I just finished a four-day stint staying at my mom's place in Ansonia, CT. I will say that I love my mom, but I'm glad it's over. My mom still lives in the tiny apartment that I grew up in, and now it's cramped since my aunt and her boyfriend currently occupy the bedroom that was once mine. Guess where I had to sleep?
As the years go by, I realize how much I have grown apart from my family--both my mom's side and my dad's side. It doesn't help that I don't tell them everything that goes on in my life. That's mainly because I don't really know how to relate the life I live to them. Any time that I try to it's met with confusion and amazement. ("You rode your bike between Minneapolis and Milwaukee? Why?")
After all I live in Portland, the vegan-hippie mecca where everyone rides bikes and hates Wal-Mart. (Well, maybe not everyone, but at least amongst my people.) While I'm from blue-collar roots (and did work in a factory for awhile) I hang out with artsy types that went to places like Oberlin, Hampshire, or Evergreen State. And I sure could use some more money, but don't always worry about it.
The closest thing to a career that I've had is my art. The folks ask me each time I return "How is your art doing?" and I tell them "Fine." I know they want to hear that I'm making good money off of it, a living if you will. While I am getting more freelance illustration gigs these days (the secret: learn how to draw bicycles) I know they really want me to be drawing Garfield or something. Something that can be licensed and seen on Hallmark Cards. That's where the money is.
How can I relate to them that I don't want to draw Garfield? That commercialized comics done for the sole reason of making money nauseates me? But people relate to money more than they can to artistic vision, my parents are no different. And I know they mean no malice, they want me to do well, better than they had. They know that the life of a "bohemian" means lots of rice and beans and no health care (and dental care, you should take a look at my teeth. Actually, you really shouldn't.)
How can I express to them that I like the non-standard life that I lead? Yes, I could use some more dough, to pay off debts, get teeth fixed, put some money into the bank. (When I get back to PDX, you better believe I'm going to be working a lot!) But money doesn't provide me happiness. I'm happy volunteering at non-profit spaces, participating in community-based projects, drawing my li'l comix, riding my bike, and hanging out with freaks. I don't want to own a car or have a house in the suburbs. I don't want to watch TV every night.
The family is expanding and contracting at the same time. Both of my grandmothers have passed away over the last two years, leaving only Grandpa Granton (my other Grandpa died back in 1981, drinking himself to death to cope with working two full time jobs--two full time jobs--most of his life) as my sole grandparent. Yet my stepsisters keep on popping out the babies (up to four). I was surprise to learn that Darcy, my stepsister closest to me in age, just had a kid this year. (She also just got her masters, which is even more surprising to me than her motherhood!) And these are nieces and nephews that I'll never get to know, since my contact with my step-siblings is nonexistent.
I visited my dad on Wednesday night. He picked me up and drove me to his house in Watertown (about 20 miles north). It's a nice little cottage overlooking a lake, and it's the only house he's ever owned. After working his whole life and going in and out of debt, he finally got a house at 55. And getting closer and closer to retirement age, he worries about how he's going to pay off that mortgage.
As for my mom, I can say with certainty she will never own a house. First, she's not the type, and second, barring an inheritance or lottery jackpot, will never have the money. She'll be living where she is now until she's forced to move.
Probably the weirdest thing now when I go make my infrequent visits to Connecticut is seeing how my parents age. It's gotten quite noticeable. What can be said for two people approaching 60? I wonder how much I'll look like them.