Home Visits

March 23, 2014

For about five years, I’ve committed to visiting my mom as close to every month as I can. The increase in frequency of my trips south corresponds to my mom’s open heart surgery (December 2009).  I would guess that this has averaged out to about 8-10 trips per year. Before that, visits were more like 2 times a year and happened around holidays or other special occasions.  

The visits are a mixed bag. I like to visit her–she really appreciates it–and I have to say it’s allowed us to get to a different place in our relationship, mostly for the better.  I’ve learned more of her story and have softened on a lot of my judgments. It’s more time than we’ve ever shared together as adults, so I’ve gotten to know her better and in a different way.

And I’ve also gotten a closer look at the dynamics of the relationship we had when I was growing up, and of her ways of parenting that shaped me…not all of it is good (certainly). It would be extremely useful if we could talk about it more, but Petersons are not so great at going too far below the surface, and direct and honest communication were not our way, then or now, so it’s not like these visits provide a lot of rich source material. Plus, I get a lot of the same stories over and over–rare do we cover new territory–so the takeaways are few and far between.

The visits are more about doing the things we enjoy together and far less about unraveling my childhood, or understanding my mom better.  Fun is good, especially if you’re a lonely 85 year old woman. This means playing lots of gin rummy, going to movies, taking walks at the beach, shopping, and lots of focus on meals–the planning, shopping and preparing thereof.  We have some taking-care-of-business time–like doctors or house stuff–but that’s low on the totem pole. My mom is very defensive of this daughter time, so we limit other family get togethers, too.  I usually see a brother or two, on occasion a nephew, and, rarer still, an aunt or uncle.

I sort of hold a grudge about certain aspects of my childhood, which spills out in the form of cynicism or sarcasm or anger toward my mom, and that used to manifest in some doozy battles, tantamount to bullying on my part because she’s pretty helpless when it comes to drawing those cause and effect lines, and really wanted to ignore those realities altogether. She never really honestly looked at the parenting issues, but she does get that shit happened and just feels bad. She really doesn’t want to look too closely. She’s quick to chalk it up to 1) nobody ever taught her how to parent, 2) she was effectively a single parent of four, while my dad was 99% focused on his work and galavanting all over the place on one business trip after another, and 3) parenting was different then. And all of that is true.  I do feel horribly sorry for the realities of her experience as a wife and a parent in the 60s and 70s married to a jet-setting, work-obsessed, absentee partner (I use the term partner ironically).  So I used to pick fights with her, but I don’t anymore.  So glad about that.  I think my negative thoughts, but keep them to myself, mostly. 


Still, as easy, routine, appreciated and even fun as the visits are, they are hard.  The hardest part is being gone from home.  More and more, I resent having to be gone. It sounds selfish, I know, but I don’t want to keep interrupting my life. I miss out on stuff at home that I don’t want to miss out on, I disrupt eating and exercise routines, and I just miss my family.  

Okay…. enough. It’s well after midnight, I don’t want to complain. 

One thing I do really, really enjoy (besides my mom, because I do love her and she is good to spend time with), is the time I spend on walks in the neighborhood and time spent at the beach. I’m always on nostalgia overload when I’m here.  It is insanely beautiful. It smells fantastic (eucalyptus, ocean), the air is cool and fresh, and it’s very quiet among the trees.  So, here are a couple shots along one of my favorite walking routes…. this one goes down Paseo del Campo which borders the PV Golf Course. If it weren’t so monochromatic this morning, you’d be able to see the ocean. Note: no curbs and gutters..