I traveled with my younger sister, The Tempest, and Sunshine to my nephew’s wedding a few months back. This nephew happens to be Angry Eyes, the first grandchild in our family to get married. What a wonderful and awesome opportunity for a family reunion. For the first time in a long time, we were not gathering for a funeral or to visit a dying relative. All of us together and smiling has become all too rare. This is no one’s fault; it just is the way it is when family spreads to points far and wide.
When we do have a chance to gather, we. have. fun. My husband once joked that my sisters and I “gave new life” to the phrase raucous laughter. I’m lucky enough to have three smart, funny, clever, sharp sisters. Each one different in their delivery and style, but none disappoint in holding their own in conversation, and observations, and fun. We are our father’s daughters: he could hold court in any room. I’m not sure any of us rise to his level, but we are interesting enough to hold one another’s attention whenever we have the chance.
Sunshine does not enjoy our silliness, as she calls it. Maybe we are silly; maybe not. What I don’t understand is how any mom wouldn’t enjoy seeing her adult children behaving like the good friends that they are; I would consider that a job well done. Sunshine does not. But that is not the point of this.
So beside the fact that we had to beg her to attend her grandson’s wedding, Sunshine really behaved badly for most of the trip. We did manage to get her there and the sisters, at least, had a great time. Our nephew married the girl of his dreams in a truly wonderful fall wedding where everything from the weather, to the bride’s hair and makeup, to the support of the groomsmen, to that dress that Lynne was wearing, was perfect! I could not have asked for more for him than he had on that day, and I was equally as happy for his new wife because she made him so happy. Ah, young love.
Sunshine didn’t smile much that day. She sat, refusing to interact with anyone, not talking, not enjoying, not really watching all the reception show-y stuff that happens… At one point she seemed to shrink away from her grandson when he came to offer a kiss and a hug. But that also is not the point of this.
The last night we were in town, Tempest and I were exhausted and got into the beds in the hotel room we were sharing. We had a room that adjoined with Sunshine so we left the connecting door open so that we could talk and do whatever it is that people do when they open that connector door. Tempest and I talked until we fell asleep, recalling the highlights and basking in the happy glow of the day. We giggled again at the comedic insertions of each sister and looked again at some of the photos snapped on our phones. I felt like a little girl again sharing a room with Tempest, talking until we fell asleep. We assumed Sunshine would fall asleep too. She didn’t.
Around 1.30 a.m., my sister was at my bedside shaking me. I looked at the clock because I felt like I hadn’t been asleep long enough to be awakened. Only bad emergencies warrant being awakened in the middle of the night like that! It wasn’t exactly an emergency. Tempest was scared of something. It was Sunshine. In the next room. Door partially closed. Every light in the room on. Screaming. Screaming! Tearing me and all of my sisters a new one because we hadn’t made sure she was the center of attention at our nephew’s wedding. Basically.
Did you get that? We, Sunshine’s four daughters, were supposed to have ensured that she, Sunshine, not the bride, was the center of attention at the wedding of her grandson. Wha?
Sunshine railed that we didn’t get her a seat in the front row at the ceremony. She didn’t like our table at the reception. She wasn’t announced when she entered the ballroom. We didn’t tell people that she was “the grandmother.” We didn’t make sure that she got all the food to eat that she wanted. Also, she complained that the food didn’t taste as good as she thought it should. If we were all going to be wearing dresses, why didn’t we take her shopping to get a dress? Our nephew spent the whole day with his new bride and only came by to visit our table twice. Go figure. She was mad about how the entire weekend had gone. And she was letting us all know what we had done.
Except… no one else was in the room when this dressing down happened. (Nod to “Hamilton: An American Musical.”) There’s nothing to see here, but if you haven’t already listened to this awesome Broadway tune when the character Aaron Burr finally decides what he wants and only nearly avoids a complete breakdown, you can listen here:
Almost every single-sided scream-fest and every ambush tirade at some point includes the phrase “I would never treat my mother the way you all treat me.” We don’t treat her right. She is never given the exalted position she deserves. Of course, Sunshine never treated her mother in such a manner when she was alive. But neither is that the point of this writing.
Back to the story: we heard every word from our bedroom. If anyone was in the hotel room on the other side of Sunshine’s, I’m sure they heard her too. It’s possible that hotel guests above and below her room may have heard. It was loud, angry, and long.
Tempest and I listened in fearful silence and fell back asleep when it finally stopped over an hour later.
The next morning, Sunshine pretended and lied when I finally asked what was going on last night. The point of the lie? To convince us that what we thought we heard never happened. We were mistaken.
So I’ve stopped asking.
We returned home with an awkward tension surrounding us. I’m always happy to return home, and this time I was super duper happy. Time with Sunshine exhausts me. Tempest was exhausted too. The only person who seemed to rest perfectly comfortably with all that happened on that trip was Sunshine. I don’t know how she does that!
The only certainty here is that my mother, the one we call Sunshine, is an angry, maybe-crazy, but certainly destructive person. And I’m writing all of this to try and figure it all out.