My mother climbed on a bus today, with her cousin (the one whose garage is currently holding my stuff in storage), to go off on one of her regular casino excursions. Earlier this morning she got up and showered and dressed. When she goes out, she always looks well put together. Anything she puts on always matches, and she always puts on a watch from her vast collection of watches to match her clothing. My mom and Joan Rivers, two watch queens. Before she left, she pulled my attention away from my computer to comment on how great she looked, how summery her shirt was, and seek my confirmation of her visual congruence. "Uh huh. Looks nice" I said.
Such a relief to have her be out for the whole day. My inner space can expand outward once more to envelop its surrounds. Mostly it doesn't care what those surrounds are, as long as they are unpopulated by other humans. The only thing still noisy and interruptive around here at the moment is the clock my Uncle Peter built and gave to her as a gift. A Dutch immigrant to Canada long ago, my Uncle Peter is now gone but managed to live a long and healthy life. He married my dad's sister, the youngest in a family of nine living siblings, the second-youngest of which was my own dad. My dad and aunt were from a dirtfarm family, born between world wars, the tail end of a succession of children made to toe stiff lines by parents who were sternly religious in a Calvinistic sort of way. Dour. No fun allowed. Lots of work. So many older siblings. No particular personal attention. Lots of physical punishment. Lots of churchy activity.
My dad rebelled by learning to play music on a violin. He would sneak away and go for music lessons from his high school teacher who lived a few miles away. If he came home after 10 PM he could expect a good thrashing from the stern patriarch of the family, my grandpa Carl, who brooked not even a slight hint of disobedience. From anyone. My dad grew up stunted in many ways from this lovely upbringing he had. I think he was likely chronically depressed from birth, but faked his way through life, mostly adequately. He got away with being stoic and quiet, because when he lived, that is what men were supposed to be anyway.
My Aunt Ella, the one who married Uncle Peter the Dutchman (so handy with tools and able to build anything out of anything), was the closest to my dad in age and close observer of his treatment by his father. On the day of my dad's funeral, when I asked her how she had felt when her own father had died, she disclosed that she had felt quite fine, was glad to see him gone, that he had been a real tyrant. It was then I found out, for the first time, that all my dad's life, pretty much, as a child, he'd been especially singled out to be physically abused by his father.
The things you don't learn about your own family by attending funerals, when everyone's guard has been lowered, or else breached, by grief.
My Aunt Ella, unlike my dad, has been an endlessly cheery person, extroverted enough to keep up with my mother. In fact they are quite good friends, these two old women. Aunt Ella's rebellion was to cut her hair and wear a bit of make-up. Both of which were taboo in her family of origin, and both of which were adopted by only one other female sibling out of five.
Anyway, Uncle Peter came along and managed to charm the old patriarch, Carl, with an old-fashioned approach - asking for Ella's hand in marriage from her father, maybe even before he asked her. Uncle Peter cracked, then translated into English, coded messages during the war for the Allied forces. He was highly mechanical, understanding heavy equipment well enough to be able to maintain a whole isolated prairie power station, himself, for decades, employed by the province. In his spare time he built things, useful items, from scratch and from kits.
The clock he gave my mom is one of his many constructed contributions to the world. It doesn't run on time anymore, as he is no longer around to maintain it periodically, but it still sounds nice, chimes out the hours abut 10 minutes before the actual hour. A clock like that is nothing I'd ever have in my own place, as I would find it too intrusive, but my mom likes it because she liked Uncle Peter a lot, and because she likes noise. She's extroverted. Noise feeds her brain. Her brain organizes itself around externalities whereas mine organizes itself around the still place in dead center of its own quiet world, inside its own inner space. Which, when I live alone, I can easily find and orient to. Living with my mom, not so much.
Temperamentally I am more like my dad was, although outwardly I'm like a carbon copy of my mother. She is a "field-marshall" type, in the Myers-Briggs sense. Me, I'm more an INFJ. What I find irritating is her need, compulsion really, to organize every breath I draw, in advance, as though I was still 3 years old. She always has. It has taken me a very long time and a lot of space between her and me for me to find a good boundary to erect between my life and her version of it. Staying in her spare room for three weeks has been quite a test for that boundary - it's still holding but I can hardly wait to move into that place of my own on Saturday, and I'm so happy to have this day - this precious day, to myself. Well almost, except for the clock sounding, reminding me every 15 minutes that this is not my space.