I remember these words from my mom, spoken many years ago at a time when one of my younger brothers was dying.
Family and friends had gathered from around the country to say final goodbyes. As it happened, he didn’t die until many months later, but it seemed like the end, so…there we were.
There were 8 kids in our family; our folks were divorced, but we were all there that long ago weekend, and, as is normal at such a time, emotions were running high. It’s funny to me, really, to think of my mom at that time. She’d been alcoholic for decades but, as I came to recognize as I grew and matured, that was only one aspect of her personality. Mom was also an intellectual, wise beyond wise, realistic, and she had a hugely funny cynical sense of humor that I totally loved. She’d been an Army wife for 20+ years, a demanding lifestyle that took her overseas frequently, and around the USA, oftentimes as she was ready to deliver another child, or having just delivered a child. The strength that was molded into her bones didn’t come easily or lightly, and there was much to admire about her, in spite of her alcoholism. In the decades since her death (she died of breast cancer just 6 months after my brother Kysa succumbed to Hodgkins), I’ve come to admire her even more and sometimes wondered, given all that life pushed on her, why she wasn’t also a drug addict. (I say that with a sense of humor, because, really, looking at her life, who wouldn’t want to anesthetize themselves as thoroughly as possible?)
Anyways, back to the topic at hand…my brother dying and all of us gathered together to say goodbye and emotions running rampant, except that mostly it seemed none were being expressed (our family didn’t do emotions well, if at all). Which made for very dicey possibilities, none of which sounded good.
A meeting was called at a sibling’s house, to discuss…shit, I don’t even remember anymore what exactly needed to be discussed. I do recall that there had been a few angry outbursts and there was an air of uncertainty floating about, as if anyone in the area might need to take cover momentarily. Like the heebie jeebie feeling that I imagine might crawl along one’s spine prior to a major engagement involving weapons (not that any of us were packing). In any case, my mom, being the smart woman she was after raising 8 kids, beckoned me over to her and in a very calm voice requested that I drive her back to her hotel. But don’t you want to join us at the meeting? I naïvely asked. Mom shot me this deadpan look as if taking my crazy temperature, and said if you think that I’m going to put myself in the middle of whatever is going on, you’ve got another think coming. I’ll tell you what. You go and then come tell me all about it. I’ll be at the hotel. Watching TV.
All of this to say, and why I’m telling you this, is that my mom gave the greatest response ever and I think of it whenever I’m with my kids and their spouses and their kids, when emotions are running high and it’s all kind of chaotic and undecided with the almost sure outlook of exploding fireworks and I just want to tell them, seriously, I already did all this when I was in my 30’s and figuring it out and I don’t need to be part of all of your figuring it out, so thank you anyways, but…
I’ll be at my hotel.
I graciously extend the invitation to all of you, dear readers, to use this response, especially those of you who are parents with adult kids. Especially when the hackles on your neck rise in family situations that are beginning to sound explosive…listen to those hackles.
This is a mighty useful phrase to use at such times.
Thank you to my mom, Betty Catharine Miller~