Once I was done with labwork in Pullman, I drove over to Seattle for an impromptu family reunion of sorts. My brother lives there with his wife and son, and my parents flew in from the East Coast.
My brother has several bottles of wine and a case of beer on hand. Plus a full container of Jack Daniels in the fridge.
Being with my parents is difficult for me (and my brother, I think), for reasons that date back to when I was little. At our worst times, our visits have ended in fights suitable for the Jerry Springer Show (I remember being 10 weeks pregnant with my son and getting into an argument with my dad while we were in the car; at one point I was convinced he was going to plow right off the road, we were screaming so much). At best, we can eat dinner together, have a couple glasses of wine, and sit in the same room for a few hours. And even this feels something akin to running a marathon that I haven't adequately trained for.
Sometimes, when I hear about people going on pleasant vacations with their parents or having raucous Thanksgiving meals together or saying that their mom is their best friend or seeing their mom and dad over the weekend just to get that old comfort of home, I feel jealous. It's just not like that for us. The tension never goes away. There is so much unsaid and no-one is going to start that conversation. It would be way too difficult, way too painful.
One thing I have learned - thanks to my parents, but also to my husband and especially my son - is how influential and important family is. I mean, I knew that on an intellectual level, but now it's seeped into my bones. I truly believe there is nothing more important than raising a child as best you can, as lovingly and thoughtfully as you can, because that love (or lack thereof) is the foundation for everything that happens after. I say this as someone who wrestles with parenting on a daily basis. I am not a natural. But I am doing my damnedest to be "good enough" and to change what I need to change to be someone my son can count on.
"Whatever you are, whatever you do, your baby will get it. Anything you eat, any worries that are on your mind will be for him or her. Can you tell me that you cannot smile? Think of the baby, and smile for him, for her, for the future generations. Please don't tell me that a smile and your sorrow just don't go together. It's your sorrow, but what about your baby? It's not his sorrow, it's not her sorrow.” - Thich Nhat Hanh