You need to be more like me, she says to me while she covers the mouthpiece of the phone to yell at her partner that no, they aren’t going to their friend’s house for dinner. I swear to God, she says to me in a low voice, I feel like I’m a broken record saying the same things over and over again. I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t ask to be a parent again so late in life and that’s basically what it’s like, it’s like I’m a parent again.
She goes on to tell me all the ways that I need to be like her, I need to not think about anyone in my life but the kids. I need to go back to school and get a degree. I need to come and visit her more frequently if I’m not going to move closer to her because between her daughter and my father, she is losing her mind. Besides, no one could ever love me like my family, she tells me. Family is stronger than any other relationship.
When the Mister gets home I feel conflicted and sad. I ask him “We’re going to grow old and gray together, yeah? That’s still the plan?”
He shrugs out of his jacket and lays his keys on the kitchen counter. He eyes me warily. Usually when I start asking these questions it’s because I’m not feeling well, not feeling like myself.
“Yeah,” he says, crossing the room and plopping down into the recliner with me. “That’s the plan,” he says with a smile and a kiss to my forehead.
“But the kids are a handful,” I blurt out and before I can stop myself, reason after reason flows like a neverending river from between my lips and I can feel the tears stinging behind my eyelids.
“Stop,” he says firmly yet gently at the same time.
He pulls me into him and strokes my hair while he hums softly.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper into his chest, my tears soaking his shirt.
“It’s fine,” he says softly and continues humming. “You’re fine and we’re fine.”
And I believe him. I know we’re okay and will always be okay. Sometimes just listening to my mother makes me anxious and even though I know I shouldn’t indulge her so much, even though I know sometimes it’s no good for my anxiety how can I tell her to keep her problems to herself? I cannot, so I turn her problems into my problems and then my problems into the Mister’s problems. It’s like a stack of cups filled with water, constantly overflowing and draining down into the cup beneath it, each cup filling up with another worry until all of the cups are full and overflowing onto the table.
But her worries are not my worries because I am loved in my life by people whom I also love tremendously. I am not her and this is not her life. I might be making it up as I go along, but it has always been my story to write.