Warning! This post is a bit personal and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Hopefully, you can relate, but if not, come back tomorrow. If your family is dysfunction-free and super duper fantastic, you might as well stop reading now. Sometimes, instead of paying for therapist, I use my blog instead. What can I say? I’m cheap.
Last few weeks have been nuts. I’ve been working on cleaning the house, a.k.a mostly throwing junk in the closets to sort it all out later (it will happen!) I’ve also been trying to get some work done on this blog so I can focus on my mom’s visit. And then I started seeing some posts about Lufthansa pilots’ strike. My first thought was: “Oh, here we go again.” Followed by:”Oh, no! My mom is flying Lufthansa tomorrow morning!” I was envisioning a nightmare of her being stuck in Frankfurt not knowing why the plane to Tampa isn’t taking off like it’s supposed to.
Fortunately, she left right before the pilots were scheduled to go on strike. Phew! I was so happy to greet her at the airport, you have no idea. My kids were also thrilled to see Basha. That’s what they call my mom, short for “babushka”, which means “grandmother” in Russian.
We were eating at airport’s Chick-Fil-A when suddenly my mom realizes that she got someone else’s bag. What the what? I looked and sure enough, it has Etihad Airlines tag on it. Here is the crazy thing. Before my mom left from Belarus, she attached a piece of red tape to the luggage. You know, so she wouldn’t mix it up with another identical bag. Apparently, someone else had the same bright idea, and the joke was on both of them. And me.
So, back to the check-in counter we go. They told us to wait till they fully unloaded the aircraft, which took over two hours. In the meantime, my mom is freaking out like nobody’s business about her real bag never showing up. After all, it was full of presents. I told her all that matters is that she got here safely. Well, we finally got the darn bag and started on our way home. What was supposed to take 1.5 hours turned into 3 due to traffic accident. Thankfully, it wasn’t us.
Too much of a good thing?
Most middle-class families who have relatives on another continent usually see each other once every three to five years. After all, it’s so stinking expensive. Of course, miles and points open doors to more frequent visits. That can be a blessing and a curse…
As much as I love my parents, we are a highly dysfunctional bunch, and no, I’m not kidding. When we get together, the dysfunction gets dialed up a notch. Sadly, my husband has to deal with it all, and he is quite a trooper…usually. Unfortunately, after second visit in one year, I think he finally reached his breaking point. I mean, who asks their husband to vacation with the mother-in-law twice in one year? I do! And we are not talking separate rooms, but staying in the same condo.
When we were in the Keys, I had to get something from the car, so my husband went to the rental without me. My mom was there watching the kids. When I finally made my way to the apartment, I’ve noticed that my husband wasn’t there. I asked mom, and she wasn’t sure where he was. Then she proceeds to tell me that some stranger tried to get into the apartment and she wouldn’t let him in. I told her it was her son-in-law!!!
I knew just where to find my husband. He was sitting in the van, alone, staring into space. I got in, and he asked me if I could possibly book him a room in a hotel. He couldn’t take it anymore. He just wanted some peace and quiet, a place of his own. I managed to convince him to please put up with it for few more nights and he agreed. The next day he felt bad for saying it. He was just super tired and all of the commotion and driving around got to be too much.
Unfortunately, my mom and I also got into a huge fight. The trip was going relatively well, but she wanted to do some shopping at Family Dollar. She said she needed to get some trinkets for her co-workers. I did take her to several stores in my hometown, but we never got a chance to stop by Family Dollar. I wish we did.
We were planning to visit Key West that day and had a long drive ahead of us (close to 2.5 hours one way with stops). So, I told my mom we would make a quick stop at a Family Dollar first. And so we did. After she got her stuff, I told her we need to get going. This is when she lost it and started yelling at me.
Mom: Why are you hurrying me? I want to take my time. You’ve been treating me like a second-class citizen. Don’t worry, I can pay for this stuff myself.
Me: A second-class citizen? I’ve been doing my best to make your visit as enjoyable as possible. We went through a lot of trouble and expense to bring you here and this is what I get in return? You think I don’t want to pay for this junk? Maybe next time I’ll just mail you a box of Family Dollar goodies instead. Nothing I do is ever good enough.
And it just escalated from there. Here we were, standing in the middle of Family Dollar and yelling at each other in Russian. I felt like I was sixteen, still living at home. Same argument, different continent. My kids were standing near me saying: “Mommy, don’t be mean to Basha!” Dysfunction extravaganza.
Finally, my husband said we are going back to the condo and packing up. He had enough. We did manage to make peace and set out for Key West.. two hours later than planned.
Unfortunately, this argument is like a zombie, and we just yelled at each other via Skype yesterday with my mom telling me that she was mistreated. We did finally patch things up, though (for now).
And she was right!
Obviously, I’m not saying that she is completely blameless. But as she correctly pointed out, she was exhausted due to jet lag. She also loves shopping. It means absolutely nothing to me, but that’s her fun. Yes, she liked Key West and all, but I honestly think she would have been just as happy to hit some stores instead.
My mom is also a control freak (like me) and is used to calling the shots. Here in the strange land, she felt helpless and depended on me completely for translation and transportation. The “money” thing is a weird quirk in my family, probably because my parents are poor. When I’m trying to get her out of the store, her mind automatically assumes that it’s about money somehow. I really should have just let it go and end the argument on the spot. But I’ve never been good at walking away from a fight.
Despite these few incidents, I don’t regret bringing her down here. Sure, we could have spent the money and miles on a family trip to Hawaii and avoid the poopstorm. But my mom wouldn’t see the grandkids and wouldn’t experience Florida Keys, which she thoroughly enjoyed.
Me, kids, mom and the trash can few hours after the argument occurred. Can you tell?
We can probably fly to Hawaii later on, but my mom will not always be able to come down here due to health problems and age. You can run from dysfunction or you can embrace it, or at least try to limit it when it’s within your control. You choose miles and points programs, but you can’t choose your family.
When my mom was going through airport security checkpoint, I stayed there for as long as she was within my sight. Despite all the craziness, I got tears in my eyes because I didn’t want her to leave. In my head I was already planning her next visit to US (but in 2018 or later). Hmm, Hawaii? Don’t tell my husband!
When we got home, I asked my son what was his favorite part of the trip. His response: Shopping for toys in Family Dollar.
Basha would be very proud.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.