Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Very Long Story

Amy from "Our Happy Married Life" informed me by email the other day that I was apparently a substantial topic of conversation at her family's Christmas Eve dinner table. She also says that Crown Royal was an important guest, but I choose to believe that the two are unrelated;-). And then, her sister Meg (blogless:-)) finally came out of the shadows and commented yesterday...which I think makes me a legit Wagner Family Celebrity. I am going to consider that a pretty big honor! And, if there are any other Wagner family members reading...a big hearty hello to you all, too:-)


OK...story time. Not sure if this is a bad story, or just a kinda bad one, or maybe even kinda good. It is definitely not all good, and is kinda sad. Not real sure what the point of my telling it is, other than I just feel like writing it. And it does shed some light on someone who gets surprisingly little attention in this space.

Anyway...the key person in this story is Twin Sister's Wife (who deserves her own nickname...I should get on that). She is a sometimes-reader here, and I already told her I was going to blog this, and I will invite her to chime in if I leave anything out...she will also read your comments, so keep that in mind;-). I am a big fan of hers, as is her brother-in-law and the entire The Boy Family. Really great, sincere and caring person, and a great wife and mother [it should go without saying that this story is from her perspective].

As I mentioned earlier, her Father was here for Christmas, and is in fact semi-retiring and moving to Boston to be closer to his daughter and granddaughter. That is all good news...she was ecstatic to have her Father around for Christmas and is in love with the idea of him being closer to her permanently. The bad news is that this coincides with his splitting from her Mother after roughly 35 years of marriage.

According to her, growing up, she was extremely close to her Mother, and had a somewhat tougher relationship with her Father. She doesn't say that they fought or anything...just that she never felt super close to him, and always felt like there was sort of an awkwardness about their relationship. She was a pretty typical little girl.

As she grew through High School and college, she began to come to terms with her own sexuality, finally acknowledging to herself that she is a lesbian. Knowing that her Mother is a relatively traditional woman, she was certain that she would probably not be terribly thrilled at the news. However, she also figured her Mother probably already had some suspicions of this (like a pretty obvious disinterest in boys;-)), and she knew she could count on her to be understanding and supportive.

She was less sure about her father, though, and wanted to tell her Mom first so that they could tell her Father together. She took a long weekend to come home from school, figuring that she could talk to her Mom on Friday afternoon, and then be able to talk to her Dad when he came home from work. What she did not expect, however, was her Mother's reaction.

Her Mom was not simply upset and disappointed...she was angry. Really angry. There was some denial and some questions, but then there was just rage. Yelling and name calling and a whole lot of shit that seemed to stem from "the shame of telling her friends that she had a dyke daughter". She never got to find out how her Father would have reacted because her Mother threw her out of the house on the spot. Stunned and despondent, she drove back to her apartment at school.

Her father called her about three hours later, after her Mother told him what happened. His reaction was very different "Honey, stay there. I am driving up there now and we can talk when I get there." He was neither angry nor disappointed (at least not in his daughter...) nor ashamed or any of that. I am sure that he had all of the concerns that a normal parent would have, but his basic message to her was a desire for her to be happy, a pride in the woman she was, and a wish that she be true to herself.

She claims that it was an emotional connection to her Father that she had never felt before that.

He didn't actually stay that long. By the time they were done talking, it was pretty late, so he stayed there that night, but then he went back home after breakfast and she felt much, much better than she had the previous day. She felt like her Mother would eventually come around when the shock wore off and things would go back to normal.

Her Mother never came around. I have no idea how much of it was a philosophical issue with homosexuality, how much was her own selfish embarrassment (which is pretty stupid...), or how much might be something else. Not really my place to make that assessment. Whatever the reason, he relationship with her Mother has basically dissolved. What I do know is that her Mother barely spoke to her after that, and that she was forbidden from moving back home "as long as you are still gay."

Because this coincided with her graduating from college, that was not really that big a deal. She says that Holidays were, not surprisingly, the hardest times. Her Father tried to get her Mother to open up, but she never got past being rudimentarily polite at family functions. If she called the house and her Mother answered, she would pass the phone as quickly as possible to her Father or find some reason to end the discussion quickly. She stopped asking about jobs, friends, apartments or anything else.

Kind of a funny thing happened, though...that cold, awkward relationship she had with her Father? Gone, and replaced with a really healthy, happy Father-Daughter relationship. They talked regularly (which they never did before), discovered that they had more in common than they ever acknowledged and just basically appreciated each other more. As awkward as it seems...they all settled into an equilibrium whereby Mother and Daughter pretty much ignored each other, and Father maintained separate relationships with each.

That went on for years...Twin Sister reports that, while she saw her father-in-law all the time when they were dating, she met her mother-in-law exactly twice before they were married, and never had a conversation beyond "Nice to meet you". Not surprisingly, that sort of an equilibrium turned out to be unsustainable.

At first, her Mother refused to come to her daughter's wedding...she only came because her Father gave her an ultimatum. She didn't make any sort of a scene at the wedding, but she clearly didn't have a good time or make any effort to look like she was enjoying herself. While her Father has come here to visit her maybe 50 times since I have known them, her Mother has come exactly twice...once for the aforementioned wedding, and once right after they had their baby.

I am fairly certain that I saw her smile when she held her granddaughter for the first (and I think maybe the only) time...but that faded quickly. When The Boy and I got married last summer, her Father came to watch the baby and her Mother stayed home. In that case, she theoretically could have come for the weekend and never even had to see her daughter...she could have just played with the baby for two days and enjoyed the beach.

Since the baby was born, it has been pretty clear that something was going to have to give. Her Father has become less tolerant of her Mother's unwillingness to be involved in her daughter's life, which conflicts directly with his own desire to be around both his daughter and his granddaughter. He spent his entire professional career as an engineer at a very large phone company that offered older managers a really generous early retirement package earlier this year.

Since he was pretty close to retiring anyway, this seemed the perfect opportunity to call it a career. In doing so, he expressed to his wife his desire (and I am pretty sure that their relationship was on its last legs anyway...I can't see how all of this could not have been devastating to their marriage) that they sell their house and move a couple hours eastward so that they can be closer to their daughter and granddaughter. Her Mother responded that she had no interest in moving, and no interest in being closer to her daughter or granddaughter. In fact, she already felt like he spent too much time with them and the he was choosing them over her.

He told her not to make him choose between his wife or his daughter because he would choose his daughter. She told him that maybe that was just a choice he would have to make.

So he did.

I think that Twin Sister's Wife is a little bit emotionally confused about all of this. Obviously she is ecstatic about having her Father closer, and about being able to see him without always feel like she is doing something wrong or making him do something wrong. And life will be easier for her to never have to deal with her Mother at all.

But at the same time...she certainly doesn't feel good about her parents' marriage collapsing. And I think she recognizes that this likely means that whatever slim hope she may have had for a relationship with her Mother is gone forever. And that has to be sad.

So, for was both a really good Christmas and a really sad one at the same time.


Our Happy Married Life... said...

crown royal was a guest in the house but only by 3 of the men-my husband and 2 brothers. the ladies were drinking red wine and enjoying an AM life synopsis. :) we might have to have an AM convention next time you come to Chicago!

Ally said...

Wow. What a loss. I imagine there's a grieving process with essentially losing a relationship with your mother, especially given the harsh and unloving nature of this scenario. I'm sorry this unfolded how it did, and I'm sorry that the mother is denying herself the joy and love of being a part of this family. She's really losing out. It's cool though to see how the situation is somewhat redeemed by this growing relationship with her father though. Thanks for sharing.

Twin Sister's Wife said...

Oh boy, it is really weird to read this! Ally is 100% right about grieving, I went through that for a really long time. Until I stopped thinking that it was my fault.

I get sad when I think about where things have ended up. Especially for my Dad, all he ever wanted was for us to get along.

He is happier than I ever remember him now, tho, and I'm thankful for that. And you're right, I am sooooo psyched that he moved here!

I'd have to forgive her if she apologized, tho. Most of my friends think I am insane for thinking that, but she is still my Mom and I would rather have a Mom than not have one. Like you, I have been welcomed into the Twin Sister/The Boy clan and that just makes me appreciate all the more what a great family can be. It's probably wishing against reason, but I would still like to be able to call my Mom sometimes.

Tammy said...

Hi - Haven't ever commented...Have read for ages (congrats on the twins!), sorry this is my first comment. I don't usually comment unless something really inspires me to and this is one of them. Twin Sister's Wife, I am so sorry that you have to live with this.
I just wanted to say that a similar situation happened in my family however, it was between my brother and my dad. When my brother came out it completely changed the dynamic of their relationship. What was once a great relationship was now strained. Anyway, that was the short back story there. The strange part about this story is that when I met my current husband he commented to me (after knowing me and my family for several years) that he thought it was weird that my dad was married to my step mom and that he just assumed he was gay. I thought he was crazy so I asked several friends about this and they all said they assumed he was gay as well and were surprised when he remarried a woman.
I never would have thought it (but who really thinks about their family members in any type of sexual way...ewww), but it was like a light bulb went off. Maybe that is why my dad was so upset, he was upset that my brother could live his life the way he wanted to, out in the open, happy, gay but my father(if he is gay) isn't. Totally not saying that this is the case with you, Twin Sister's Wife, just saying that sometimes there is more to the story that you will never learn. I completely understand why you would forgive her if she apologized. That would be a hard apology for her to make and if it (and I hope it does) happens I would bet she was truly sorry.
Sorry about the length of this comment.

Lisa said...

I don't really know what to say, except that I wish twin-sister's-wife that she'll be able to see the whole thing as a chance: Less stress on the mother-front and a lot of father/grampa quality-time for her and the baby!
Lots of good luck!

And: happy new year to all in the AM universe!