Parental Visits: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

I want my parents to live here. Anywhere but Spruce Grove, Alberta.

I recently went home for the yearly (sometimes bi-yearly) parental visit.  As they refuse to move to Paris, Florence, or Santa Fe, I refuse to visit more than once per year.  Let’s face it, if they moved to one of those cities I would still be unabashedly living with them – perhaps they know this, which is why they insist on staying in Spruce Grove, Alberta.  This fact alone keeps them safe.  In any event, although I Skype with them weekly, a long visit ensures that I receive the full affront of parent/grown-up-child relationship in large doses and all at once, so it intensifies the experience.  I’m not sure if any of you have had similar experiences, but it has occurred to me that my interactions with them fall into the Spaghetti Western categories of good, bad, and ugly.

As I love my parents dearly, I will begin with the ugly and work my way towards the good, because it is important that I end on a good note to properly portray my real feelings for them, however, a bit of ugly is definitely there.

The Ugly.  Why is it that no one can make me go quite as crazy as my parents do?  I am 45 years old, have been more or less independent since I was 18 years old, I have paid my bills on time each and every month of that time, I have completed three university degrees, held down numerous jobs – all of them successfully, have the kind of friends that are the reason that our society works on any level, I can engage in an intelligent conversation on almost any topic, I am kind to animals, I speak more than one language, I can cook gourmet meals, I even knit – in short I haven’t been a slouch about things and, well, I’m what my friends call “together” – but with one word my father can reduce me to a three year old that has just been told she can’t have the cookie.  Tan-trum town.   With one little comment like “Are you sure you are saving enough in your RRSP’s?” there is the distinct possibility that I will go postal.  What gives?  Why can’t I just say “Yes Father, I am”. I’m not of course, but shoes are expensive these days, what’s a girl to do?  But HE doesn’t know that, he doesn’t have access to my bank account, and as I have already mentioned I AM 45 YEARS OLD.  Will this never end?  I’ve taken three Psychology classes so of course I am an expert (harrumph) and I should be able to reason my way out of it, but it keeps coming back to raised voices and sometimes even a few tears or a slammed door – and because it is Alberta and 30 below for half of the year, you can’t actually go outside, so the door I slam is to my bedroom.  Yes, at 45 I end up in my bedroom, mad at my Dad.  I realize the ridiculousness of it, but every now and then I can’t help myself.

The Bad.  My parents are well into their 70’s but they both still eat like they are going to jail.  This would be fine, however I too am expected to eat like I am joining them in the Pen, so there will be a weight gain of at least five pounds when I go for a one week visit – multiplied by an equal amount if I stay for two weeks.  If the visit is at Christmas, add on another goodly amount to include the baking and the chocolate.  The kicker is that my parents can eat like that because they get up at 7:00 every morning and don’t stop (except for coffee and other fuel type substances) until a good dozen hours of work has been completed.  Which brings us to the next bit of the bad.  As first generation immigrants who own a large parcel of land, they are highly suspicious of the words “resting”, “vacationing” and “relaxing”.  If I “sleep in” until – gasp – 8:00 am, I am most likely to be woken up by one of three things:  the intercom blaring classical music (CBC only) into my room, the sound of a vacuum outside my door, or the sound of hammering (my Father is a true Roman, he will die building something).  As I was also raised Catholic the guilt runs deep and strong in my veins my friends, therefore I must rise at 7:00 and at the very least clean a bathroom or two before 9:00 am, otherwise I just don’t sleep right at night.

The Good.  Which outweighs both the ugly and the bad.  Quite simply – love.  My parents love me.  I love my parents.  If we were in a sinking ship and there was only one life jacket we would probably all end up at the bottom of the ocean floor as we would all be unwilling to live if we had to watch the other die.  Sounds a bit dramatic, but yes, that kind of love.   I realize that the fact that I have two people wishing me love and light, always, is the rock that I stand on.  I realize that this is why I still slam my door from time to time – because I know they will forgive me.  And this is why they know they can still say things that are not the things I wish to hear or wake me up with Schubert gone mad of a morning – because they know I will forgive them.

Oh, and, don’t let my Dad know, but after stewing about it for two months, I also have seen the wisdom of upping my RRSP contribution and curbing my need for shoes.   Although there is this one pair of snaffy brown calf length Fry’s – just out new for the Fall season …..

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7 thoughts on “Parental Visits: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Perfectly said! I also live far from my parents (I’m in Ontario and they’re in BC) so I could totally relate! The comment about the RRSPs made me laugh out loud! My dad used to be a banker so that one hit the nail on the head!

    • Always glad to hear from a fellow sufferer 🙂 Now be a good girl and make your Daddy proud – save that money – no more shoes!

  2. Funny, I used to feel this exact same way. I used to spend a week cleaning house before my parents would come to visit and then I would brace myself for the inevitable comments my mother would make about my home’s cleanliness. Not anymore. The only difference is that I used to live in another city away from my parents, now I live 5 minutes away. As much as seeing them daily might seem like it would make things worse it actually diminshed all the crazy kid feelings I used to have when we would have those super intense weekend visits. Now, if they are verging on making me crazy (it does occasionally happen) I just leave and go home. The feeling usually passes. It probably works both ways. It must, my mom hasn’t said a word about my disorganized mess of a home in ages or maybe I just stopped hearing it?!

    By the way, I love the Fry’s. I think you should delay retirement a little for those.

    • You are so right, I do think that if I saw them more often I wouldn’t necessarily revert back to childhood when I go home only once in awhile – and to the house that I grew up in none the less. It’s like a trigger (or maybe an excuse), to revert for awhile.

      Of course if they listened to reason and moved to Paris, Florence or Santa Fe that particular issue would probably be solved 🙂

  3. The timing of this post was perfect, as I read it pretty much on my way home after my annual visit to my family in Canada. Parents have some unique gift, power, curse to make mature independent grown ups revert to the pimply adolescence we’ve been trying to hide from for years. I have come to accept that accepting my parents (my mother in particular) is going to be a life long journey of pain and love with a fine line in between. Sometimes I wish I could be closer, because as Flapper Pie suggets, the visits get less intense when you can just go home (as opposed to slamming the door to one’s room in your parents house). But then again, when I am far far away that’s when I love them most, when they take on a rosy sheen and seem all glossy and perfect. To be so close, would I be able to have the same gratitude most of the year? Of course, I write this now with a rueful smile, given that with impending parent hood coming my way, I can’t wait to find out what it is that going to drive my children mad….

    And to be fair, in my house I’m the one that nags her mother about her RRSP (no, mom a time share in mexico is NOT a better use of funds).

  4. Late to this party, but absolutely had to respond– because it is so interesting to me how so many of our posts lately have seemed to circle around a few similar themes. It strikes me that Saffron Twist’s post of a few days ago has something in common with what you’ve said here– something about the strange, painful, liberating and slightly crazy-making process of separating ourselves from where we’ve come from. Perhaps those intensive visits ‘home’ are so difficult because they are complicated: they bring to the surface all of the ways we’ve changed & grown up and away from (maybe?) who our parents thought we’d be, or who our parents are themselves, but also stir up the good too. (How confusing!)

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