Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ch 7 Primo wants to know why I won’t be BFF with Doris and I feel sad for Doris, mean for not wanting to be her friend, and then kind of annoyed that I am being put in this position, because a woman in her 70s who doesn’t have friends – that’s on her, not on me

Primo: Why aren’t you nicer to my mom?

Me: What do you mean? I am nice to her. I cleaned her refrigerator. I helped with the cooking. I tried to have conversations with her. I made the broccoli her way, even though her way is wrong and wasteful. I did not argue with her. I did not argue with your dad, even when he was being a screaming jerk. I pulled weeds from her garden. I cleaned her garage. What else should I do?

Primo: You're not sympathetic to her.

Behold the face of a person with an ice-cold heart.

 Me: Yes I am. I think her life stinks.

Primo: But you are not her friend.

Me: I can’t be the person who she tells all her secrets to and who comforts her.

Primo: Why not?

Me: Because that is way out of scope for our relationship! I can be friendly, but I can’t be her friend. I can’t be the person she calls to complain about your dad to. I cannot reassure her out of her loneliness and desperation and anger.

Primo: She doesn't have any friends.

Me: I can’t fix that. I can be friendly – and I am – and I can be nice to her – and I try to be – but I cannot be her confidante. It’s inappropriate. She shouldn’t tell me intimate things about her life. There are things I shouldn’t hear.

Primo: She tells me that kind of thing.

Me: Exactly! She shouldn’t be telling you, either! I don’t ever want her to tell me about their sex life. Or about how unhappy she is. Just the idea of it makes me really uncomfortable. I don’t talk about that kind of thing with my own mother. Why would I talk about it with yours?

Primo: But she is so lonely.

Me: I know and I feel bad for her – her life is awful, but a friendship doesn’t consist of one person listening to the other person complain all the time. Your mom is so needy and I just don’t want to be the person she leans on.

Primo: You listen to your sister and your friends complain.

Me: Yeah, but they've already banked good times with me. By the time they get to the whining, they have built up a balance. Plus, it's a reciprocal relationship. I whine back to them. I am not going to whine to your mother.

Primo: You could be nicer.

Me: I think perhaps you have a different idea of boundaries from me.

Primo: Maybe.

Me: I mean, you are an adult child of alcoholics and you had a seriously ill sibling. That can mess things up.

Primo: Maybe.

Me: I have no issues like this with my family. None. You have met them. I hesitate to use the word “normal,” but I feel safe saying that my family is relatively emotionally healthy.

Primo: Mine is not.

Me: I have noticed.

Primo: I just want my mom to be happy. You see how my dad ignores her when she talks. She was so stressed when you were cleaning the refrigerator and he didn’t say a thing to her. He is not nice to her. He’s a bully. He won’t drive her to book club. He never wants to have anyone over. He gets angry when she doesn’t get supper ready fast enough. He doesn’t help around the house. He picks at her all the time. When he’s not talking, he’s seething. She has a miserable life.

Me: I know. You know you can’t make her happy, right?

Primo: I can try.

Me: OK. I will try harder. I will write letters to her and engage with her more when we visit. But you owe me.

Primo: I know.

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