Surviving a parental visit tip: Don’t listen to me
My parents visited recently. It is frequently a stress-laden event from which it takes me days to recover. They aren’t horrible people, nor, hopefully, am I a terrible daughter. We just don’t have much in common, which makes things like speaking and eating together challenging. That’s okay. They try to pack a year’s worth of need into a week. And a week is far too long. Optimal shelf-life on a parental visit from my parents is 3-4 days tops. They need to leave wishing there had been more time instead of staying until we all hate each other again.
My mother told me, after she ate a bagel, that it was the first bagel she’d ever eaten. What am I supposed to do with that? I need more material to work with than an octogenarian confessing she’s never tried something as controversial as a bagel. Still, they are your parents, so what do you do? You keep trying. As always, I decided this visit would be better. They are 80 years old. It’s about time they started adapting. Change is good for the soul.
Do you like your parents? I mean, I assume you love them, but my question is whether you actually like them? Do you have anything in common other than talking about the weather? Can you pinpoint the year they quit smiling in photos? (1994) If you are one of those mythical adult sons or daughters whose parental visits are filled with good cheer, honesty, equality, boundary-respecting and shared experiences, piss off. You won’t relate to this post at all. If your family visits more resemble The Bunkers from All In The Family, keep reading. You are my people. I continually try diverse strategies. Different seasons. Conventional holidays as well as lesser knowns. Mixed activities. The same activities we’ve done for years. Familiar meals. Far-out, Marin County-inspired “healthy” fare, like undisclosed TURKEY chili paired with non-canned vegetables. These efforts are met with varying degrees of success and failure. What they do not provide is any clear road map going forward or give me any idea how to handle future visits.
I thought I was being really clever this visit when I scheduled some doctor’s appointments in the middle of my parents’ visit to break up long stretches of togetherness. Activities peppered here and there with legitimacy so as not to offend. I will never be criticized by my parents for: 1) going to the doctor (hypochondriacs unite); 2) working at my job; (my father believes employers are more akin to plantation owners); and 3) my politics (surprisingly, this is an area of continuity).
As soon as I got to the first appointment I realized the folly in my plan. You see, the doctor’s offices were at the Hospital. It dawned on me while meandering through the parking garage following a Lincoln Continental going 4 M.P.H. that I had chosen an activity that was exactly like a family visit. No one goes to the hospital because they want to be there. Everyone is there against their will. They are sick, FFS. They don’t feel well. They are cranky. They are always looking for an avenue of escape. The food is terrible. They have unreasonable expectations. There is something wrong with them, and they want to talk about it. Ad nauseum. Parts of their bodies don’t work anymore. They shuffle and have no concept of personal space. They wear track suits and smell weird. They’re impatient and don’t wait well for the elevators. Everyone needs to be catered to and supervised.
Back to the drawing board.