What to say after "Yes, that really sucks."
September 1, 2012 2:58 PM Subscribe
Help me find the right things to say to/do for my parents and their slightly terrible relationship, especially now that my mother is housebound.
posted by brisquette to Human Relations (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The longer I've lived out of my parents house, the more I've felt sorry for them. They've been together for 50 years, but I think they've spent a lot of time avoiding each other in the same house.
My mother has struggled with her weight for probably the whole time they were married (she told me recently that my dad had wanted her to lose weight before their wedding, and she got down to 117, but he still said she could stand to lose more), and now she's had a hip injury and is trying to lose weight so they can perform surgery. She's also suffered from arthritis for at least the last 30 years, so she's never been very active.
My father has a tendency to fly into rages and say terrible things, and then apologize the next day. For example, the last time I spoke to him, he took a conversation about their house and suddenly turned it into an angry conversation about the end times. An hour later, he apologized, but when I tried to understand why he felt he end times was important to bring up during the conversation, his eyes got all angry again and he left, only to return ten minutes later and tell me I was right, and apologize.
It seems like he's been haranguing my mother about her doctor-required weight loss, among other things. I can totally see where she's the sort of person who comforts herself with food and stuff, so part of me understands how that could drive my dad nuts; she's got a whole room of online purchases that she hasn't even unpacked, and it sucks that her weight is affecting this aspect of her health (she was at 215 or so, and she's not a very tall lady.). Now it's like everything he ever thought about her weight has been proven wrong.
So I've thought their marriage was kind of shitty for a long time, but while my mom could move around and go places, I just shrugged my shoulders and figured she was the one choosing to stay with him. Now, she's trapped at home, and I get these super sad emails about how he yelled at her the other night because she's not losing enough weight.
To be fair, she also sends me happier emails about how he's been physically taking care of her; lifting her in and out of bed, taking her to the bathroom, buying the groceries, adding some handicap friendly things to their living area.
I don't know what to say in response to the shitty emails..."that sucks, I'm sorry?" repeat, repeat, repeat? I've encouraged her to follow the doctor's instructions, and reminded her that Dad has always said mean things, so it's not like we should expect him to stop now.
They live about 45 minutes away; I've visited once a month or so recently to help clean out some junk and cook some diet-friendly food. Their house is filled with stuff and it sort of terrifies me. I don't know what else I can do that will not draw me into their web of codependent behavior and angst.
I feel like their entire relationship has built up into a perfect storm of issues; my mom's weight and stuff, my dad's attitude towards my mom's weight (and my own), my attitude towards them for constructing this miserable pattern of interaction, ugggh.
How should I be responding to my mom's emails/calls about her current condition?
Are there things I could be encouraging her to work towards?
How should I be framing my relationship to them, if I want to help, but feel that it might be a lost cause?