Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Blame Game

I grew up with two parents who were only children. My mother got her baby sister when she was twelve and by that time her personality had been formed as an only child. Having an only child myself I made sure that my son realized the earth did not revolve around him, although he was always made to feel loved and important. Early on my parents developed a pattern I call the blame game. This seems to have been taken to new levels and I had a conversation with my mother tonight in which I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. When anything goes wrong, neither of my parents are too blame. The person at fault is someone else, for them it's usually the other spouse. The resentment this has caused for each other over the years is a sad thing to witness. Here they are after fifty years of marriage and still argueing and complaining.

Last night I called my mother right after I finished dinner. She began to cry and tell me she was having another day of just feeling sorry for herself. Why I asked.

(I knew better than to ask, really I did.) She went on to say that she had an appointment at a hair salon in the mall. My father had asked the last three times if he could go and she talked him out of it previously but yesterday she agreed to let him go. She told him to go to McDonald's and have coffee while she had her hair done. About ten minutes later he walked into the salon which embarassed her. Knowing my father, I would have figured this would happen.

She then asked him to go back to McDonald's and wait for her. When her hair was done and she approached him he jumped up to meet her and they headed to Sears where she needed to return a clothing item she had purchased that didn't fit. He told her he would wait in the car while she did that. She then waited in line and handed the item to the cashier. The cashier handed her back a few dollars. My mother asked where the rest of the money was and the cashier said it was put back on the gift card you charged it to. I am not sure if my mother told the cashier or not, I think she did, that she had thrown away the gift card. The cashier apparently told her that she was out the rest of the money. Now here is where the game begins. Apparently this was my father's fault. HOW I asked could this be his fault? Had he not been waiting in the car, making her feel rushed she would have taken the time to get a replacement item and told the cashier she would do that. I told her she could have told the cashier to give her back the jeans and done that at a later time. This is when the blame was redirected at me. I am unsympathetic to her plight of having to deal with my father. I told her I was not but that I didn't see how this could be his fault. Then the blame was redirected at her children who callously give her gift cards. Before I could make a statement she said that old people cannot handle gift cards. They have to be kept track of and then they expire and they make exchanges impossible. Last year we gave them a variety of gift cards for various restaurants, thinking it would be a great treat to go out and have it prepaid. I love gifts like that. She informed me they had not used any of them. She told me to give them a check or gift or not to bother. YIKES. She got herself so worked up she actually cried at times. I told her that perhaps she needs to have a list of errands to run and from time to time to tell him she has a list of errands and it's not a good day for him to accompany her. She said she didn't leave him for long periods of time but I reminded her she went to a neighboring state for shopping twice recently, ten hours at a time. She had forgotten about that. Why must I be the voice of reason? Just once I would like to have a conversation with my parents where they have something nice to say about the other. Actually from time to time my father will do that. He is in his eighties and physically failing. His life is pretty much sitting in a recliner watching tv with a hearing aid that amplifies more background noise than a voice he is listening for. They have a large house with a separate apartment and that is where my mother spends most of her time. Many nights she sleeps on a sofa in there instead of walking upstairs to her bedroom. When I think of these things I feel sad. It's their life though and they are living it as they have chosen to. Last night I went to bed thinking that sometimes the lessons we learn from our parents are not what TO do but what not to. I don't want to go through life blaming others. I am plenty capable of messing up on my own.


Susan C said...

Your mom sounds like she can suffer post traumatic stress disorder from returning a piece of clothing.

It must get exhausting to listen. You're a good daughter.

jennifer said...

Your mom needs to meet my aunt.