Today has been one of those days. Sunday morning, I realized that I was developing an ear infection. Unfortunately, I don’t have any benefits, so I had to wait until I was financially able to get it checked out and pick up the meds. I did that today. Unfortunately, after 3 days of suffering, and a 102 temperature, today ended up being pretty miserable. I’m tired, in a lot of pain, and just generally cranky.
My mother, brother and I all share a home. It’s a good arrangement, for the most part, that has worked reasonably well for 9 months. But after 9 months of quiet incubation for mostly minor grievances, I delivered a world class meltdown tonight.
It started with my brother. He was bugging me about taking out the garbage, which I had every intention of doing - just no intention of doing it according to his schedule. He picked and poked and nagged - just to be a pesky little brother - until I finally snapped at him and told him to leave me alone. “Why are you so cranky?” he snipes. I explain to him that I’m not feeling well, and I’m really just not in the mood for his antagonism. He snipes back a few snarky comments and goes down to his apartment.
Cue Mother, a few minutes later. I telecommuted into the office today, so I was sitting at the computer finishing up some emails when she came in the door. She made a beeline for her bedroom, and I could hear her arguing with someone on the phone. She comes out, I ask her what’s wrong, and she says “Nothing.” She then proceeds to take the bottle of Sheridan’s that I’d bought myself in London (and had not yet opened) and tells me she’s going to have some. No problem for me, but I did ask her to wait a second, because I wanted to check out how the bottle worked. (There’s two chambers in the bottle - one for Irish cream, the other for coffee liqueur, and when you pour them, they mix. Simple pleasures and all, but I kinda wanted to see it in action.) Well she had no intention of waiting a second, grabs the bottle and a glass and heads back to her side of the house. I was slightly peeved, but not really too worked up about it. But I could feel my fuse starting to get mighty short. I continued on my emails.
My mother emerges from the bedroom a few minutes later, and heads to the kitchen. I’d just finished cooking my dinner, so there was a frying pan on the stove with my food in it. She starts ranting and raving about how I’ve left a mess. I take a deep breath, explain to her that I just need to finish some emails, and that I’ll take care of it. Of course, she’s not actually listening to me, and she’s still ranting. My fuse suddenly seemed to be made of paper. I’m sick, I’m tired, and I’m frustrated at the continued cycle of being everyone’s dumping ground. If something goes wrong, it’s my fault. Tonight, I had had enough.
Next thing I know, I’m crying, because that, in my infinite wisdom, is what I do when I am well and truly angry. For the first time in my life, I actually yell at my mother. She and I have a long and painful history, but never before have I ever actually yelled at her. We went back and forth, her not even hearing what I say. I asked her just to cut me some slack - really, I feel like crap today - but she wasn’t having any of it.
I mean, I let go with both barrels, and gave birth to a 9 pound bouncing baby blowout. Of course, this is what happens when you let things fester for 9 months. I vented my frustration at the way I’m talked to, the way I’m treated. She compared me to my cousin, who has is a drug addict and has ignored her mother to the point that she’s not even aware her mother had a stroke last year. This infuriated me beyond belief - I have been there for my mother even when it hurt me emotionally to do so. I have never turned my back on her, and I have been, I feel, a good daughter. For her to draw that comparison was just about the lowest blow she could deal, and I told her so. She told me that she didn’t need me, didn’t need the rent money that I pay every month, and didn’t need the aggravation. Fine, I said, I’ll be out as soon as I can.
After a few more barbs, she went back to her room and slammed the door, and I proceeded to take out the garbage. I came back in, and started doing the dishes from dinner, sobbing mightily. At this point I was hurt, sad, scared, still tired, still sick, and still cranky. I don’t know how well I did the dishes - I haven’t cried like that in years. And the more I cried, the worse I felt.
Halfway through the silverware, I hear footsteps behind me, but I don’t turn to look. My mother says my name softly, and I just sob “What?” She says my name again, and I started crying even harder. She puts her arms around me (a rare, rare thing from her) and apologizes (rarer yet). I break down completely, apologize profusely, reiterate that I’m just not feeling well and had lost my temper. We go outside so that I can have a cigarette, and she apologizes to me repeatedly. She tells me how lucky she is to have me as a daughter, and how she knows that I’m a good person. “You’re the biggest sweetheart,” she tells me in her Thai-inflected English, “and I’m not just saying that to kiss up.” I believe her - we’ve had many, many run-ins. They’ve never been followed up with “forgive-me-it-will-never-happen-again-I-can’t-be-without-you” type apologies. So I know this is for real.
Of course, I just cry even harder as she tells me how proud she is of me, and how she’s just going through a lot herself, and how she really does love me. I calm down, nicotine does its thing, and we sit outside and have a long, rambling conversation. The one thing she said though, I will never forget. “Don’t think I don’t know how much you love me. Don’t think I don’t see the way you say to me ‘Look at me, love me, respect me.’ I see all of that, and I do see you, and I do love you, and I do respect you, and I’m sorry that I don’t show you that enough.”
I can’t even retype it without crying all over again. For the rest of my life, I don’t think I’ll ever forget that statement, because it’s so painfully true, and I had no idea she knew it. We talked a little longer, before she went to bed. I tucked her in, turned off her light, and reminded her how much I love her. She smiled and told me how much she loved me.