Life Doesn’t Have “Safe Words”…

I have the world’s largest headache as I write this. I had three hours of sleep last night, stressful sleep the night before that, and I keep wondering what it is I’m supposed to be doing. Should be doing. And how to push back.

Against family.

Remember my post before this one about how I was in a depressive slump a week before Robin Williams died? Well, I’m only about a step up from there right now. Which means I don’t have the mental capacity to try to be remotely creative or witty or whatnot.

Not that I think I was being creative or witty before. Or ever. But this would be super blunt and to the point.

This past Sunday, I had grocery errands to run, among other things. Hubby had been dispatched to the ROIC, and I had wanted to go with him, take the kids out to Panera Bread, and make it a family outing. I don’t mind the driving, usually, and the kids get a chance to enjoy a car ride that has more scenery than just… shops, shops, and more shops.

That and my son loves cars. Or fire trucks. And he loves the look of cop cars. He just thinks they’re awesome. And I’ll let him go look at the ones over at the ROIC as his father troubleshoots the system.

But at about 9am that morning, as I was making pancakes on our new grill, I received a FaceTime call from my parents, which was usual since we had talked Saturday and I told my brother to get his butt on Skype or whatever as they have questions for him. I wasn’t aware that the ball was already rolling on my day until my mother dropped a bomb on me.

“Your brother is dropping by today?” – she asks.

Wait, what? When did we have this discussion about visitors? I wasn’t aware anyone was coming to my place. Especially not my brother. No text message. No phone call. No email. Nothing. From anybody. That’s the reason why I was planning on taking the kids for a car ride while their father answers a dispatch call in central New Jersey.

I told my mother that I knew nothing of these plans and asked to the reason why he was showing up unexpectedly.

“He still hasn’t ordered his plane tickets. Could you help him with that? He doesn’t seem to know how to use the website. Just show him once and he should be able to do it by himself in the future.” – she replies.

My brother wasn’t born yesterday. He’s no less than twenty-five years old, at the least. It is not that difficult getting on a website – any website – that can handle ticket booking and type in the necessary information, date of travel, and hit “purchase.”

Really. It’s the 21st century. User Interface is so friggin’ easy to use these days it’s fucking criminal for anyone growing up with a computer. If I’m old enough to be that generation. So is he. So for the love of god why the hell does he need my help booking tickets?

I got on my cell phone and tried to call him. Went straight to his voice mail. I asked my husband if my brother had perhaps told him something of his plans today. He shook his head after he checked his phone. Can anyone feel my ire rising?

Well, it was, along with my blood pressure and the inevitable one-step jump back into depression. Because when things involve my brother, Shit Will Be Guaranteed to Hit the Fucking Fan.

And it will not be distributed evenly. In fact, most of it will land in my lap.

I called his phone again. Still voice mail.

Hubby left for his dispatch. I was left home with my two over-active, creative-in-all-the-wrong-ways, adorable little angels. I still have grocery errands to run, but now I’m here waiting for my brother. Because just as my parents said “good night,” this showed up on my phone:

“Apparently mom wants me to go over to your area today. I know this is very last minute but it looks like I am headed there today probably getting there around 4. You don’t need to prepare dinner for me. Apparently she wants us to call her at 8 tonight.” — via text message.

Flabbergasted is the only word I can think of right then. My mother told me my brother said he was coming over, not that she suggested it. My brother said that my mother suggested it. I asked as much:

“She told me that ypu said you were coming over. You didn’t mention anything yesterday?” — my reply.

It’s hard typing on a keyboard I’m not used to, especially when it fits in my hands, and I have small hands. Typos will happen. In fact, I have more typos on text messaging than anything else I have ever had to punch keys for.

I got this back:

“I said I may which I think she took as a yes I am going there. I was busy yesterday trying to get school stuff situated. By the time I was going to give you a heads up, it was 11. I did not want to disturb so I did not text or call.” — via text message.

All right. I admit. Email isn’t the easiest thing to do back in nineteen-ninety-fucking-five… but we’re in 2014. Gmail has redefined simplicity. Something along the lines of:

“Hey Sis. Our parents and I are having some trouble understanding each other. I’m not sure what Mom’s asking me to do. I hate to impose but this is sort of urgent because I’ve been a lazy ass and put this off till now. Are you busy tomorrow? Could I come over at, say, 4pm, and we can try to figure out the details before I call them back at 8pm? Love, your brother.”

… should have been more than sufficient to give me a heads up in the morning when I check email with coffee? Oh, yes, I do think so. So why for the love of my sanity did he not do this?

Hubby returned shortly after 3pm. An hour drive there, an hour drive back, and all of twenty minutes to do an evaluation and resolve what could be resolved put him back in the house in under three hours. He didn’t want to leave me alone with the kids and deal with my brother and parents all on my own.

Aside from his indulgence of wine – which granted, name one Irishman who can’t hold his own liquor… well, none exists in his family, I assure you – that has me worried on some days because, well, Chinese people don’t put away alcohol like that without some dire consequences. More on that some other time. Maybe. I’m digressing.

My brother, for the first time in a long, long, long, long, long, long, loooooooooooong time, arrived on the hour he said he would. He sat. I was working on my Undisclosed Conversation novel project at the dining table, so we talked.

Or at least, I asked questions and he tried to answer.

I don’t think my fingers will survive me typing all that out. In short, it’s deja vu since we’ve had this twenty-questions game plenty of times in the past and nothing came from it. Apparently, nothing still does. Then the topic moved to cars. Again. With my husband. Who indulged it until 8pm came around.

And 8pm, my brother called my parents with my iPad.

And I sat there listening to them talk. And I can feel myself sink into depression. Call it sixth sense. Call it knowing my mother too well. Call it a premonition. Whatever the fuck fits. Work it. I knew my mother was about to throw me into a pot of hot oil when she started ranting at my brother.

And just body bagged me straight in with her discontent.

“Why can’t you two be more caring? Your father? He’s sick. Do you two know? Do you guys bother calling home to ask about us? If we’re okay? You know Mother Huang? Her son lives in California. He calls home every day to ask about his parents. Her other son does the same thing from Japan. Your cousin, he lives in Taipei. Calls your aunt every night to ask if she was doing well. If there was anything they needed. My second brother-in-law has been sick. He’s in the hospital. His entire family goes to take care of him. His daughters take time off work to go take care of him. Do we have you two to take care of us? Huh? People laugh at me. Spend all this money for your education. To what purpose? Can we depend on either one of you? Let me talk to your sister.”

It didn’t matter what softened tone she might have used. The daggers have been used. One in the back. Two in the front. I have no illusions that this retort was from me telling my mother that it may not be feasible for my brother to live with us, or her for that matter, for six months, in our current situation. This conversation had taken place Saturday night.

I was bleeding. Heavily. I let my mother say whatever she wanted. Returned the conversation to my brother, and then waited for everyone to leave. Shortly after 9pm, the call was ended, and my brother – nursing his hurt ego or whatever else – left.

Not before I asked him if he would be calling the Taiwan consulate to see if he can get his passport changed here in the United States. To which he answered:

“Only time I can do it is lunch and I’m not taking lunch tomorrow.”

In other words, “Sis, you’ve got free time. You do it. Then if I still have to go home, you call Mom and Dad and figure it out. I’m busy. I have work. This is important. So please take time of your day to handle it for me. Thanks. You don’t work anyway.”

If it wasn’t that I was trying to stench the blood flow from my mind and my heart, I would’ve hit him. Probably break my hand, but I would’ve hit him. The sound of a dislocated jaw wouldn’t have made things better, but I think it’ll have made me feel better.

I wouldn’t know. I didn’t try.

If my husband knew or heard, I think he would have hit him for me instead. Or at least, thrown his ass out the door.

My husband asked me what that was all about as he heard the rant, but he didn’t understand the language.

I started crying. I told him what my mother said. My husband lost it. He stated it very clearly, and I agree with him. It’s one of the reasons why I love him. He has no problems with my parents hating him. He could care less. His ultimate problem is how much hurt they’ve caused, and most of it is because of their own incompetence.

“Honey, I will not, for one second, cater to your mother or your brother or your father if this is how they treat you. He is not your problem. This is our house. We bought it without their help. We bought it for us, a family of four, no more, no less. They made the decision to let him attend school for a second degree. They understood the costs well before now. They cannot sit there and shift it all into your lap and make it your problem. This is not your fault. If I ever learn your language and hear this bullshit from your mother again, I will intervene. I will tell her where to go and how to get there. And I will make sure their problems are never ours ever again. I will not see you being treated like this. Related or not. I don’t care if our kids have Taiwan’s passport. I can have that citizenship dropped just as easily. I can pay your parents back for their trouble. It is not worth you going through this. Every time it involves your brother. This happens. How am I supposed to be okay with you being home with them for two months with our kids if this is what your mother does to you out of the fucking blue?”

I hadn’t said anything. I was too hurt to ponder it. All I could do was go to bed, but I hadn’t been able to fall asleep until well after midnight.

They called again Monday. I spent four hours on FaceTime with my parents trying to hash out the problem with tickets. The real apex of the problem is that my brother wants to spend as little time with my parents as possible despite spending every dime they’ve got for him plus a little more. My parents wanted to come visit – my father for the CES conference in Nevada next year. My mother wants to come stay for 6 months with me until we go back together in June of 2015. But since my mother doesn’t speak English, she needs a guide to help her through the airport. So if she’s not traveling with my father, it had to be with my brother, and that’s going to increase ticket costs for one reason or another.

My mother had no less than three small hissy fits – on her scale – during the 4 hours of conversation. She yelled at my father, nearly started another fight because what she said can be just as unreasonable as she makes my father’s words out to be. Gods forbid I point that out though. On most days, my father truly has the patience of a saint.

Because my mother can be as scathingly and cuttingly crass as her mother when she wants to be, and my grandmother was jaded enough for three lifetimes, will give Jesus a run for his preaching money, and probably make most of the other mythology gods run the other way as fast as godly possible.

So I had to give up 4-5 hours of my morning, from 9am to nearly 2pm, to work out a reasonable price with the schedule needed. Only to have my brother get a little unhappy at me that it wasn’t a few days earlier than he wanted it. And get this. I have to go check in with my brother at the airport counter because I had to pay with my credit card. 😐

Mondays are days my husband has conference calls and he had been busy in the morning. I’m more than 24 hours behind in my chores and schedule. My husband had to take time out to make my children lunch. Make me lunch. I had to come up with a grocery list because I haven’t had time to do so since Saturday night.

And I don’t remember if it’s Saturday night or Monday morning where my mother sat there with the audacity of telling me that my Husband should be working a new job and leaving his employer behind if things aren’t looking up. Why is it that she treats me like a twelve year old but has expected me to raise my brother almost from the get-go is beyond me.

And thanks to the exhaustion, I passed out on the couch yesterday for about 2 hours. And my daughter passed out along with me then. I should’ve been up to keep them awake until after their baths and then put them to bed at 8:30, but my family had fucked up my schedule so much, I had all of three hours of sleep last night.

Because I took a power nap which led to my daughter going to sleep after 1am, and I didn’t drift off to sleep until 2am. She had me awake at 5:30 this morning for god knows what reason, and it took me an hour to get my eyes open without them hurting. Now I’m faced with a wellness visit for my son this afternoon.

So why do you allow them to do this to you?

I didn’t. I hadn’t planned on it, in fact. When my parents and I had that nuclear explosion way back in 2007, I hadn’t plan on mending anything. I flew half way across the world without telling anyone. I didn’t plan on going back. I had cut it, permanently.

But when they realized I had kids and started reaching out – and what grandparents wouldn’t when they learn they’re grandparents – I thought about it, figured my kids needed at least one set of grandparents we’re comfortable with being involved in their lives. However, the verbal abuse my mother had been dishing out to me lately is encroaching on my behavior towards my kids because it’s bringing up memories of my past that I’ve tried desperately to bury in the last ten years of my life.

My mother had said some very nasty things to me growing up, and I’ve caught myself repeating them to my children – something I do not want to do. My husband’s disapproval is quite evident when he’s heard them, and both things only serve to exasperate this problem with depression.

Because now I can add incompetent mother to the list of things I apparently can’t do correctly.

The thing is, I’m here in New Jersey because it put my family on the other side of the planet. There’s a Pacific Ocean and the majority of the fifty states between myself and them, hence why I will never contemplate moving to the West coast. That just won’t happen.

But now, they seem to be… invading me again. The central point of pressure is my brother, and I know this will make me sound horribly bad, but I want my brother to go. Somewhere else. Not anywhere in my vicinity. Because I haven’t figured out what he’s done for me yet. He won’t help me babysit my kids to give me a short break on his vacations. He certainly won’t take care of his crap and my mother will make sure it’s always my problem. Regardless of what happens, as long as family is close, this battle with life will not get any easier for me.

And it’s not as if my children growing up isn’t going to come with its own set of challenges.

But…

Writing is the one thing right now truly helping me with my goals.

Unfortunately, if my mother ends up staying here, that won’t be available for six months. Someone who has to fight for one day to be survivable isn’t going to be able to handle six months of nothing related to writing or reading. I don’t want to put my family through that. Not my children, but especially not my Husband. He doesn’t deserve to have a wife always falling apart.

Why can’t you write with your mother there?

Because I haven’t told a single soul in my family, outside of my brother, that I’ve taken up writing again, hence the pseudonym. Why would I? They were the ones who shot it down in the first place – or it was my father, actually – but my mother didn’t think too highly of my writing hobby either.

The idea of me pursuing a Master’s is a constant pressure. Or to be an accountant. Or to find a job. I understand all the reasoning. I’ve understood it well before I graduated college. The reason I haven’t been pushed by my own Husband is because he knows and understand just how much I need this time for writing.

It is for me. It’s mine to share with all of you. Most of all, though, it is mine to share with my husband. It keeps our lives interesting, and he’s been a avid supporter of the adventures I want to scribble on paper. In fact, that’s one of the things he checks for immediately whenever I finished a draft of the chapter. He’ll read it. And I’ll ask him if it made sense. If it did, I’ll start on the next chapter.

I find myself regaining a lot of the lost patience I used to have. But if I don’t get this time to empty my head. If I don’t get the time without interruptions of people dropping their crap in my lap, then I’m a royal bitch to reckon with.

And that’s not how I want to be a mother to my children. We harp about leaving a world for our kids. I want to raise kids worthy of a world. Not the children with a sense of entitlement I see in my brother.

There are many days like today where I wonder if getting back with my parents and trying to mend a broken relationship might just have been the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. It’s hard raising kids on my own, but it seems to be harder now more than ever.

And I’ll leave this post here. I think I’ve done enough ranting for the day. I’ve got appointments to get ready for and meals to prep.

I hope all of you have had a great summer. I can’t believe it’s almost at the end of August. I welcome Fall. I look forward to the changing of the leaves and cooler weather.

Be safe. Be happy. Most of all, Be loved.

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