On April 15, 2000, I left Houston, the city I’d lived in for over 20 years, and moved 175 miles away, to Austin. I left because I wanted to escape from my family, as well as the memory of poor relationship choices. The geographical cure.
While I continued to choose the wrong men, for the most part I succeeded in keeping a geographical, as well as emotional, distance from my family. For 12 years, I rarely returned to Houston to visit my family other than for Thanksgiving and Christmas. On Thanksgiving, I’d drive down in the morning and return home in the evening on the same day. On Christmas, I stayed Christmas Eve and returned home late in the afternoon on Christmas Day.
Work has always been my go-to excuse for my inability to spend more time with my family. If nothing else, being a lawyer has advantages when it comes to making excuses for being unable to participate in things which I prefer to avoid.
When my father died in October, my strategy for maintaining my sanity crumbled. Avoidance no longer felt acceptable. I went from talking to my mother on the phone every couple of weeks to at least once a day. I spent more time at Christmas. I find my mother coming to me to help solve her problems–both emotional and financial. My father’s business is failing. My (remaining) brother is drinking himself to death, just as my oldest brother had done in April. I feel compelled to act and fix things. I set up an intervention for my brother. As a result, my brother entered rehab two days ago. After the intervention, I vowed to be more active in the lives of my nieces and nephews, who clearly are quite messed up from growing up in alcoholic families.
After the intervention on Friday, I slept 11 hours, not waking up until 11:00 a.m. I decided I needed a break from family that day and did not answer the phone. My mother called multiple times. I said to the empty room, “leave me the fuck alone.” I have not returned her calls.
I’m getting sucked back into the family dysfunction. I feel responsible for solving my 76-year-old mother’s problems, which include my brother. I’m having trouble setting boundaries with her. How can you set boundaries with your mother when her husband of 58 years has died and left her with a failing business, with no other source of income except social security, and not much in the way of savings? Not to mention an alcoholic son who is supposed to be running the family business, but instead is destroying it.
Perhaps I should move again. But farther this time. I’m thinking Perth or Cape Town.
But seriously, aren’t we supposed to take care of our aging parents? Even if that means getting sucked into a vortex of emotional sickness and dysfunction?
I’ve been having some very dark thoughts. Thoughts about things that could happen to eliminate my predicament. Things that don’t include moving to Australia.