This summer has been hot, sticky and oppressive. I ache for free movement. I long to feel relaxed and have some fun. What I have really been longing for is to escape up to the cabin. That is a privilege I relinquished when I chose freedom over manipulation. It has always been a sore spot for me. Each Christmas I receive a card from a cousin that has a few summer pics from their time at the cabin, my cabin. Last Christmas it really got to me. I felt the sadness rise up, then the anger and resentment and lastly the guilt. The guilt that I had cheated my children out of summer days cooling off in the lake, learning to ski and hours of fun tubing with their cousins. Sitting on the end of the dock with my toes in the water was my happy spot. This summer, with everything shut down and no where to go to escape the heat, I have been longing for the cabin. The urge has been so intense that for a brief moment I even considered heading up mid week when I felt certain no one would be there, I came to my senses.
Last week I was talking to a friend and she shared a story about a recent visit up to her cabin. Ping, there it was, the reminder of what I had lost. A few days later while I stood at the kitchen sink washing up dishes my mind was free to wander. The awareness came crashing in. I had been carrying a guilt of taking something away from my children that was never theirs. She had taken that away long before but would have played the game and dangled the carrot until it suited her to pull the rug out from under them. Years ago she made a passive comment that my family was just to big for the cabin, implying that I never would be a co-owner. Yet, while around my father the talk was always when my brother and I took over ownership. A few years later, with my husband present, she made a passive aggressive comment that it would be best if my brother took over ownership as to not burden us. I nodded knowingly and my husband, who didn’t miss a beat, simply responded “it’s yours to do what you wish”. After she was out of earshot he whipped around and said “what just happened there?”. I told him this was her game, he was finally seeing it. The cabin was always meant to go to my brother. For whatever reason I had never put two and two together until a few days ago. My mother would have played the same game with my children! She HAD been playing the same game with my children, I was just blind to it. The grief bubbled up, my stomach churned and I got nauseous. I had been so accustomed her to treatment that I didn’t think much of it but to think she had it in her to treat my children the same way brought out such deep, repressed feelings. I had bought into the game that she loved them dearly when really they were game pieces that she manipulated whenever she felt like it. As I slowly washed the last dish gazing out my window I felt the guilt begin to break away. I had not cheated them, I had not taken anything from them. Although they will not have the cabin in the ways that I did, they also will not be controlled and manipulated by her sickness. There is a price to everything and with her the price is always steep.
I knew that I needed to write about this experience yet the words just wouldn’t come. Each time I passed my computer I got a nagging feeling that I needed to write before the vividness of the moment got lost. Nothing. Yesterday I called to check on my grandmother. She’s nearing 100, lives on her own and isn’t taking visitors due to covid-19. While we chatted she mentioned that a cousin who lives out of state was coming up for a visit and she and her sister would be staying at the cabin for the week. I took a deep breath in anticipating the emotions I had been feeling to rear up. This time I wasn’t triggered, I didn’t react. I commented that they were going up at the perfect time and would have great weather, I meant it. As I hung up the phone I remembered how my mother would use my family as the reason this cousin couldn’t use the cabin. She hated that they would ask to use it but didn’t want to be the bad guy so it was me she would throw under the bus. I checked in again with my feelings but still none of what I would usually be feeling. I had released my attachment to the cabin and was free to begin forging my own path. Today it was hot again, rather than being lost in the resentment of not having the cabin I had clarity, I told the kids to put on their suits and grabbed the towels. To the beach we went to cool off and break up the monotony. After a couple of hours of hanging out in the water, chatting and getting a bit sunburned we headed out for ice cream. We had fun, shared a few laughs and are creating memories, memories that won’t be tainted with manipulation and control.