Family stuff

This is a just a call for some advice. A while ago I regained contact with my mum. It was 5 years since we last spoke. A history of drinking and some other things had led to the estrangement, but time heals, and we have regained contact. All very heartwarming and good. But it’s not easy. After the first visit, a few months ago, and after the same ol’ heavy drinking, I was angry with myself thinking I’d made a mistake to get back in touch. But then mum got some worrying result from a liver function test. Liver cirrhosis was the diagnosis. She quit then and there. Cold turkey. I feel quite proud of her for this.

Mum wanted to get back in contact on the proviso that we don’t speak about the past, a tacit agreement, made perfectly clear. We speak about her aches and pains, and her horse riding, and her daily routine, and her garden, and sometimes her daily mail politics. But it’s tricky. I worry about the future. Particularly about loneliness, and not having a family, and my little brother who has aspergers. She worries too, but she doesn’t want to acknowledge it. Her life was a bit overshadowed by an unhappy marriage where they both hid in a bottle and made a profession out of not talking to each other. Sadly, it ended with him dying to pancreatic cancer last year. But she’s always bottled things up. Now it’s just her and my twenty year old brother.

I love my bro an awful lot, he’s a bit of a hermit but a total sweetie, and he leaves his room once or twice a week to pop off to two evening classes: one on Beginners Japanese, and the other on Computer Repair. I’m proud that he’s sorted this out for himself. Otherwise mum let’s him sleep all day and eat all night - plying him with all the meat she can cram into her chest freezer. He’s getting…circular. They rarely speak. As my mum puts it, they pass like two ships in the night. And his latest fad is collecting wet stones so he can stay up late sharpening knives! It’s an odd set up, but it is the way it is.

I love my mum an awful lot too, the years we spent not talking were heartbreaking but necessary to find this fragile common ground. Then it becomes obvious that she can only cope on a one-day-at-a-time basis and I feel a bit like I did before. There are things that she struggles with having never worked, and having left all the financial stuff to her husband, she’s been ripped off a few times. And keeps getting ripped off. She keeps all this to herself, and if I can identify what’s happening and help then she’s very grateful - but only if I don’t ask her what’s up. She doesn’t want me to ask any questions.

The other month I suggested that, in a few years, I might be able to move a little closer to home. I know my brother would prefer this. And even though he doesn’t talk that much, he needs people around him. We all do. And he only has my mum at the moment. Mum seemed pleased at the idea. She said she was relieved. Then a few months later she denies we had this conversation. And certainly denies ever feeling relieved. She even cast doubt on whether my little bro cares one way or the other. I found this upsetting. She’s always denied saying this or that. Throughout my teenage life I doubted my sanity because she used to tell me intimate details about her unhappy marriage. Then a day or two later, if I brought it up, she’d flat out deny ever saying anything. It was frustrating. Infuriating.

It’s sort of bit a cry for help, this. I don’t know. Is any of the above even a problem? All I want is the opportunity for her to acknowledge that I’d like to help out - and to be a part of the future. At the moment anything I say doesn’t stick for long. It’s upsetting for me.

Anyone out there know about this sort of thing?

I have no advice to offer, but I’ve reported this for a suggested forum change, since this has no factual answer.

Oh no! I’m sorry - should have posted on mpsims.

Moved to IMHO from General Questions.

samclem, moderator

I want to help you but I don’t want to project my own issues onto your situation, and I’m not sure I am capable of avoiding that. Moms are really hard. I had a very difficult relationship with my mentally ill mother, she was very abusive when I was a child. As an adult, she eventually got some treatment and made some improvements, but not enough. Everything fell apart precisely because she insisted we never speak of the past, but she continued to treat me the way she did in the past (to a lesser extreme.) I don’t think she’s actually capable of giving me what I need from a mother. I tried to pretend I was okay with refusing to acknowledge the past, but I wasn’t okay with it at all. It’s not an acceptable condition to me because the wounds were too deep to ignore. YMMV.

I would never say it’s not a big deal. Obviously, it feels like one to you, or you wouldn’t be posting here. It sounds like you feel responsible for your mother’s happiness to some probably unhealthy degree, especially because she sort of made you into her intimate confidante when you were a child, but then denied that bond ever existed. It sounds like she is doing the same thing to you now as an adult. That sounds legitimately painful to me. Again, trying not to project here, my impression is that she has pushed you into feeling responsible for her on some level.

I guess where I’d start is to tell you that you aren’t responsible for taking care of her. She is suffering from the consequences of decisions she made. It’s great that she’s made positive choices to stop drinking, but you flat-out aren’t responsible for any of it. And you get to have a relationship with her on your own terms. It might be worth considering whether these are terms you can live with, if not forever, at least for now. Ask yourself what you actually want from her – not what she expects from you, but about what you feel you need from her – and whether or not you are getting it. And if you’re not getting it, can you accept that she’s not capable of doing that for you?

There are no easy answers here.

This is not going to change, whether or not she is drinking. You can love her, but I don’t think you can rely on her., for information or for consistency or for much of anything. I’m sorry.

(quote out of order: this came first in your OP) You sound like you are relying on your mother for information about your brother. See above: this is not going to be reliable. If he’s 20, you can talk to him directly, but I’d beware of getting too involved. His Asperger’s, her health—not something you can fix. Not your responsibility to fix, or to pick up the pieces.

I would say that your relationship with your mother is probably not going to change. I would concentrate on your brother. Talk to him. Spend time with him. See how things are going based on that. It may be that giving him another social outlet would really help him at this point. Certainly gaining more information about the household can only help you.

My son has high functioning autism (similar to your brother). I know that social situations can be bewildering for him and that he would like to have a wider social circle. I don’t know if your brother feels the same, but there’s only one way you can find out…