My parents visited for dinner at me and Ray’s the other night, and talk was small. Between periods of silence, there was conversation about Arthur the cat, Vixen the dog, my brother at school, their new van, and other assorted things that have been conversed about almost ad nauseum. Not so many years ago, my parents and I conversed regularly and freely about faith, religion, politics, and sex. Now those subjects are hardly breached, and when they are, it’s a meticulous, creeping dance of both parties. We’re like careful mice passing quick, awkward glances as we scurry by, watched in the shadows by rats with sharp teeth, fearing we’ll disturb those offensive things.
My views on nearly all the topics we once discussed freely have changed, and I’m not the model daughter they had, sharing and preaching their views. I no longer believe in the patriarchal, male-figured God that they do. My conception of God is transforming with abstraction and mystery. As far as I can see, they believe in the same image of God they instituted me in from birth. They claim they’re voting for a man I cannot in any way condone for multiple reasons, but mainly for his absence of compassion, curtesy, and kindness. I moved in with my now-husband before we were married: a sin in their eyes.
As if losing connection with my parents weren’t enough, my parents are sometimes aggravatingly passive aggressive about the difference in viewpoints. When they arrived for dinner, my dad asked, “Where’s the master of the house?”
I said, “Excuse you?”
He continued to say, “Where’s the man of the house?” My man was upstairs getting changed, and soon joined us. Ray is the man in our house, but not its “master.” We are both happily equal partners, and my father’s sexist comment was unacceptable.
Then the comment about the once garden bed that Ray and I have unsuccessfully weeded this year. My dad gestured to the wild tangle of weeds and said, “We were just admiring your gardening, Sarah.” As if the responsibility to weed the garden beds were solely mine and absolutely necessary to a happy, healthy home.
I once was close with my former best friend, too. Last summer, she called me to say that I would no longer be her maid-of-honor, nor participate in the wedding, as we had, according to her, “grown distant.” I was infuriated, and haven’t spoken to her since. However, she may have been correct about the distance growing between us. Although she respects the beliefs of my church, which is Unitarian Universalist, she found the service strange and unfitting to her spiritual growth. That in itself was fine. We grew in friendship while we both were attending Christian-faith churches, and I had moved on from that faith. She hadn’t. She still stayed close with friends from high school, some of which I didn’t connect with to begin with. In retrospect, I can see that her close friends were not my close friends, and I struggled to converse with them. Some of them did nothing but gossip, which exhausts me.
I’m close to others now. While I’m saddened by the loss of what I had with my parents and Megan, I am comforted by the closeness I now have with others. At this point of departure from my childhood, the horizon of the unknown can still be daunting. The transition has been slow, lessening the impact, but the process is nonetheless painful.
Because I’ve changed, I have lost and gained. Because I’ve changed, it seems my parents are angry. Because I’ve changed, I’ve been in and out of limbo. My life is now much more mysterious than it was. I’m never lost, though. The answers are within me and appear at the right times. Do I face my fear and try to explain the new sides of me? Will my parents still love me? The answers to these questions are still covered in the mystery.
“And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”
~ from “Changes” by David Bowie