26 September 2009

My Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad Vacation

My last vacation = one week of my life I'll never get back. In fact, it was one of the worst weeks of my life. In addition to being jet-lagged and travel-weary, I feel like complete and total crap.

What happened, you ask?

Well, without going into details, suffice to say that my mother, who has always been very religious, has become an intolerant, judgmental zealot. Add alcohol into the mix, and she's completely off her rocker. I had an inkling she was unhappy about something from the moment we arrived, but things didn't come to a head until our fourth night in my parents' house.

Having nitpicked at him for days - including telling him, on the very anniversary of his mother's death, that he should be glad his mother died the way she did (suddenly, painfully, of pancreatic cancer) - my mother's seemingly irrational hatred of my husband boiled over. Off came the kid gloves. That night she baited, harassed, and outright insulted my husband, who left the table rather than lose his temper with her. Then she argued with me when I had the temerity to stand up for him and call her on her outrageous behavior. Despite my best efforts, I found there was no reasoning with her.

Even though she drove us from the dinner table, she still wouldn't let things go. And when we decided we'd taken enough abuse (around 8:30 that night), she chortled, jeered, and all but danced with malicious delight as we packed our bags and left. And my father, who I have always considered to be a logical, thoughtful, rational individual, stood by her side and said not one word to stop her.

We spent the last two days and nights of our vacation in hotels, trying to salvage what was left of our week - while I tried to make some sort of sense of what just happened.

I am flabbergasted. Gobsmacked. And, it goes without saying, completely devastated. That person who hurled insults and cackled at our anger and discomfort is not my mother. It seems that when she turned 80 this past February, some switch was thrown in her head, turning her into one of the ugliest, hateful, most passive-aggressive women I've ever had the misfortune to know. Dementia? Mild cognitive impairment? Possibly. I may never know the real reason. All I do know is the person who needled and jeered at us is a stranger. An irrational, abusive, fanatical stranger.

My mother has always said that when I turned 13, I became someone she didn't know. Now I suppose it's my turn. She wouldn't even entertain the possibility that she had crossed a line. Wrapped in an impenetrable cloak of self-righteousness, even when we were leaving in the dark of night, she staunchly maintained the tenet that She Is Right. Always.

I hope she enjoys being right. Because without a genuine and sincere apology - and a demonstrated change in behavior - it's cost her a daughter.