Friday, June 14, 2013

Extracts from a personal letter

I wrote a long and personal letter to an aunt and uncle who have always been close. They looked after me a lot when I was at boarding school, I remain friends with my cousins, who introduced me to underage drinking and heavy rock, amongst other important rites of passage. We have not seen much of them recently, but they have stayed in regular contact with my parents. Because of the particularly close relationship I had with them, and my aunt being my father's sister, one of the only people he might ever listen to in the world, I have struggled not to feel disappointed that they have not given me support as the rift with my father grew. This is selfish, I know, but I also know he feels vindicated by his sister's ongoing friendly relationship with him. And I have even felt some suggestion from my aunt that I should make a better effort to understand him, because of how his own father treated him (more than half a century ago).

I wrote a long letter in chapters. I felt the need to be brief and understated in raising the issues with my parents. I talked about Christmas and this is how it went...

I resolved to keep discussion of my folks brief. I sense you have seen enough tortuous family relationships that you don't want to hear the sounds coming off the strained piano wire between my father and I, or the dischord around it. I will summarise enough that the bits of news and any other updates you hear make some sense, then move on.

We went up for Christmas. My mum has always banged on about wanting a family Christmas and even the father brought it up, so, although they've had a pretty decent share of one-way visits it was something I really wanted to give them. It was hard work, though I believe as pennance for my sins I have done the right thing in not telling them it was so. They had a few nice moments together here and there and I will do my best to let them keep those memories.

It was very hard graft though. There was a lot of harshness towards the kids, and for some reason both of them can be particularly unpleasant towards Mitts. I am not sure where this comes from, no doubt a psychologist could have a field day. Efforts to join in, play, or otherwise interact were modest, so the experience for us is one of carrying the kids over eggshells much of the time, then playing with them while my folks wander off elsewhere, read magazines, and so on. It was similar during the previous visit. Lots of presents, of course, but that doesn't really make up for other things, not when you get to the end of Christmas day and your son looks at you with sad eyes and says 'Christmas is poo poo'.

I know there are thousands of reasons for all this and I acknowledged you don't need to hear much of it. I just want you to know enough to understand that while I know about the past and can try to forgive, for myself, these are not things I like exposing my wife and children to and that this will affect the amount of time we can spend visiting them. We will take a break for a while. Most likely next time, for everyone's sake, we will stay in an apartment nearby, as you did when [cousin] went up there, and organise measured doses of time in which, hopefully, we all make the most of it. Explaining that to my mother without casting aspertions on the last visit will be a tricky exercise in diplomacy…

On a better note, we did have some nice moments on the beaches nearby, or playing around the pool. I noted the father come up and attend to some tasks near where the kids were playing a couple of times, and I know this to be one of his ways of interacting. Things like exploring Mon Repos beach, watching the turtles, or even heading out fishing when they are a bit older may be ways they can bond a little. We took ourselves on to Hervey Bay for a few days afterwards, and it was lovely - the beaches are like landing strips of sand shining with sun on the puddles left by the tide. For the kids, running barefoot and chasing crabs, it was slices of heaven in rainbow sauce.