Communication is good. Communication is what’s kept people from killing each other for eons. Okay, maybe communication and restraining orders, but you know what I mean.
What happens when communication fails?
Sadness. Misery. War.
In my case, the loss of a very important relationship.
It all happened very innocently. I said something to my mother and she misheard me. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that she’d misheard me until almost a year later. By then, there was so much resentment and hurt built up that our communication skills were zero.
To this day my mom thinks I said what she misheard and there isn’t anything I can do to convince her otherwise. It doesn’t even matter anymore what I did or didn’t say. What lingers is the fact that my mom has removed herself from my life.
We used to be close, my mom and I. We could talk for hours about everything and anything. We would joke that even after spending an entire day together, we still had more to say.
And then that day happened when she thought I said something and it made her mad. So mad that she doesn’t call me any more. Ever. I think in the eighteen months since it happened, she’s called me once and that was because I left a message asking her to. She didn’t call me on my birthday this year and, in spiteful retaliation, I didn’t call her on Mother’s Day.
I wasn’t proud of my decision, but I was hurt and tired of being the villain.
That’s sort of the role I’ve been put in where my mom and sisters are concerned. My oldest sister spent several weeks in SoCal over the summer and I heard a great deal about how freaked out Mom was to see me and that she was afraid I’d yell at her. I felt as if I was solely to blame for the downfall of our relationship.
Okay, it’s true when I saw my mom before Christmas last year (nearly 7 months after the incident), I let loose on her and told her everything that was making me upset. I cried, I yelled, I used swear words. I wasn’t a nice person. Somehow I felt justified in my anger because my mom had abandoned me. At least, that’s how I saw it.
At the end of the visit I thought we’d worked through the BS and we’d be good again. I was wrong.
As my sisters told me over the summer, all I did was make Mom terrified of me. So afraid, that when the four of us met for dinner, she was a nervous wreck. I spent the summer second-guessing myself and wondering what kind of monster I really was.
All of this because she misheard me. Forty-four years of love and friendship wiped away because she thought I said something that she didn’t like. It was insane to me that she could just dismiss me and my family so easily, but I refused to believe our relationship was damaged beyond repair. And so I made the effort to connect with her.
In September I took Mom out to high tea for her birthday. It was the first time we saw each other alone since that time last December and I was a little worried how it would go.
We had a great time. We talked like we did in the past and we were able to relax, although it was more restrained than in times past. I could tell she was wary and so I tried extra hard to be sweet, not confrontational at all. Basically, to not give her any reason to fear me. It felt good, but it was awkward, too. Maybe I made it that way, I don’t know.
Since then, I’ve called her a few times, but she hasn’t called me. Sometimes I feel like that movie, “He’s just not that into you”. Like, maybe I shouldn’t keep chasing her because, well, she’s just not that into me.
It hurts, but if I’m the only one trying to keep a relationship alive, then at some point I need to realize the energy and emotional toll it takes might not be worth the reward.
The holidays are coming up and I know I won’t call my mom to invite her to Thanksgiving or Christmas. I don’t want to put her in a position of saying no to me because she’s going to my sister’s house. Instead, I’ll go to my in-laws and plaster a smile on my face, trying to enjoy the festivities with his family.
I’ll eat turkey and sweet potatoes, give thanks for the wonderful family I have, but I’ll also be thinking about my real family and how much I miss them.
So, in this time of Thanksgiving, I will be grateful for all that I have in this world and that includes a mother who I know loves me, but has perhaps just forgotten how to communicate with me.
Has miscommunication ever severed a relationship with you? How did you get past it and heal?