(Blogger’s note: the following is something I wrote up in 2008 or 2009, I forget. I came across it again recently and thought it might be worth sharing with my fellow denizens of Outside-the-Camp (Hebrews 13:13). Enjoy!)
Mom has a problem.
I’ve been around her my whole life, and for most of that time I wasn’t really aware that anything about her was unusual. That’s normal for kids – you don’t have the benefit of experience to tell you when something (or someone) isn’t quite right. But now that I’m an adult, the conclusion is unavoidable.
It’s clear. Mom has a problem.
Looking back, I realize that Dad was always more devoted to her than she was to him. Faced with any situation, his first though always seems to be, “what is best for her, and our children?” But she usually thinks of herself first – often, her relationship with Dad seems to be based on what she can get out of him, not what she can do for him.
So often, she acts at such cross-purposes to him, and to me and the other kids. She spends a lot of time with this other guy, a very suave, worldly type whom I don’t trust. I don’t think she’s cheating on Dad … well, not exactly. But I’ve seen them acting very flirty toward each other, and I have to wonder. Most of my brothers and sisters think it’s just fine. But I know it’s breaking Dad’s heart.
Never mind that apparently Mom’s agreement with Dad when they were married was that she’d work exclusively for his business. Instead she works wherever she wants – a few months here, a few months there, all very temporary jobs for this other guy’s businesses – and treats working with Dad as a sidelight, a hobby. People see that – some of them, in fact, tell me they’ve seen it – and it hurts Dad’s bottom line.
She’s frequently so callous toward him – occasionally making little snide jokes, but more often just ignoring him completely. He’ll ask her to do something, and she’ll just pretend he hasn’t said a word. Worse yet, she’s taught a lot of the kids to do the same thing. I once asked him why he puts up with her (or, for that matter, them) doing that. He said he can’t force anyone to listen, and no matter what happens, he’ll always love them. I don’t disagree with him, or think his view should change. But I do wonder how long he’ll tolerate it before he gives up.
She’s not always that neglectful of him. I know they’ve had great times together. On rare occasions she’ll be the model of a devoted wife: listening to him closely, seeking to meet his needs. Of course, a lot of those times are when she’s trying to wheedle something out of him. Which is silly, because I know Dad – if she’d just ask him, and he doesn’t think it’s bad for her, he’ll give her whatever, without all the buttering-up.
I don’t know. Maybe she’s bipolar. But even if she admitted that she had a problem, I’m not sure she’d come to Dad for help. She might well go to Mr. Suave. And what a disaster that would be, for all of us.
What can be done to help her? I ask myself that question almost every day. I don’t know that she even wants to be helped. She says she does, once in a while, in an unguarded moment. But she never really does anything about it, so I can’t be sure how honest she’s being – with me or herself. Most of my siblings say I’m worrying too much and that Mom’s just peachy. And even the ones who are seeing what Dad and I see are in despair over what can be done.
Some of the older ones have thrown in the towel themselves, moved out of the house. Most keep in regular contact with Dad, but have nothing to do with Mom; a few have cut themselves off from the whole family. I know that breaks his heart too – he loves them, and wants them to love her as much as he does. But Mom calls them “troublemakers” and acts like she doesn’t care they’re gone.
I don’t know what to do about it all. Part of me wishes that Dad would just divorce Mom, let the kids who want to live like her stay with her and take the rest of us away to start over. But I love Mom too. I can’t leave her – and yet I can’t support the way she treats Dad.
There are only two things I do know. One is that Mom has a serious problem.
The other is what Cyprian of Carthage said back in the third century A.D.: He can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother.