My parents bought a house.
I didn’t even know my parents were looking for a new house. Just last year my dad said he couldn’t wait until they paid their mortgage off in a few years. But, what’s more, is that I was surprised my mom even found a house to her liking. She’s always been very particular about looking for houses when we’d move when I was a kid. She always said she wanted a house with a flat yard and no stairs in the house at all and she wanted it to be an appropriate size because cleaning it would be too hard when she got older. So, imagine my surprise when my dad sent me pictures of their new house and it has a very steep back yard and stairs and is twice the size of their old house; my mom is calling it her dream house.
This house purchase truly came out of nowhere, I sent my brother a text and he was just as confused as I was. Something seemed odd about the whole situation. The house my parents were living in until this new purchase was the house my dad said he’d retire in. My dad also needs a new car, badly. He mentioned that getting a new car would have to wait now that they bought a house that was twice the size of their old house.
Anyway, my dad called me and asked if I could come down for a few days and help them move.
“I’ll need to see.” I said.
Truthfully, I didn’t want to go back home and see my mother. I knew there would be questions about Mike and I just didn’t have the energy to explain what had happened. My parents knew things with Mike were over but I couldn’t bring myself to tell them why so they think we just broke up.
“It would only be for a few days, I just need help moving the biggest pieces of furniture.”
“Why don’t you just hire movers, dad?” I suggested.
“Oh, you know your mom…she doesn’t want to spend the money on movers. Plus, she wants to move into the new house slowly so we don’t feel rushed.”
My dad is getting older and just doesn’t have the stamina he used to, the thought of him trying to move big pieces of furniture by himself concerned me. What if he hurt himself because I wasn’t there to help him? My mother would be useless. Every time we moved when I was a kid she acted as a self-proclaimed “supervisor” while everyone else moved everything. In reality, she was just a pain in the ass and micromanaged everything. I remember one move, in particular, where my dad was putting together a bed frame and didn’t turn the screws around like my mom had wanted him to. Instead of telling him, she went to the kitchen and threw several boxes of cutlery all over the floor until my dad came to see what was wrong. She then screamed at him about the bed frame, he apologized, fixed it, and then cleaned up the kitchen while she sat outside and smoked a cigarette. When I asked my dad about it later he chalked up her behavior to being stressed out and told me to be more understanding.
It made me upset that my mom was so adamant about not hiring movers when my dad was going to be the one most affected by that decision. I also didn’t understand the point of moving in slowly, to me it just seemed like a way to drag out a really unpleasant process. Seriously, no one likes moving, why would you want to make it last weeks instead of a weekend?
I sighed and looked at my schedule. I was in between shows and had the time to help my dad out but the thought of going home and dealing with my mother made me feel exhausted.
“Okay.” I said quietly.
It would be nice to see my dad, at least. I booked a flight for the following week with a heavy heart and a sense of dread.
I knew something was off as soon as I got off the plane. I just knew something wasn’t right. When I walked past security my dad was waiting for me. He had a suitcase with him. I waved and he greeted me with a hug.
“Hi dad, what’ with the suitcase? You’re not leaving me here, are you?” I joked.
My dad’s smile disappeared.
“Your grandmother fell and broke her hip. I’ve gotta go see her through the surgery and make sure she gets home okay. I’ll be gone for a week. I’m leaving in a few hours.”
It was a lot to take in.
“Is grandma going to be okay?” I asked.
“She should be as long as the surgery goes well.” My dad said seriously, “Listen, your brother and cousins are going to help me move the biggest of the furniture when I get back, all I need you to do is box up all of the smaller stuff and load it into the UHaul in the driveway, take it to the new house, and put it wherever your mom tells you. It shouldn’t be more than a truckload.”
My dad handed me the keys to his car and told me where he’d parked before kissing my forehead and heading toward the airport security terminal.
I stood there alone and stared at the keys in my hand. I couldn’t believe my dad was going to leave me alone with my mother. Obviously, I felt terrible about my grandmother and I understood but the thought of being alone with my mother for four days made me feel like a new form of torture had just been invented. I took a deep breath and slowly made my way to the parking lot.
When I pulled up to my parents’ old house, it was dark outside. The lights were on inside the house and the shadow of the UHaul truck in the driveway was ominous. I turned the truck off and sighed. When I walked through the front door, the house was quiet and looked very different. There were boxes all over and half-emptied closets and cabinets throughout.
“Mom?” I said.
No answer. I walked into the kitchen where there were more boxes and half-emptied cabinets and drawers.
“Mom, I’m here.” I said half-heartedly.
I shrugged and went to my room to put my suitcase away. The dresser was empty but the rest of the room was still in order. I figured my parents hadn’t gotten to my room yet and decided to make myself at home. Once I was done settling in, I walked to the kitchen to get something to eat and started making a sandwich.
“Mom?” I called again.
I didn’t know if I should use the plates I saw sitting on the counters so I grabbed a napkin to put my sandwich on and then started looking for some chips.
“Were you going to tell me when you got here?” My mom asked coming from the laundry room.
“I just got here.” I said, “I called for you a few times, you must not have heard me.”
I’m sure she had heard me, the laundry room is literally around the corner from the kitchen and I noticed neither the dryer or the washer were running. She probably just wanted to make an entrance.
I took a bite out of my sandwich.
“Are you eating?” she asked, “Don’t you think it’s a little late to be eating right now?”
“I’m…hungry.” I said.
“You know, eating so late must be why you’ve gained a few pounds.” She said it nonchalantly and shrugged.
She was trying to get a rise out of me but I ate my sandwich in silence. When I was finished I told her I was going to bed and that I’d get started packing things up in the morning. She followed me into my room and made a disapproving sound.
“What?” I asked.
“Seriously, what is it?” I asked.
“This room is supposed to be for staging.”
I stared at her blankly.
“We have to make sure if the realtor wants to show the house that the rooms stay as close to clean and organized as possible.”
I was confused because the rest of the house was in disarray and the one room I had settled into was the one she was choosing to make an issue about.
“Okay, well, do you not want me to sleep here?” I asked, “I won’t make a mess, I’ll make sure everything stays organized in case there’s a showing.”
“I know you, Faith, you’re disgusting. This room will be filthy by tomorrow.”
I let a beat of silence go between us while I focused on keeping my face neutral.
“Where would you like me to sleep, mother?”
In 15 minutes I was in the basement with a sheet and a small blanket, setting up the futon. The futon was uncomfortable and my mom almost threw a fit when I tried to take a pillow with me from the bed, so I had to sleep with the pillows that came with the futon instead of pillows that were actually meant to sleep on.
The next morning, I woke up with a painful neck and sore back.
Having so much work to do actually helped the next two days go by fairly smoothly (that and some pretty heavy doses of ibuprofen to help my neck and back). My mom and I focused on packing the boxes. She’d tell me what to write on the sides and make the boxes while I packed them all and carried them to the UHaul. By noon on the first day, the truck was full. I think my dad underestimated how many boxes we would have. I drove the UHaul to their new house and started unloading while my mom told me which rooms to put everything in.
I knew their new house was twice as big as the old house but I wasn’t prepared for just how big it would be. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a fireplace, and entirely finished and carpeted basement, two storage rooms, and a three car garage. I was constantly going up and down the stairs because my mom would change her mind about where she wanted the boxes to go. She would snap at me the second I showed any sign of getting irritated or tired.
We broke for lunch and I wolfed down a hamburger from a nearby fast food place, my mom ate a kids meal.
“I don’t know how you can eat that.”
I stared at her.
“It’s just too much.”
I got up and ate my food outside, away from her. After I finished unpacking the truck, we went back home and started packing up and moving more boxes. All in all, after two days, I’d filled the truck up three times.
At the end of the third day, I was exhausted, hungry, and in desperate need of a shower. I was supposed to leave the next day but my mom wanted to try and get another truckload moved over to the new house before I left. She brought this up while we were eating dinner: pizza delivery.
I went for my third slice of pizza and my mom just couldn’t help herself.
“Do you think you really need that?”
And I just couldn’t do it. I had been listening to her make passive-aggressive comments about me since I arrived and I just couldn’t choke it down anymore.
“Can you not comment on my food choices, please? I’m not asking you for food advice and I think I can handle eating a third slice of pizza when I’ve busted my ass for the past three days moving you into your new house while you’ve stood there and barely lifted a finger.”
“If I’d known you were going to hang your help over my head, I never would have asked you to come.” She said indignantly.
“I’m not holding it over your head, I just think it’s not a lot to ask that you keep your comments about what I’m choosing to eat to yourself. And you didn’t ask me to come. Dad did.”
“Well, maybe if you had me with you to make you think about your food choices you wouldn’t have gained so much weight since you were here last. No man likes a husky woman, Faith.”
“Well, you mentioned you and Mike weren’t together, it’s clear to see why.”
I was speechless. First of all, I haven’t gained any weight since Mike died, I’ve actually lost weight because of the stress of that whole situation. I couldn’t believe she was implying Mike dumped me because I got fat.
“Mike didn’t break up with me because of the way I look, mother.”
“Then why? What am I supposed to think? You’ve been so vague about it.”
“Maybe because it’s none of your business.”
“Well, what did you do?”
“Why do you think I did something?” I asked.
She looked at me with a matter-of-fact stare.
“Mike was so wonderful. Of course you did something to drive him away. You always drive the men in your life away.”
“Well, if you have such a low opinion of me, then why even bother to ask?”
“Of course I have a low opinion of you. You never make things work with any of your boyfriends. It wouldn’t be so bad if you were successful in your career or other parts of your life, but you’re not.”
“Faith, when it comes to the important things, you’re a failure and you always have been. It’s so disappointing for me. I wish you thought of how it made me and your dad feel to hear you broke up with someone instead of getting engaged to them. All of your cousins are married and have children, they have careers. You’re still floating, messing around. It’s time for you to settle down. It’s ridiculous that I even have to tell you this.”
“So, when you had this conversation with Justin…about his need to settle down and find a suitable career…”
“Oh please, your brother has a career. He has a long-term girlfriend. Even if she is weird, at least she hasn’t been married before like the last one.”
I feel it’s important to note that my brother works as an actor, a job with significantly less job security and stability than mine and in the same career field. I couldn’t believe what she’d said but I was surprised because at the time I felt nothing.
“You’re disgusting, Faith. You jump from man to man and don’t understand the concept of actually working towards a relationship. You let Mike go and he was so much more than you deserved.
“Mike died, mom. That’s why we’re not together anymore. He died fighting a fire months ago. I didn’t do anything to drive him away, we were engaged and then he died!”
She looked surprised but wasn’t as caught off guard as I thought she’d be.
“Well, that’s a tragedy, but you’ve had time to move on a find someone new and yet here you are, alone and getting older every year with no children or family to show for it.”
“You’re right. I have no family. I have no support from you. I’m done.”
“Oh, what a surprise! You’re walking away again! You just can’t take responsibility for anything!”
Responsibility for what? I thought.
“Go ahead and call your dad, I’m sure you’re just waiting to tell him I was mean to you like you always do!” She shouted from the top of the stairs. “The little love affair you’re having with him isn’t flying under my radar! I’ve seen how often you two text each other!!!!”
I stared up at her with disgust and confusion.
“An affair? Are you…did you just accuse me of having an affair with DAD!? What is WRONG with you?”
I stared at her for a few moments and I realized that there really as something wrong with her and I felt pity. What kind of parent accuses their child of having an incestuous affair because you text your dad? Only someone who’s really unbalanced could truly believe that.
My mom continued to yell at me, she stared pounding on things and stomping her feet.
I hurried to grab my things. I refused to stay in her house for one more night. I whipped my phone out and ordered an Uber to take me to a hotel. When it arrived I threw my suitcase into the back angrily and sat in the back breathing quickly. I could still hear her throwing a tantrum and yelling at me.
I settled in the back of the car as my heart rate went down, I realized I had been sweating. I looked at my phone and thought about calling or texting my dad and telling him what had happened. But I didn’t want to let my mom win and calling my dad and involving him would have done that.
I checked into a hotel by the airport and crashed almost as soon as I opened my hotel door. The next morning, I quickly checked out and went to the airport to see if I could catch an earlier flight.
Luckily, a spot was available and I was back home with Sasha and Murphy within a few hours. I felt exhausted, emotionally and physically. As I sat on my couch the pain of the things my mother had said to me finally hit me and I started sobbing.
After a few minutes I heard a sound coming from my foyer and realized someone was using a key to get into my apartment. Adam walked into my foyer and looked at me in the living room. I was sobbing and holding onto my dog, trying to get myself together.
“Did Sean come back?” He asked.
I shook my head and continued sobbing. I manage to choke out the words: “M-m-mom…h-horrib-ble…”
Adam sat next to me on my couch and held me until I calmed down.
“I don’t have a mom, I have someone who resents every decision I make simply because I’m the one who made it. She thinks I’m selfish because I haven’t given her grandchildren….she thinks I’m sleeping with my dad because he and I text each other a lot.”
“Wait, what?” Adam said.
“I don’t ever want to go back there.” I said quietly.
“You don’t have to.”
“But…she’s my MOM.” I said bursting into tears again, “How do I just cut my mom out of my life? She’s my MOM, Adam. MY MOM.”
I started getting more worked up and Adam pulled me to him and stroked my hair to calm me down.
After I calmed down I felt numb.
“I don’t have a family anymore. I don’t have anyone.” I said.
“That’s not true, Faith. You have Zoey and Molly. You have me. You have Sasha and Murphy. And Penny. You have your awesome job and your awesome life. Your mom sucks, but I’ve always believed that you choose your family. And you’ve chosen yours. Maybe it doesn’t include your mom but it still has people who love and care about you.” He said looking at me.
I nodded sadly and he hugged me fiercely. We sat on my couch for a long time.