So, the Hoyts are back in town. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I wrote at most 1k words while out of town. Mostly because of heat. We were clocking in the eighties and nineties. Okay, nothing weird for CO at this time, but 50% humidity or better, and local culture hates fans.
We actually don’t have air conditioning in the new house. This will be fixed once I finish Revenge and get paid. It will go to that, mostly. BUT even without air conditioning, we’re a mile high, which means we can open all the windows at night. And we have frigging airplane-sized fans moving the air, so even in the heat of day it’s not that bad.
With nineties, high humidity and no air movement, I was sweating like being in a shower CONSTANTLY and at night, I just couldn’t sleep. My own skin touching my skin HURT. I was in a constant state of sleep deprival.
Maybe that’s why this trip was sort of a midlife crisis rolled into two weeks.
I know this will sound daft, but I didn’t realize that when I moved away to pursue… well, my life, I was cutting drastically down on the amount of help and support I could give my parents as they aged. They don’t really need it yet — not really — rather they’ve felt stymied by not being able to help me, at least to the extent of taking the kids so I could work on my career when I was younger.
You see, Portugal is … tribal? Clannish is more like. Tribal too, but not as much as other societies. It was part of my parents’ duties to further my progress in my chosen career and they really couldn’t do that, except by sending us gifts which sometimes kept their grandkids fed, but which to them is neither enough nor the form they would have chosen.
I’ll confess part of me wishes I could have sent the kids over in Summer when they were late elementary through high school. I probably would have done it, if it weren’t for 9/11. 9/11 meant I’d have kitten fits putting the kids on a plane without me. I’m also not sure how either of my independent-minded not great at reading different cultures kids would have done. I think my older son would have got it, but the younger would have spent a lot of time speaking the unspeakable, so to put it.
Anyway, what’s done is done, and can’t be undone, and regrets won’t mend anything.
Weirder and more revealing was my realizing — now I’m about the age she was when I left — that my mom does love me. She just has issues of her own, which makes expressing that very hard. She spends a lot of time talking through forcing me to accept gifts and buying me inadvisable food. If you’re sitting there saying “Duh, of course your mother loves you” you don’t understand. I spent most of my life there fighting mom, and absolutely convinced she loathed me. There’s reasons for that and issues I will not go into in a public blog. BUT … yeah, she loves me.
And we still can’t live together. Give me another week there, and we’d be at each other’s throats just like when I was a teen. Part of it is that mom lives within certain parameters and that I was born with fists clenched and disposed to ask “You and whose army?” even at sensible solutions, much less at weird, culturally dictated ones. Just an example, before the big family party, I was cautioned not to talk to anyone about my work. Now, look, mom has done this before, where she threw herself across a big room when someone asked “so what do you do for a living?” and yelled “she’s a housewife” before I could open my mouth. This time — I’m 53, and I have very little space for nonsense in my life anymore — I said “WHY?” And she looked confused and blinked and said, “They’ll say your husband doesn’t make enough to support you.” I appreciate her attempts at protecting my husband’s honor, and hell, she might even be right for the village grapevine, but gods above, she’ll never get that “we won a million dollars in the lottery” would be followed by “cool, more time to write.”
So, my internal parameters have shifted (it’s nice to know she loves me) but it doesn’t change anything.
The whole mid-life crisis bottomed out on the plane home, probably because I hadn’t slept in 20 hours and had slept no more than 4 hours a night for two weeks before that. I went into this big depression because I felt like I had — to put it in a weird but the only way I can — “lost me.”
I don’t know how to explain this. I didn’t regret moving. I didn’t regret my marriage, and I’ll never regret the boys, but I felt like I was holding two halves of me, and I couldn’t make them meet in the middle.
Part of this is that I met a lot of me in airports. Slim Portuguese girls with adidas bags on their shoulders, rushing along.
But understand 99.9% of them will go back and live quietly wherever they came from, in the expected path.
Portuguese immigrate, sure, but usually as couples. And there the big thing is “don’t let the kids marry abroad or you can never return.” And if single males immigrate, they usually come back, marry a local girl, settle down. Or at least (like a cousin of mine who married an Englishwoman) they send their kids back.
It’s not a normal thing for Portuguese Women to go away and not return, and it’s even less normal to BECOME something else.
And on the plane, in the midst of a depressive crisis I couldn’t figure out how to reconcile the two halves. It took older son noticing I was crying and starting with twenty questions, until he elicited that I could FAKE fitting in Portugal when I was young, not now, but I always felt like an exile.
He says the way to reconcile it is simple. I just was an American born tragically abroad. If that requires pre-existence of the soul, so be it. If it requires my being a genetic freak, so be it.
He says I am what I am and shouldn’t feel the need to justify it. And perhaps he’s right, even if I still feel guilty I couldn’t be what family and tribe wanted of me.
As for the more material regret: My parents are well, but I can see the bend in the road. I’d like to be able to visit them every year for the next ten years.
Yes, you know it, that means I must make a lot more money.
So, I’ll go unpack bags, then unpack boxes. And then work.
I guess this midlife crisis ends where they all do: I am what I am. I don’t regret my major decisions (Oh, some of the details, but who doesn’t?) Now I’ll make the best of what I have.
It is perhaps symbolic that we returned home on the day of my civil ceremony anniversary, when Dan and I got legally married in York County Courthouse in South Carolina, so it would make getting religiously married back in Portugal six months later, easier.
Those promises I made? Best thing I ever did, even if it send me careening down a path my younger self would not be able to understand.
All is as it should be.