“Your brother asked us up for Christmas” Mum said on the phone with not too much enthusiasm.
“How lovely,” I cringed as I answered her, thinking of past family gatherings that didn’t end well.
“What did you tell him?”
“No commitment yet? “
“What are you doing?” She asked. I knew I was put on the spot and sighed to myself
“I guess we will go wherever you go” wishing the opposite. My parents lived three hours away so going to my brother’s is about an hour and a half’s drive. Good for us.
“He said he will come and pick us up but Dad wants to drive”
“Better that Dad has a break from driving” better for everyone if my father gave up driving he isn’t a good driver and Mum is a nervous passenger.
I remembered a Christmas years before when my younger brother told me in front of Mum he was bringing the ham to our place as he had one also for his mother in law. Mum was bringing a turkey.
I got a cheque in the mail a few days before Christmas from Mum saying it was to pay for a turkey as they were not coming because she didn’t get a ham! We didn’t see them that Christmas. My patience tested once again. I can only imagine the lonely Christmas they had.
Fast forward a few years to the to planning of the day at my brother’s. He lived in a mountain area west of Sydney.
He rang me on Christmas Eve late afternoon to ask if I had heard from the parents they were supposed to arrive early afternoon. Of course it was during the days we had no mobile phones so he had no idea where they might be. I hadn’t heard.
“I think I’ll give the police a ring to see if a patrol car might keep a lookout for them” he sounded concerned.
He rang back later to say the police found the parents along the highway, broken down. My brother went and picked them up.
Big mistake! The couldn’t understand why the police had been called! My mother was hysterical and still was.
I went to bed that night, praying that something would prevent me going up into what I knew would be an unhappy situation.
My husband, sister, daughter and I arrived mid morning. Met by my brother upset because Mum wouldn’t come out of her bedroom!
Happy Crappy Christmas! Again!
I went in to talk to Mum and Dad. They were blaming my brother and sister-in-law ringing the police, they were totally unreasonable. Eventually we got them out of the bedroom and into the living room and a cup of tea helped calm the situation. My younger brother arrived so the whole story was relayed again to him outside.
Soon it was present giving time, we all assembled around the lounge area, Mum still very quiet but thank goodness not hysterical. Dad keeping her calm, it was easier for him for things to be on an even keel. Mum and he had had a volatile relationship for years. A big family, not a lot of money all contributed to Mum’s depression. For as long as I could remember my parents found it hard to cope with life, Mum especially.
Mum opened one present my brother handed her. In it was a lovely nightgown. My sister in law had started cutting up the turkey in the kitchen, watching the present opening through a open space through to the lounge room.
“Thank you James” Mum said sheepishly
“Mum, It’s from Amy and I.” My brother reiterated.
Mum said nothing and opened the next present. My sister in law looked at Mum as if looks could kill.
The next present was a lovely cardigan.
“ Thanks, James”
The next seconds passed like slow motion. My sister-in-law throw down the tongs she was using but they bounced up and threw through the air as Amy shouted
“Get them out of here! I don’t want them in my house” as the tongs landed on Mum’s head and she screamed blue murder!
My brother tried to console his wife, my younger brother and my husband disappeared outside, Dad looked at me and asked me to take them home.
Home was 90 minutes away. Which meant a three hour return trip for me.
“I’ll go with you” my sister thankfully said. Better my husband stayed to be with the rest of them.
Christmas was slipping away fast. No Christmas lunch for us it would be nearly dark by the time we arrived back.
As we packed Mum and Dad’s belongings up my other brother arrived. He was quickly bought up to date with what was happening. He said a quick hello and goodbye to the parents.
Mum and Dad showed no remorse and talked about other things on the drive as if they had wiped away the last 24 hours.
My sister and I kept looking at one another dying to talk aboutthe day but knew we had the return trip for that. It was no good explaining or trying to explain how badly Mum had acted. She would never admit it was her fault.
We arrived at their home and Dad says:
“ Do you girls want to come in for a cup of tea? “
“No thanks Dad” as politely as we could
“We had better get back”
For a second I felt sorry for them that they were our parents, we have tried over the years to be patient and understand they are getting on in years. But they have been like this forever. Not something recent. There was no excuse to be rude to family who are trying their best to care about you. We had tried over the years to have them live closer to us but they were stubborn and could never see that they needed to be nearer to family.
As we drove off my sister said what I had thought
“We never ever have to spend Christmas with them again”
And we never ever did. We decided for our own peace of mind it was the right decision.
When we were children I remember great christmas days even though money was tight we have fond memories of Christmas dinners, beautiful meats, vegetables and desserts. Mum made great desserts( Apple pies etc). Dad was a postman, he rode a bicycle in all sorts of weather. His customers gave him money at Christmas called ‘tips’ we helped him count the money very exciting as young children. I’m so happy I have wonderful childhood memories as it shaped who I am as an adult. Be kind and patient as you possibly can be and try not to judge but sometimes our patience is tested.