Monday, February 19, 2007

Two Hour Sandwiches

Jeanine is a jerk.

In case you didn’t know.

She insists on spending vacations driving in the car.

I hate driving in the car.

The kids hate driving in the car.

It gives her a sense of accomplishment. We have driven, covered ground and returned. Something useful was done. Action took place.

To me? The kids were cooped up in the car for a couple hours driving to have lunch in a far away place.

A lunch that sucked.

Yup, that’s a dollar word.

She was angry with me because I didn’t want to go into Jacksonville. I did not want to spend two hours in the car. I never want to but today I had explained to her I have been struggling. I am anxious and uneasy about dealing with the sale of the condo. I am putting my mother’s clothes into boxes. Nothing feels easy or comfortable. Suddenly, I want it done. And I want it done now.

And she wanted to drive to Jacksonville to a sandwich place.


In fact, she got angry with me for not wanting to leave.

I got angry at her for insisting I go.

The kids stood frozen.

I need to be able to say no.

She needs to be able to say no.

It is a hard place to be.

Without anxiety, I am someone who sits on vacation. I love to swim, to sit in the sun, to swim, to sit in the sun. Read. My mind slows down- a little. With anxiety? I am frozen in place. The car makes me feel captured. Closed in.

Jeanine wants to go, do, move, drive, see, taste, shop, experience as much as possible in the time available. Not at all unreasonable. Until the demand is made with angry tears in her eyes.

Usually, the answer is that I sit, she goes and the kids go with whichever activity they want to do. That was unacceptable today.

The old triangle of my mother and Jeanine was revisited. Jeanine always felt like my family came first- for vacations, for visits, for everything. The condo is the very real reminder of her experience. It wasn’t true. I have always cherished going to her family. I adore her mother and anyone who would ever say anything to the contrary is crazy. And I even adore that crazy person.

There is something special at each place. My family, Jeanine’s, Walter’s and Allan’s. Lots of families in this family.

There was always a push pull with Jeanine and my mother. They both wanted to be the most important person in the world to me. They both were. In different ways. Each one could pull me away from the other. Each did, at different times. Since my mother’s death, I have felt very protective of her around Jeanine. Jeanine, in turn, is very protective of me.

Don’t forget, she warns. Don’t sugar coat the truth.

I have. I know I have. It’s easier to swallow. I’m tired of fighting. I want it all to stop.

Today it came through as an argument about taking a two-hour car ride for sandwiches.

Lousy sandwiches, I have to add.

She reminded me the condo was always a disappointment. It’s not warm in February. The food for miles around is awful. The place still smells like cigarettes.

We’re going to sell it, I finally said to her. Can you stop harping on it and try and enjoy what little time left here we do have?

She lightened up only because she got to drive two hours. By the end, Jake was carsick and had to pee so bad the whole car had to sit silently, lest a small giggle break loose the dam. We got back and I took the boys to the pool and sat in the sun.

We have to stop arguing. I am defensive and angry- my back is against the wall. No one is going to let me keep this place. She thinks she understands my attachment to things. She doesn’t. It’s layers and years of love and hate. It is a push and pull, back and forth. Yes and no.

Trying to make me pick one of them only made me miserable. I never chose. I loved them both. It did not save me from any pain for Jeanine to be angry with her.

Everything feels fresh again. Like the wounds have all been stripped raw. I’m anxious and impatient. I feel tense and hypersensitive to everything.

I want her things and I don’t. It feels good and it feels incredibly unsafe. I feel the red flags popping up everywhere. I have gone too far over the edge. Things were never perfect. There is a great deal I do not miss and will never miss. Jeanine’s tugging only hurts. It makes me feel alone.

Jeanine has to stop fighting against a ghost. My mother is dead.

I don’t want to be in the middle anymore.

She can drive two hours for lunch.

I can sit by the pool.

The kids can choose between each parent’s specialties without the tension of an argument sending them for cover.

Either way, the condo will be sold.

It’ll be over soon.

And it will never be over. I need Jeanine’s help. Her understanding.

Not two-hour car rides to prove my love and willingness to compromise.

(Photo is by Jake. Yes, that is me holding the sandwich in a pink shirt. No, I did not frame it. His choice to focus on the sandwich. )


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