House of shattered dreams

I went to my parents’ cottage recently. They were out of town and left me a key. I wasn’t quite sure if they were going to say yes when I asked if I could go. I wasn’t sure if they would trust me… but they did.

Opening the door, it was like I had stepped back in time. Everything was the same, but I was different. The furniture, the books, the dishes, and even the magazines in the bathroom drawers, were all just where I had left them. It was as if nothing had changed in 6 years… but so much has.

Back in the day, I was a really good aunt at the cottage. It’s where I learned how to be a mom. I took care of my nephews, fed and bathed them, did special things with them and hugged them at night when they/I felt scared. I spent a lot of time as a young aunt learning and practising to be a mom. I envisioned parenting my kids in that same cottage, washing my kids’ hair in the same lake all summer and taking them on the same quiet boat rides early in the morning when the lake is calm…but I never did that. My kids didn’t know that my parents’ have a cottage until this summer.

I used to watch my husband (boyfriend) playing with my nephews at the cottage and daydream about the amazing father he would be.  When we got there last week, I looked out the window to see my husband and son playing catch in the yard. It looked just like my daydream…

Being at the cottage felt nice – but it was also terribly sad. My parents’ cottage is huge. They built a big bedroom for each of their 4 children and extra space for all of the grandchildren that they were expecting.

It’s like walking through a house of broken dreams. Every bedroom and extra washroom and baby gate and bunk bed shows the thought that they put into building a home for their entire family. But now it’s empty. Like, dustballs rolling around empty.

There are photos all around, photos of the entire family having dinner outside on the lawn, photos of my parents with (some of) their grandchildren, playing in the lake, eating popsicles, doing cottage things.  It’s like that was a different life with different people.

Being there makes me yearn for those times, it makes me want to blow that horn from Narnia that makes everyone gather. But then… there’s a reason we scattered. Even though it’s sometimes hard for me to remember.


Good grief

In my younger days, I kept some Charlie Brown comic books stashed in the bathroom. I loved the bathroom. It was the only door in the house that had a lock on it. I also liked the Charlie Brown books. I could identify with Charlie Brown’s depression…

There’s a running gag where Lucy holds the football for Charlie Brown and then pulls it away as he kicks. The worst part is that she acts as though she did nothing wrong and keeps convincing him to trust her again.

Charlie Brown comic strip of the football prank.

My brother sent me a very long email on Sunday (mother’s day – of course). Apparently he’s beginning to suspect that there may actually be something wrong with our mother. (shocking!) He wrote me to tell me that he’s finally read the book that I gave him over a year ago (Understanding the Borderline Mother) and he’s taking the first steps on his journey to finding himself…baby steps.

I guess I’m happy for him but I’m not really sure why he felt the need to tell me about this. Does he want a gold star? Shall I buy him a cake?

It’s not like I’ve been sitting at home waiting for his call. He ignored me and shamed me when I actually needed him so I figured out my own way. I built my own family. I’d love it if he’d invite my kids to play with their cousins, but that’s pretty much all I’m waiting for.

He wrote, “I am sorry it has taken me this long to get here, but I am here to talk with you, on your terms, whenever you are ready.”

Here we go, Charlie Brown. I'll hold the ball, and you come running up and kick it...

The email itself was benign. Just as benign as Lucy offering to play football. But I’ve been invited to this game and I knew what was coming next.

I tried to put it aside and even managed to make pancakes for breakfast (#momoftheyear). But later in the day, the emotions from his message caught up with me and, in the middle of my mother’s day dinner, in the bathroom of the sushi restaurant, I couldn’t hold back the tears. Big ugly heartbroken tears.

I wasn’t sure exactly how or when the burn was going to come. But I knew it would sting. I knew that he’s been speaking to my sisters and it made me question the security of my boundaries. Have I shared too much? Is my openness going to be used against me?

I needed to understand what he wanted. Why he sent that and what he was planning next.

That evening, I called him. He didn’t answer, which is fine. Then, an hour later (9pm), I get this text:

“Just saw that I missed your call. I do want to talk but I am exhausted and done for the night. Can we try for some time later this week?

Charlie Brown saying Oh no, not again while Lucy holds a football

Then I cried more. Why the fuck did he get to randomly interrupt my nice Sunday to make me cry? And worst of all, when I reached out to him for some answers, something to soothe my fears (that he caused), why does he get to just back out and be “done for the night”? Of course he’s not going to understand how hurtful his subtle rejection is.

Charlie Brown falls as Lucy pulls the football away

The next day… I woke up with red eyes (from crying myself to sleep) and a big black dog of depression laying on me. My husband and I worked together to push him off and get me into work. (My husband never gets to be “done for the night” either.) It was a huge accomplishment that I managed to get into work, not eat a box of cookies, and stay there for the entire day. I tried, but couldn’t get any work done.

No word from my brother.

I was getting more and more worried that my brother was going to violate my boundaries with my parents in a misguided effort to help our family reunite. I had to make sure he knew not to do this.

So I phoned him right after my work day. He answered and before saying hello, he told me what a busy day he had at work and how he still had more work to do that evening.  “Could we do this some other time this week?” …sure…rejection #2…but I had something I needed to say now.

So I told him in a vague way that my personal life and struggles are not his to share with anyone else. He told me “of course, I wouldn’t talk about you with anyone.” I’m not sure if I feel completely reassured but at least I made my wishes clear.

Then, we had this conversation:

Brother: I emailed you because I would absolutely love to please speak with you more whenever you are ready.
Me: Ok. We can talk a bit now.
Brother: I’m just so busy from work today.
Me: Should we get dinner on Thursday night?
Brother: I’m…uh…. I’m not sure if I have something that night.
Me: Ok. Or another night.
Brother: Yes. Whenever you are ready, I’m here to talk.
Me: Ok. Let me know if you are good for Thursday.
Brother: I don’t think Thursday will work.
Me: [waiting for him to propose another day… or suggest getting back to me with availability.]
Brother: But I’d really love to speak with you. Whenever you are ready.


Either be there for me or don’t. I don’t care anymore! Just leave me out of your decision making process.

What is with these people and interrupting my barely stable life to pledge their love and support, beg me to see them and then renege on their offer as soon as I show interest?

Charlie Brown football gag where the whole gang is trying to trick him.

Dear people who deserted me when I needed them most: if you’d like to see me, invite me to see you. I’ll probably say yes. If you’d like to feel like you are helping me, I don’t need your emotional support anymore. You can send cash or cheques. Otherwise, please stop inviting me to play football…and shove your guilt up your ass. Thank you very much.

comic of Charlie Brown football gag where Lucy makes him feel guilty and then tricks him again.