coming. Even though it’s paid for, which was their old go-to for reasons why we can’t come and visit. Even when I extended the invitation to the spring, when it would be warmer and they won’t need to worry about cataclysmic propane explosions or massive cat death due to food-stealing ‘coons.
How should I feel right now? Any suggestions? It’s a mix of “same ol dissapointment, different reasons” and grief, sadness, anger, and overall numbness.
Comments welcomed and encourage.
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