To grow old is hard, family is complicated…
Disclaimer: I probably shouldn’t hit the publish button on this one. It may seem like another rant or maybe self-congratulatory at times. It isn’t like that, so apparently I hit the publish button anyway.
My dad isn’t getting any younger. He’s been enjoying retirement for a while now and is often busy in his garden and in the neighbours’ gardens. Gardeners know that there is a lot less to do, when winters settles in. There are a couple months when, apart from a little bit of this or that, the garden just has to be left alone.
During such times, my dad reads a lot and to occupy his hands, he tinkers in his garage. Maybe he repairs something, maybe he builds something. It doesn’t really matter, he keeps occupied so the days go by.
Last year, he decided to lace some bicycle wheels a little differently. He spent a whole lot of time doing 2 bicycle wheels with off-centered hubs. Why? You may ask? Well, just for fun! It amused him.
Once the wheels were on the bike, he hoped his grand son would find it fun too. When you ride, it goes a little up and down. it feels weird, it is funny actually!
It didn’t go well at all. His grand son wasn’t much interested. There was no break on the bike so that made riding it kind of unsafe.
So my dad looked for new hubs, the sorts that have integrated brakes in them. I think these are called drum brakes. And a couple weeks back, we finally found some in a flee market. He was super happy!
Spring was here and he was busy in his garden but he took the time to redo the wheels, with these new hubs, because my brother had planned to come for a long week-end. My dad had to redo all the spokes so this wasn’t a small quick fix.
The bike was ready when my brother arrived. I tried it the day before and thought it was quite funny too! I felt like I was drunk cycling actually!!
It didn’t go well upon arrival
However, when my brother arrived and saw the bike, he was not happy.
Him and my sister in law kept bitching about it as well. “Why does he do that?” “We wanted to go cycling and now we can’t“. “Cycling is the only thing we can do here“. “The kids don’t like it” “Why does he do that?” “Why does he not understand it’s not funny?“
I could tell my dad was very disappointed and they didn’t see it or care. It broke my heart. It pissed me off.
How the week end went after that you may ask?
They arrived Saturday for lunch and took off after lunch to go buy some saddles that cost more than the bikes, because the ones on the bikes were too old and hurt their buts.
It looks all the rest of the afternoon for them to try to install them. They kept bitching about all the bike being old and of course about the bike with the off-centered wheels so at 8PM, my dad reluctantly started removing the wheels. Because they really wanted to go cycling the next morning. Yeah right! You would need to get up before 11AM for that but whatever.
When I saw they had their hands in their pockets watching him struggle, I started helping my dad. We still didn’t have dinner when we usually are almost finished by that time. Normal wheels and brakes were back on before we finally settled for dinner.
Sunday morning came and they didn’t go cycling.
My other brother came for lunch and we spent pretty much all afternoon together, a very nice long kind of French lunch. So no cycling performed.
Sunday evening went by quickly and they still didn’t go for a ride.
They had shopping to do on Monday morning and were leaving on Monday afternoon. I left before them but I’m pretty sure they did not touch the bikes on that day.
Yes, all the conundrum and bitching was for nothing.
Anything else? Yeah obviously!
It didn’t stop there. My brother complained about the taps, the shower, the table cloths… After my dad spent his time fixing the bike, he even complained that his shorts were dirty!
When he comes to see my dad, he doesn’t do anything. The only thing he ‘handled’ was the replacement of the heating system and it still isn’t finished, 2 years later!
My other brother is the one replacing the taps one by one. He’s also done some electrical work update.
If you don’t do anything, at least shut the f@$!ck up!
A couple things came out of this
I was so glad to leave on Monday. I rushed before lunch to hit the road and free myself from their complaints. In the car, reminiscing, I realised a couple things.
My brother and his wife are like American tourists arriving in Italy and complaining that there are too many people speaking Italian and that there are no Fettuccine Alfredo (there aren’t a thing in Italy!).
They arrive in the countryside where my dad lives and want it to be the same as it is at their home.
My parents house was never fancy and some upgrades and renovation would be good. Does it mean they are allowed to shame my father because the wallpaper is dated? I don’t think so.
But it hit me that I probably had a similar attitude a couple years back when I was coming. It took me a while, to understand that my parents didn’t want to do renovations because it would be too much stress for their old bones. It took me a while to realise that my mother couldn’t see the dust so well anymore…
I once had the same snobbishness of sort and it pained me to see it so clearly now.
They behave like they have rented an AirB&B, not to be with him
My brother comes with his family and it’s like D day and the house is a mess from all their stuff. They go shopping, they get up late, they go to bed late because they watch TV. They are on a totally different schedule and my dad has no choice but to adapt to their wills. They do not respect his schedule, his usual time to go to bed or eat. They come to his place as if they were renting an AirB&B and there is someone there that was left behind and they gracefully agree to feed such a person.
Most importantly, they do not come to do things with him. My sister in law actually complained that my dad doesn’t want to do things with them. He doesn’t want to go visit a museum or a zoo. Really?! What a surprised.
They don’t even realise that they are the ones who do not want to do things with him. They could garden with him, they could tinker with him in the garage and they surely could have learned how to change a wheel on a bicycle, that week-end!
Once more, I realised I was like this before and it was painful to think of all the times, I used my parents’ house as a base. To go visit the Loire Valley castles, to go see old friends… Painful to think of all the times, I behave in a similar way, uninterested to what they wanted or had to say. Because clearly my life was so much more! I was once just as stupid and self-centered as they are.
And then I realised… My brother doesn’t know how to connect with his father.
Here, the first thing that came to me is that it’s not an easy task. It looks easier in other families but the grass often looks greener elsewhere. My dad is a quiet man. He doesn’t say what he thinks. He nods when you say the thing he was thinking, as he noted when we were changing the wheels and I said I would bet they weren’t going to cycle all weekend.
He used to go along but as ages takes its toll, he can’t be bothered anymore. If he doesn’t want to do something, he just vanishes in his garden.
Indeed, it’s not easy to connect but not impossible. My brother isn’t trying at all. All of the above doesn’t help.
I know I was like that too. I’m not sure I really know either how to do it now, but I know I’ve come a long way.
And the last thing that came out of this is that I should be thankful to my brother. For he is the asshole I used to be and no longer am, because he didn’t want the Indian.
Ah the Indian! If you don’t know about it, you can read about it here. I’m pretty sure I explained somewhere that my brother didn’t want it and it broke my father’s heart. That is the real underlying reason I started renovating it with my dad. Because of my brother. Too bad for him as I get a glorious bike and I finally found a way to connect with my dad, in a way he will never understand.
I understand it’s not easy to have kids and I’m grateful I never had any because I know I would have messed up, trying not to mess up. Yet I see things, and I can easily say that my nephew was much happier Saturday afternoon, working on the Peugeot with his grand father and I, than he would have been riding a bike with his parents. Well, he told me so too, so it wasn’t hard.
What I saw again though, is that despite my best hopes, my brother did not learn anything from the experiences we had the last couple years. The title of the below piece doesn’t make it clear, but this is where I cursed my brothers after my mom’s passing and my dad’s heart surgery.
One seems to be trying to redeem himself, the other one is apparently unredeemable.
The curse stands and I can see how it will go!
If you’ve read up to here, and haven’t gotten any helpful insight, I’m sorry. I wasn’t writing this just to bitch about my brothers. I did write this to not forget but I also wrote this because I thought it important to remind myself, and maybe others, that what annoys us most in others, is our own reflection.
Or in other words: What we hate others for is what we hate about ourselves.
This is something I often come back to, when I have a disagreement with someone or in circumstances like the above. To grow, to see myself and improve.