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This picture – which shows the view I enjoyed from the bedroom window for the last week – is a rather apt illustration of what the trip was like emotionally: equal parts sunshine and rain, with distant thunderstorms.
Travelling with the family is difficult, because you cannot just pick the wonderful moments and avoid the rest, it’s always a package deal. I would steal away for an hour in between and actually had two afternoons for myself entirely, which I credit for the fact that my mood did not crash as it had last time, in April.
I love my parents, I really do, but sometimes their behaviour stresses me out so much that I have to physically remove myself from their presence. For example, they argue with each other over the most insignificant details or facts, utterly unwilling to move a mere inch from their position and apparently unable to see how ridiculous this becomes after a while, because regardless of who got it right, it would not make any difference at all.
My mother uses a kind of vocabulary that can turn aggressive quickly – my therapist once told me the professional term for this was “invalidizing speech”, because it literally disables the people it is addressed to. I do not think she’s actually conscious of just how hurtful her choice of phrasing can become.
My father just turns entirely silent. He cannot communicate his emotions at all unless he’s had a certain quantity of alcohol – I think this is why I never learned to deal with my mother’s berating, because I never saw anyone effectively deal with it. My father just doesn’t say anything at all. And if he’s had a drink (or more), there is a short window where he’ll turn extremely chatty – the exact opposite of his usual behaviour. If he misses this point, the alcohol just turns him aggressive and loud. There was a time when he drank entirely too much and too often, about ten years ago…
So there was quite a bit of baggage travelling south with us, and more waiting. My grandmother is doing better physically now that she is in a nursing home, because they take care that she really eats, for example, and doesn’t hide the food instead. But the Alzheimer’s is progressing and she doesn’t recognize faces anymore. If you tell her your name, she’ll sometimes have an idea of who you are then, but that’s up to chance. I haven’t gone visiting this time either and am still dealing with guilt over this fact.
My great-aunt had a neurological emergency surgery the day before we arrived – apparently some kind of haematoma was causing increased intracranial pressure which had to be relieved immediately, so that caused quite a stir as well.
I’m really glad about having my privacy back, and as much as I enjoy being in the countryside, as an entomo- and arachnophobiac, dealing with all the insects living there was a handful. Starting with locusts in the folds of the curtain in my bedroom and fat spiders in the bathroom, ending with giant moths suddenly sitting on the TV screen and two dozens of mosquito bites, I was confronted with this special kind of anxiety every day. I am too afraid to remove said creatures myself, so every evening I would check the entire room before the rest of the family went to bed in case I needed help… The longer the legs and/or wings of the insects and the faster and seemingly erratic they move, the more afraid I am of them. While a ladybug sitting on my arm is vaguely unpleasant and requires immediate removal, I can do it myself and just snip it away with two fingers without panicking. A grasshopper, however, would make me scream and flail my arms like a maniac, for example, and I would be noticeably shaken for a couple of hours afterwards.
However, there also is a part of me which is sad that we had to go back again. I live in more urban surroundings at home, which reduces the insect attacks, but also replaces the sounds of nature with traffic noise and chattering pedestrians. I got a lot of sunlight and fresh air last week, and literally caught the moment when the last glow of summer turned into the first foreboding of autumn, when the foliage only just started to turn. Here at home, I am too removed from the daily changes in nature and autumn usually just sneaks up on me: suddenly, I see a golden leaf fall and wonder when that happened.