Thursday, July 14, 2011

The prodigal son drags his family north

I have blogged about my father. Hit 'personal', go back, it's there. I am now in a better place. He has received the all-clear after an encounter with cancer followed by enough chemicals to kill the Great Barrier Reef. They are both pretty unwell, and against some better judgement we are paying them a visit.

Despite the one-sided nature of the effort involved, I feel I have to give the possibility of a relationship between grandparent and grandchild a chance. A small, guarded, chance. And my poor mother, stranded in a town she never wanted to go to, deserves something.

I have not fought with him for many months. I refuse to talk about work. Or asylum seekers (or anything touching on race, not that he's a racist, but..). We have some ongoing contact and it is tolerable.

As once suggested on this blog, by Zoe I believe, I took a few sessions of counselling directed specifically at our relationship. It was good. Partly from that, and from reflection, I can see things from a slightly removed place. I have additional perspective and it helps. In particular I spend less time fretting about whether our relationship is part of some adoption issue. That may be there, but it is also a lot clearer to me that I am only part of an immovable story of control and inflexibility.

Counselling helped me see wider patterns. Anything that can't be controlled becomes a threat. The only child he could have raised and never fought badly with would be one who never fully grew up, never pushed out and became an individual. No matter how similar their wiring (to use his phrase), one decent step towards independence and it would be on. My mother's acquiescence in so much of his crap frustrates me, yet I can see that it is a survival mechanism for their relationship. As he gives no room, and offers no mediation between positions, any serious push back would be like a car hitting a wall. No give. A mess.

I know what I would probably do if I were her... well I know because I have effectively done it. I said 'no thanks', 'stop saying that', 'I don't want the same things you do', 'I disagree'. Started saying it at the end of my teens, and have had a turbulent relationship since. The normal adjustment into the adult-adult relationship is not possible, because there can be no adjustment. So where I have learned from those fights at 18, 19, and long since moderated many things that led us there, he has barely changed one iota. He has pulled out insults long since buried, as if we hadn't done the burying by going through a hostile, stressful, awful process of razorblade iteration.

But. Months of carefully circumscribed conversation, the insights of counselling, and my own reflection have brought me to a better place. There are limits to our engagement, and I know I can't improve on that.

Visiting is not ideal. I need to consciously avoid both trigger-topics and opportunities, which usually come in the form of initially-benign conversations, in fact often pleasant, a glass of scotch in front of each of us, with my mother and Beloved wandering off to do other things, and my defences going down, and then the poison comment arriving like a concealed screwdriver through the ribs...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Signature noises and tweety-bird pogues

Mitts has a sound, everyone is impressed and Bear is slightly put out. He raises a warble at the back of his throat, I think it's his tongue flapping away loosely, and can raise it, lower it, pretty much sing tunes with it. I would write rrlrrlrrlrrlrrlrrlrrl or rdlrdlrdlrdlrdlrdl or simply rrrrrrrrrrr, yet none really capture it.

When I sing to him he say "STOP SINGING". However on my looking offended he sometimes relents, "Sing Daddy". He relented for Nature's Boy, a version involving his name every couple of lines and references to sitting in a tree (he and Bear have discovered that it's fun to be stuck up in the fork of the tree out the front by Daddy, who then sits under them fretting and waving his arms around behind them ready to make some attempt at catching).

Bear decided her signature noise would be speaking in a high squeaky voice, which is a bit of a thing she has, perhaps not the one I'd have chosen to show off. I'd have gone for some singing instead. She pulled out a few Coldplay lines the other day, but the best moment came from sitting in the very same tree, telling me she was a bird, then singing:

Tweet tweet tweet tweeeeeet,
Tweety tweet tweet tweeeeeet,
Tweet tweet tweeeeeeeeet,
Tweety tweet, twe-tweet....

and so on, being, OF COURSE, Dirty Old Town by the Pogues. Note for note. Which we had on in the car a few weeks ago.

A Bear likes her music, in her own way. My little brother was with us. He was out the back playing and singing, very nicely, a very talented lad. I was feebly picking along improvising, feeling very outshone. But Bearsy, every time another song started, demanded 'Play your notes Daddy' before she would dance.

Enjoying every moment.

.... Enjoying every moment apart from trying to change Mitts' clothes and apart from being woken violently at 6am...