The family way

Still trying to process much of the weekend. Still down in Austin. Are we done yet?

For years I've heard of friends talk about their crazy families and how they drive them crazy even though they still (in theory) love one another, and how glad they are to get back home. I've always been sympathetic, if not entirely empathetic, because at root I've usually had some comfort derived from a Good Visit Home.

However, I'm feeling that less and less since the whole Texas uprooting. And this has nothing to do with Texas or Austin itself. It has to do with a balance being shifted. And since we're still in the wobble between balancing acts, I don't think it's fair to come to any real conclusions. Only that this is the first real visit I've had to the family where all things being equal, I'd rather have been in Philadelphia. Or New York.

There are many pluses to being down here. My brother sets a lovely dinner table for nine guests — including four children, two neighbors, their relatives and us — and is actually an excellent cook (though next year he could dial back the pepper in the soup). My SIL and I get along well even if I don't feel I know her very well; generally she's open to ideas and I love that she loves music. And watching my nieces grow (Syd in particular) is fun, even when they're cranky and throwing themselves on the floor at the PetSmart because we didn't buy them (okay, Syd, since Nat is too young to do anything other than eat, sleep and expectorate) a horse action figure. Side note: Horse Love has hit Syd already, and she's just over three. An ad for a horse trading card set came on TV last night and she was mesmerized. When it ended she said the horses made her sad. And yet she was delighted. It was interesting to see that horse love manifest, because I knew exactly what she meant.

So there's that. But my mother is a different story; she's just all over the place emotionally, not settling in well here, and not doing much about it. She says over and over how depressed she is, and when you say "well, maybe you should see someone," she just kind of nods and later on you hear how depressed she is again. And she's becoming more and more inflexible — and more like her mother in her later years. Tonight after a furniture-moving incident that she didn't intervene on but which had her pissed at us for not asking first, I felt a weird sensation akin to when I was younger and I knew I was in trouble but I wouldn't know what for. But she doesn't yell now because we're too old for that, she just gets surly and quiet and sits on the couch and doesn't say anything except to oy and vey and say how this makes her more depressed.

On top of all of this, my local friends in Maryland, who I could always see when I went home for a visit, and whose presence balanced whatever stresses were going on at my mom's, are no longer visit-able from Austin.

This is not fun. And it's not fun to come home to. And while family life is never fun all over, it should be some of the time. Things I do as a matter of course seem to annoy her — like, say, using the computer instead of watching hours of TV — and things she does like she's always done — like asking me where I'm going every time I leave the room for 30 seconds — annoy me no end. Her volatility is unpleasant, her moodiness unbearable. I'm not sure where this is all going, but it's not going to get better until it gets worse, and that really doesn't feel like a place I feel like going right now. Plus, there's a limited amount I can do to make a 60+year old woman do what she doesn't want to do from a thousand-odd miles away.

So, a surprise in the messing with of Texas. As it turns out, I don't mind Austin so much at all. But suddenly, I'm not all that into the reason I came down here in the first place.

I won't be back until Thanksgiving. And I wish I could leave in the morning.