My parents arrived today. Yes. It is the week before classes and my father decided to take a road trip (my mother just goes where he goes). I know how my father operates, and it has nothing to do with planning and thinking ahead; it was huge that he brought up the idea of a visit a month or so ago. Usually, he just calls me a few days before he’s leaving.
So, here we are. They’ll be here for a few days before going on to visit another relative in another state, then they’ll likely stop by next week as they make their way home. And what we will do, I have no idea. Sit and look at each other, I guess.
I realized the other day that my parents do not have hobbies. They don’t have particular interests that take them to museums or concerts or movies. They don’t have the physical stamina to do much sightseeing, especially anything that involves walking. These are people – I believe the phrase is salt of the earth – that have worked their entire lives in some form or fashion; when they sit down, it’s because they are tired. They might watch a show on TV or read the newspaper but that’s just a prelude before going to bed. They’re social (or were, in my mother’s case). They go out to eat frequently, with relatives or friends; in the past, they’ve gone on trips with different relatives all over the United States.
But when they visit me, we’re all at a loss. I don’t have grandchildren to serve as entertainment or distraction; I don’t have a spouse to help with the socializing. I can’t think of any particular activity that might interest them. We have very little to say to each other when we sit down to eat. They come because they love me. I want them to come because I love them. But I feel like such a horrible person because their visits are so strained.
How did I end up so different? How can we have so little to talk about? Why can’t I have an easy and pleasant relationship with my parents?
None of us are getting any younger; I don’t have a whole lot of time to figure this out, so I feel like I’m just storing up the guilt. I can already see the list of “I should have’s” scrolling in front of me: I should have spent more time with them, I should have visited more often, I should have been more patient, I should have tried harder. In the moment, though – even knowing that – I can’t get past being stressed out and frustrated.
Yes, it’s all about me, another thing to add to my guilt. My parents drive over 700 miles to visit me and I’m unpleasant. Perhaps it’s a good thing I’m single, because I seem like a fairly terrible person at the moment…