I’ve always been blunt. Very blunt. Like hit-you-with-a-verbal-Mack-truck blunt. This alternately served me well or made me scramble for quick repairs. Over the years I have learned that, without meaning to, I can gut people with words. It’s not a nice feeling. Neither the gutting, nor the feeling that I hurt someone I love. So I’ve made a conscious effort over the past decade to think before opening my mouth, and to try to cushion the blows by not being quite so. . . direct.
This has turned me into an inadvertent passive-aggressive nutjob. I don’t mean to be. But it seems if I can’t come right out and say something, the ridiculous verbal dance I embark on in order to protect the feelings of people appears to create an environment in which I both insult and hurt people. This is just not working for me.
My brother and I, though eight years apart, have always had a great relationship. Things started going South a while back, when he got married into a fully formed nuclear family complete with teenagers, while I was helping my future husband cope with his father’s slow death from a brain tumor. We just kind of had our own dramas to enact.
Then came the implosion of my original nuclear family. Bang, bang. My mother got a rare disease, underwent treatment that pretty much rendered her anywhere between totally off her rocker to sane-but-not-my-mom on any given day, and my father was diagnosed and quickly died from Cancer. And with the death of my father we had to commit my mother to a nursing home.
Every weekend I go get her, physically load her into the car (she outweighs me be about 100 lbs. this is not easy) and take her for drives. I pay her phone bill and hair appointments and anything else she may want, fight with the State to keep her eligible for State assisted coverage for her care, take her to Boston and back for consultations with specialists. I also do my best to make sure she gets out to see her elderly father and other family members at the family farm whenever an occasion presents itself.
All of this I do because I love my Mom. Even though she’s not really my Mom anymore, I know she hates her situation and given all she and my Dad did for my brother and I, along with a whole host of other kids, I feel she is owed some extra effort.
And so Passive-Aggressive Nettie made an appearance. Several of them, in fact. Mom could really use some company besides me. These trips to Boston are getting really expensive.
It started out pretty mild, then on the heels of my brother failing to make an appearance at either the Thanksgiving or Christmas events, I dug in hard.
And still he didn’t get it. I got a lot of waffling and random sentence fragments in return for my efforts. Well, yeah. . .pie. . . .not really a fan of Thanksgiving. . .blah blah don’t care much about holidays. . .blah blah we’ll see. There may have been something in there about chicken feed and petting zoos, or maybe a marching band – I don’t really know what he said – I pretty much stopped listening at “not a fan.”
We went through three phone calls totaling about two and a half hours like this.
And Passive-Aggressive Nettie snapped. She turned back into If-You-Don’t-Like-It-You-Can-Suck-It Nettie, with a full force rant that went something like this:
So here’s the deal (it is never good when I start this way!). . .
I’m trying to do all this for Mom when I work 60 hours a week, take care of Quinn, manage a house payment, a car payment plus all the crap I have to have to for work. We have no one, Quinn doesn’t have any family that bothers with him at all, and these trips to Boston have cost me hundreds of dollars that I don’t have. I literally spend $40 a month on gum because it’s the only thing that stops Mom’s headaches. You have no family at home, your house and cars are all paid for and you have 2 full-time incomes. And you don’t care about holidays?
If you don’t care about any of them, that means I have to care about all of them.
And you know what?
Fuck you. (That felt absurdly good to get out)
You want to make those decisions, fine, you’re a grown up. But that also means you get to be a grown up and deal with the fact that everyone is pissed at you, and you’re making your mother feel like you don’t give a damn about her, so fine job, there.
You can give me money, at least $50 per trip on those Boston days, and since I’m paying for all her monthly stuff, you’re going to start dropping cash into her trust out there so she go get a damn ice cream now and then on activity days.
And if you can’t manage it, let me do your math, ’cause if I can do it so can you.
There was a lot more to it. Probably about a full three minutes of uninterrupted ranting, which may not sound like much time, but when you’re under that kind of gun, it is. There was also more profanity. A whole lot more.
He appeared in my mother’s room on Christmas day by himself. He’s promised $50 in February for the next trip and has agreed to start bringing her gum instead of candy when he does visit. He’ll also be contributing to her activity account.
So blunt may not be the most carefully crafted tool in my arsenal, but it seems to do the job more successfully than the out of character passive-aggressive stance I’ve somehow adopted.
I think it’s about time to start being me again.
And if you don’t like it?
Well . . .