Tuesday, November 05, 2013

I See You, I Hear You

This post is dedicated to Bev, who always saw and always heard my mom.

Zeek and Camille 
 I've been watching way too much TV, and feel guilty because I remember telling my kids how it is so numbing, how it can get away from you, the hours. And it's the truth, more than likely, why we love it. That and looking at people who are good-looking and talented enough to make it onto television.  Our own people zoo.

Does the job. And yet, it has to stop. An hour a night is all I get, then it's back to books.
Who needs friends? One big happy family

You do learn things from TV.

After hearing about it from a critical mass, I found • Parenthood on Amazon Video, all of those old episodes about aging and not so aging hippies and hipsters, one big happy family in Berkeley, circling the hub, the deteriorating old family homestead, complete with a barn. The teenager, even the young children, are the ones who think outside the box. There's an especially adorable child with Asperger's constantly screaming the truth. "Dad just said. . ."

The basic idea is that this is a close extended family, if not a little too close. Family members are honest with each other, or they are into the second season. Sarah, who has left her addicted ex to bring her two teens back here, is less mature than her 17-year old daughter Amber (Mae Whitman, so watchable), who loves her anyway, for all of her painful parenting mistakes, perhaps for them.  Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) always gets these parts, the emotionally vulnerable, single mom doing the best she can , who acted out as a teenager and still behaves more like a teenager than her teenagers when she can't determine what to do. And they let her know it.

Perhaps because the boundaries in the family are so thin (everyone knows everything about anything that goes on), the ensemble as a whole fails to set the boundaries on relationships outside the family, too. Sarah lets her daughter's teacher make a play for her. Her daughter sleeps with her cousin's boyfriend.  These boundary conflicts resolve, people forgive. Somehow the power of the family works magic, even when you do really bad, inconsiderate things. When you love one another, you can do no wrong. Or if you do, nobody will stay angry for very long.

I love that. Another reason to watch television.

Not everyone is a screw up, of course, as parentified children are a big theme. At least one or two of the five adult kids have to be mature because they grew up in the shadow of the patriarch of the family, Zeek, a sixty-something Vietnam vet with a history of intermittent explosive disorder, drinking, acting out, and general cluelessness as a father and a spouse. Adam, the oldest son, had no room as a child to get into trouble; it didn't appeal.

Having no male role model worth following, the most functional of the children, Adam fit the role of real father to the whole family. Everyone looks to him for advice, and because they have no boundaries, literally plop in on him at his office to talk during his work day, not a care in the world that this could jeopardize his job.

In the first episode of the second season, Zeek and his wife, the beautiful, long-suffering, quiet, artistic, Camille, are in marriage therapy. She has finally made it clear that not only does he not listen to her, but he really doesn't see her, either. He doesn't focus well enough on her to put her in the room, to put her desires, her needs on the list of things to do.  It isn't about love. He adores her. Just can't get outside of himself enough to take her needs seriously.  His are what matter.

He either changes or she's through. In either case she wants to sell the house, travel, get away from the children on occasion, buy a condo, really live that last chapter of life before they are too old to live it. Zeek won't even talk about it.

After awhile, because of the therapy that he hates so much, he realizes that he should pay more attention, should look at Camille, and he does. He can even say it, undoubtedly the therapeutic homework, the intervention. I see you. I hear you.  And it is a beautiful thing.

I liked it as a marital therapy technique.  When a partner isn't hearing, isn't seeing, the other partner should offer a blank stare, or a raised eyebrow that somehow communicates the problem, You're not seeing me, and the errant partner does a My bad.
 I hear you. I see you.
Beautiful, but not so beautiful that it should make me cry, particularly.  Then on Friday night, we're dressing to go to a friend's for dinner, a couple we haven't seen in quite awhile. I put on a pair of my mom's vintage earrings and a jacket she used to wear, not that I could remember her wearing either. But she took them with her to the retirement center after my father died, after we sold the house, our homestead, and she certainly couldn't take everything. So these things, these earrings, this jacket, made the cut. She valued them.  She wanted them to be with her even though she wasn't dressing much to go out anymore.

She must have worn them in her sixties or seventies, but honestly, for the life of me, as I put them on that Friday night, as I marveled and struggled with the backs of the earrings, had no recollection ever seeing her wear them.

I heard her, for sure.  You couldn't not hear my mother. Not because she was loud, but because she didn't say everything on her mind, so what she did say you heard.  When she talked it was deliberate, focused on a goal, something important, something that bothered her, or she was asking you about you.  She was never gossipy, unless a person bothered her, and that happened on occasion, and she had to work that out, even in that last year of her life. Abandonment issues. Who doesn't have some of those?

Intelligent, insightful, I wanted to hear her as an adult, not so much as a teenager, a common thing, we now all know.  But if you don't listen during one chapter of a person's life, they assume you aren't listening even when you are.  Unresolved issues. (Who doesn't have some of those?) She probably had no idea how much I valued what she said. When I told her I valued her opinions, when I told her how smart she was, she didn't believe me (although I could tell she considered it).  This is true humility, a character trait that breaks my heart.

Anyway, in that hypmanic episode, the kind that happens to so many of us when we are experiencing a life-changing event, in our case the trauma of parent-death, which is life-changing in so many ways, I hauled off from her apartment* with about a quarter of her clothes and much of her jewelry, brought it all to my own closet, and am now in the process of going through things.

Why can't I remember what she looked like in her beautiful clothes?  I didn't see her.

It kills me.


*We did the move a month and a half following her passing and I hardly worked, which was good for all of us, frankly. I put up a blog with her art and her furniture, her vases and creamers, and the kids chose what they wanted. The movers made four stops, five if we include the move from storage to Atlanta last week. (Yes, it IS possible to get things out of storage in a month, but it isn't easy.)

It could have been an episode out of Parenthood, the move. Maybe it will be. When I wasn't boxing up her things, I was boxing up files from my office. To complicate things, during her illness I had added a second office location, rented it to be nearer to her if she needed me. Turns out she would not.

Another disorder that never made it to the DSM V: Multiple Moving Disorder.

vintage jacket

vintage earrings 


Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Thank you so much for continuing to share with us, even when things are difficult. Your mother must have been such a remarkable woman. I believe she knew - and that she continues to know - that you really "see" her.

Anonymous said...

I love the jacket and earrings. Your mother had style! Thank you for writing about this passage.

Mound Builder said...

I don't know you but reading this post today made me feel like giving you a hug.

I wear my mother's earrings, too. I couldn't remember seeing her wear certain pairs but I came across a photo of her wearing some of the earrings I now wear. I remember when my father and I pierced my mother's ears, a long time ago, when people just did it, informally, on their own.

I love the jacket and earrings, too.

What you said about your mother, that people couldn't NOT hear her, not because she was loud, but because she didn't always talk and so when she did, people listened because it was something worth hearing... that sounds like my father.

Very touching, what you've written.

Miss Sugarpants said...

Yes very beautiful and since i'm a hugger i'
d like to hug you too Therapy Doc

therapydoc said...

Hugs all around. Thank you so much friends.

Beth said...

This post is just as beautiful as that red jacket. You've made me sigh too; I wear my mom's things and try to remember her in them, too.

lynette said...

Thank you for this lovely post. I have suffered the loss of my mom a year ago (very suddenly, no medical decline, no goodbyes, quite traumatic), as well as the loss of my older sister, a divorce, and my oldest going off to college… I am trying to make sense of it all now. I too spend more time than I ever have just watching TV -- my brain can only process so much so I am letting it happen slowly.

I wear a ring of my mom's every day. My sister too wears a piece of my mom's jewelry every day. Funny, there are things about my mom I never understood when she was living, and now that she is gone, I GET IT, and I so yearn for her to be here so I can let her know.

Peace, therapydoc. You know you need to let yourself take the time it's going to take...

therapydoc said...

Thanks Beth and Lynette, my thoughts are with you. My mom had a habit of hiding valuables, and her wedding band popped out of a vase as I packed it to give it away. Wore that for awhile :)

Mound Builder said...

I wear my mom's wedding band. It's too big to fit on my ring finger and anyway, I already have my own wedding band. So I wear it on the finger next to my ring finger. I wondered at first if other people would think it was weird of me and then I decided I didn't care. It was my mother's ring for 52 years and my father gave it to her and I took care of them both at the end of their lives and their marriage gave me life. So it seemed like a good thing, wearing her ring, and it gives me comfort.

therapydoc said...

And keeps them right with you, too. Thanks for sharing that, and your other comment, too, beautiful.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post.
I'm so sorry about the loss of your mother. May you be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Anonymous said...

I always read your blogs, but never comment. This was hit home too much not to. I'm so sorry for the loss of your mom. I lost mine when I was 23 and still have her things around my house. I can very much relate to everything you said. Big hugs to you:)

John Jamex said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cynthia said...

Therapydoc, have you ever watched Say Yes to the Dress? It's a reality show in which brides, along with their family and friends, go to a bridal salon to try on and select wedding dresses. This post made me think of it because I watched it to relax and zone out as my mother was dying. It's not exatly high brow, but I actually thought you get to see some interesting family and relationship dynamics among the brides and the people they bring with them.

Also, what a beautiful jacket and earrings! As others have said, sending a hug your way.

therapydoc said...

Thank you MeanSomething, Anon, and Cynthia. No, I haven't seen that show, but I'm going to look for it! Oh, she would have loved these compliments.

Lorri M. said...

Thank you for sharing your mother's jacket and earrings with us, and for sharing the entire heartfelt story.

I wish I could say otherwise, but I can not...I empathize...

It is a part of the human conditioning, I think, that we often fail to SEE. The conditioning does not justify the lack of SEEing, it just is what it is...

Take care...my thoughts to you.

andy said...

Thanks - touching post. I will be back!

Wayne Parker said...

Thanks for the article! It was a great read, and had a lot of good information. I am, in fact, doing research for physiotherapy clinics ontario

Chris said...

Thank you for a touching share. I love the notion of mutliple moving disorder making it to the DSM, I'd agree it has foundation to be there. Sadly though we can't ever out run ourselves can we. I tried so many times before I woke up and saw the coffee. My final trip took me to another country altogether. I'd ran out of towns, villages and cities in the uk. Very touching. Thank you.