Over the past week I learned about a feud that has recently erupted in my family - between my father, my aunt (his sister), and my grandmother (his mother). My parents live in western Florida, my aunt in Central - my grandma in Southern. My Grandma's condo was at Ground Zero basically for Hurricane Wilma, and so she stayed at her brother's house in a safer location; still Southern Florida, but not quite so in the mix of it all. Once things calmed down a bit and it was safe for my Grandma to go back home - my Dad offered to drive to help her get re-situated.
My dad's side of the family is very strongminded and emotionally strong in general. The women tend to be very much the ones to control the situations. However, my dad has that trait as well. (As does his daughter!) So sometimes, when a group of very strong personality types get together you'll have conflict, right? Well, needless to say this is true in my family. But..... (and there's always a "but", and in this case - there are many!)
Altercations don't happen often within the extended family. My Dad's side of the family moved away from Boston when I was 10. We were no longer involved in their "day to day" lives - nor them in ours. We only saw my dad's side of the family every 3-5 years, and so when you see your immediate family so infrequently, it's like a holiday celebration when you do fnally get together; and so any grievances that you may have with them don't get mentioned - because who wants to waste time on that? You want to enjoy the time you have, so you let it go. One would think that there wouldn't be things to even be upset over, but believe me - it happens.
My Papa passed away just under three years ago now; my Grandma was with him for I think 57 years or something to that effect. She handled it exceptionally well...maybe too well, some might say. Her brother is dying as we speak -and he's the closest person to her aside from my Papa. So she's sort of reliving my Papa's passing again. My Aunt's husband literally dropped dead less than a year ago, entirely unexpectedly - after 40 years of them being together. And on top of all this - my Grandma is coming home to a water damaged apartment where all that she has left of her life with my Papa has been damaged. Not ruined fortunately...but damaged. She has got to be feeling a little overwhelmed, right?
So my Dad is there helping her, and tensions are already running high obviously. It seems that my Grandma had a "meltdown", and unloaded 20 some-odd years worth of anger, frustrations, dissapointments right onto my Dad. Being cut from the same cloth as her - he gave it right back. Was it stuff that was silly, some of it? Sure. Did some of it have valididty? Absolutely. But unfortunately, when you don't interact with your family on a daily basis for that period of time, you don't have the luxury of addressing small things at the moment - and so it builds and builds...and then WHAM. And the recipient is standing there thinking "where the heck did this come from?". My aunt - jumped on the bandwagon with my Grandmother and agreed with her on certain issues. So, my Dad, absolutely livid about it all - drove home in the middle of the night. Which, I don't begrudge him for. He obviously was angry and hurt. He did attempt to talk with her a few days later and it was civil - but my Grandma, while very warm to me - I guess isn't that warm as a "mom" type, and I guess my Dad was less than satisfied with her reaction. AND......He feels that he's been verbally abused and doesn't need to put up with it. So he's all set with her...he's not talking with her anymore. While my Grandma may not be a warm person, I do know that she is a very proper person; I hardly doubt he was "abused". That is being rather extreme. My Dad isn't always the warmest person either...he tries, but struggles with it. All the more reason for him to maybe try and understand her reactions?
My advice to my Dad is this: Take one for the team. Both women have been through dramatic changes and devastating losses. Maybe, this was Grandma's way of dealing with everything, and unfortunately - he was in the line of fire. It happens. And besides - if you can't unload on your family, who can you unload on? Chalk it up to a bad day - she's your mom, and elderly - give her a pass and let it go. Understand the motivation of what caused her to feel like unloading, and respect that. Stop thinking "poor me, my feelings are hurt", because truly - it probably wasn't truly about you in the big scheme of things. It was a release in general. You were just the closest target.
My dad insists no - he's done with her. (Hmmmm. Stubborn. Bullheaded. Strong willed. He can't see the parallel here?!??!)
So if you're reading this Dad: Life is just too short to waste your time on stupid things like hurt feelings when it comes to a silly arguement once in 20 years, and when it's your mother. Sometimes, you just got to let it go. And it's not as if no one has never lashed out irrationally before. We all have. So cut Grandma some slack. Besides - you moved away from your family too. And you know what - you just never know - you might find youself having a similar conversation with one of your daughters some day. Life can be funny like that......