empty nests

One consequence of living an alternative loner lifestyle is the struggle to empathise with Normal People Issues.  The ‘being busy’ and need to broadcast ‘being busy’ is a frequent bugbear which I might have mentioned once or twice here.  The truth could quite possibly be that many people are substantially busier than me.  I have always been time-rich.  But the compulsion to broadcast the fact every which way, thereby justifying existence at every turn, is a separate issue.

Also brought home to me recently by my mother, in what developed to be a disconcerting series of ‘open conversations’, was the impact of children leaving home.  My Dad often emits a sense of apathy towards children generally, and certainly has seemed to, towards me.  He’ll usually help if asked to do something, if it doesn’t conflict with other plans, but he will need asking and will seldom volunteer support unbidden.  This is teamed with a sporadic, general fumbling awkwardness.  He also battles with depressive demons which can have a distressing impact upon my mother, as well as upon himself.  (I privately, perversely enjoy this fact.  Yay!  I don’t think I’m *quite* as much of a mental fuckup as him!)  He’ll whine and growl and hit things (never his wife) and verbally abuse himself in the most crazy untamed fashion.  It’s little short of a fit.  While this has been far from easy over the years, Mum has grown stronger in dealing with him and forcing him to seek help – medical or otherwise.

In telling me of his latest trauma, and responding to my gentle probing about his medication and whether he’s ever spoken freely about a dysfunctional relationship with his long dead father, that my Mum told me about how he’d responded when my brother and I left home.

On both occasions of returning from dropping us and leaving us at university for the first time, he apparently took longer than necessary to find his way home.  Of course the cynic could say this might be cover for any reason: but he told mum he needed time out, that he stopped the car in a layby and wept.

Wept for what?  She said she was loathe to use the word ‘jealousy’ – if you can be jealous of your kids, but she did.  Jealous of having the education and opportunities that he never had.  For seeing us grow up and leave the house.  I wasn’t sure if jealous was the right word.

My greatest experience of physical loss and grief is the impact of the first family dog dying, the gaping hole of one less figurative and literal heartbeat lumbering around the place.  Multiply that to the noise and impact of children.  I never really had before.  Particularly the effect of my louder, boisterous brother, was and is still, now when he enters or leaves the house with his entourage of family, profound.  Extracting that first, and then me, to leave just my parents and a dog.  It must throb for a while, take some getting used to.

Living alone for so long makes these things difficult to appreciate.  Having nobody actually physically there for so long – whether housemates or even a pet – means although you’re lonely you don’t actually miss anyone or anything either.  You pine for the idea of something, which is quite different.

Mum telling me that about my Dad, the stolid, emotionally illiterate fool, unexpectedly moved me as I sat in my lounge chatting to her on the phone.  Briefly I found myself leaking.  Partly through disbelief.  Really?!  Dad gives a fuck?!  Fuck off..  But I didn’t let on.

I was doing nothing, as usual that Sunday.  And it was Mothers’ Day.  So I decided to buy a bunch of flowers and drive home.

Over a short visit, in part bonded over the shared experience of being a Samaritan – something she had done in the past which I was now doing, I spoke more openly with her about myself.  She never asks questions so I volunteered information and she appeared to listen and engage, which isn’t a common occurrence, as I’ve bemoaned here before.  It has happened before, (Nov 2010 post); it’s just rare.  I spoke a little of loneliness, general rejection, shit first dates, unrealistic ambitions, an aimless career – because if I had a career which occupied me and which I cared about, that would squeeze other things away.  While I knew my brother would have scorned such openness to our mother, the fragile character of his conception who would merely worry and be too childish to cope, and although it wasn’t a comfortable experience – I’m dreadful with eye contact when it comes to speaking about such things – it wasn’t one I regretted either.

“You’re in a bit of a pickle, aren’t you?” she pityingly deduced from her armchair that evening.

“Yes.  But I have been for years, Mum.  It’s not exactly new.  Just never seems to change or get easier.” I shrugged from the floor, semi-distracting myself by antagonising the dog.


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