This Saturday My Parents Are Coming Over For Dinner For The First Time Since I Moved Out Twenty Years Ago

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This upcoming Saturday evening my parents are, for the first time ever, coming over for dinner. My step-father and my mother have never set foot in any of my apartments before, despite that I’m not nervous (yet) but I am wondering why offering an invitation hadn’t occurred to me sooner.

Most of my apartments have been rooming houses with neighbours made up mostly of alcoholics, burn-outs or simply crazed lunatics so I understand completely. And it’s not like I’ve been overly receptive to her visits in the past. When I first moved into this apartment I was still deep into post traumatic stress and just angry all the time, so when she showed up one night with her dog I stood in the doorway and… well, I was non-communicative and looming.

Actually there was one time my parents were in one of my apartments… three years ago I invited them over to my last place so I could tell them my girlfriend had just miscarried. It was also the first time they found out she had been pregnant.

…the most depressing image I have ever had burned into my brain was watching my mother spark up at the idea of being a grandmother as I told her about the pregnancy, only to have her collapse when in the same sentence I told her about the miscarriage.

This is actually something I’ve felt a lot of resentment over. My parents have never had a problem visiting with my younger brother in any of his apartments. When our step-father would show up to give Younger Brother a ride someplace he wouldn’t wait in the car, he’d come right into the apartment and maybe have a pop. Meanwhile I’d have to take two buses and wait in a shopping mall for an hour until our step-father showed up for our meeting.

I’ve never really been a pleasant person to be around. I understand this. I almost never smile. I hardly speak. I get frustrated… and I am not good at small talk. My Younger Brother is outgoing, he laughs and smiles, he’s funny and great with the banter.

When they walk into his apartment for a tea and some biscuits they know there will be positive answers to “how are you” and “what’s work like” because he’ll have actually done something… whereas my answers range from “my sleeping pattern blah blah…” to “you just don’t understand, will you please just read a fucking book”.

Plus his sink is never filled with dirty dishes and I don’t think he has ever lived with cockroaches. And this is the first time I’ve lived on my own and owned a couch and dishes…

There are all kinds of reasons I can find for them having never been over for a meal, a coffee or a chat. Which is what makes the resentment I felt over the years seem more than a little misguided and maybe petty.

I’m not sure if the insult coming from mom staying in the car while I loaded up the truck was greater than the insult I was giving to myself for living in conditions where my mother felt it necessary to avoid visiting. But I didn’t have the capacity at the time to understand her perspective so I assigned both insults to her.

And because I was unable to reason my way to associating her behaviour to my situation, that her not visiting was a consequence of my inability to keep my shit together, the resentment became set. And because it went unresolved for so long the resentment became behaviour without reason.

Which was why when she showed up at the door to this apartment about a year ago I blocked her from walking in and stayed pissed off at her for hours after she left.

Recovery doesn’t just mean taking pills and getting treatment and trying to figure out what behaviours are yours and which have been caused by the disease. Recovery is also trying to break the patterns of behaviours you’ve picked up because the disease made it impossible to reason through situations.

I’ve been angry with my mother and step-father for years over the differences in how they treated my brother and myself, and I’ve been resentful of my brother for his ability to create an atmosphere where our parents feel comfortable.

But it wasn’t their fault my parents didn’t feel comfortable visiting their eldest son in his 10×14 rooming house apartment… and it shouldn’t be a problem that my brother can hide his dirty dishes and empty take-out boxes under his blankets before our parents get to his apartment.

Left untreated I was incapable of changing my situation, so the anger and resentment were aimed at the people who made me feel angry and resentful towards myself.

So… I’m cooking some chicken breasts, I’ll probably just use a light flour batter mix. I’m also picking up a non-creamy potato salad and a cold dish made up of mushrooms, peppers, onion and other things in a vinaigrette sauce. I’m not sure what vegetable yet… probably steamed broccoli. I don’t drink alcohol but I’ll try to pick up the latest offering from our (award winning) local brewery… I haven’t had it yet, but it’s supposed to be as dark as Guinness but with a light, spicy flavour and it comes in a really cool ceramic bottle.

They’re bringing desert. Now I just have to set up a dinner music play list and wash the dishes and the floors and the bathroom, and dust the shelves and hide all the crap on my desk, and vacuum… and make sure my neighbour takes a night off from smoking pot.





About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Health, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Poverty, Pregnancy. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to This Saturday My Parents Are Coming Over For Dinner For The First Time Since I Moved Out Twenty Years Ago

  1. thordora says:

    Changing those habits, forcing ourselves to step beyond it-hard as hell. I’ve been doing a lot of things that would have once given me anxiety, heavy, paralyzing anxiety, and once I made the movement, it wasn’t so bad.

    Rebuilding bridges with people has been harder. Thankfully, I never really alienated family, unless you count a friend who always seems mad at me for taking drugs.

    Easy tasty chicken-poach chicken in a mix of heavy cream, white wine and tarragon-boil down til saucy. Eat over potatoes. Tastes like a million bucks, and makes your place smell divine.

    I hope you have a nice night. You deserve it.

  2. XUP says:

    The people who are supposed to love you the most are also able to hurt you the most. But I figured out after a while that hanging on to resentments was only making the hurt fester. Letting go is hard, but feels so good. Now, when I’m in a social situation with certain family members I find it easier to pretend they are just acquaintances so that the things they say and do won’t bother me and so I’m not tempted to get into any past issues with them. All the best on your dinner.

  3. giannakali says:

    I hope your night goes wonderfully well…

    my father has never once visited me anywhere I live and he truly has no good excuse…I’ve always been able to pull my shit together for visitors…even during the years I lived in slovenly style.

  4. whanderingdharma007 says:

    I think I can understand your situation with your brother and your parents. Sometimes I feel like my family thinks that my brother made all the right choices and I made all the wrong ones.

    Thank you for sharing the ‘Don’t Drink and Don’t Die’ website with me. I greatly appreciate your help and concern.

    Wishing you all the best,

    Whandering Dharma

  5. jocelyn says:

    I’m very socially anxious too, and I find that making small talk with my parents is almost as bad as with strangers. The five months or so after college, where I was unemployed, depressed, and living at home with my parents, was sheer hell. They would ask literally every time they saw me what I’d done recently to get a job.

  6. thanks for your kind words about my blog. i hope your dinner goes well… i’m sure it will 🙂

  7. Marcy says:

    Best wishes.

    Particularly because I, too, understand that my resentments are just as valid and just as invalid, and am having a hard time moving beyond them without feeling invalidated, or continuing with them without feeling invalidating.

  8. aikaterine says:

    Glad to hear you are not too nervous (or not nervous yet). Broccoli sounds like a good choice, it will work well with the pepper mushroom side. And tell us how it goes – please.

  9. bromac says:

    I have had a helluva week and am so fried i can’t come up with anything to say except: Good Luck! I am sure it will go off well.

  10. zoom says:

    I hope it goes well tonight Gabriel. Try to relax and enjoy your dinner party.

  11. Lydia says:

    Good luck! It’s too late I’m sure, but I always keep in mind that I can have pizza delivered if all else fails.

  12. giannakali says:

    how’d it go Gabriel…we await with bated breath…

  13. Clare says:

    How was dinner??? Mmmm maple chicken.

  14. Gabriel... says:

    Everything went great… ten minutes after my parents left a friend came over and we were on the PlayStation until 2am so I just woke up twenty minutes ago.

    A craft beer from my friends brewery for my mom, cranberry juice mixed with Club Soda for my step-father and a concord grape juice with Club Soda for me.

    Large stuffed green olives, soft baguette from a local bakery with a locally produced butter as I prepared the salad.

    A salad made from chunks of orange and yellow peppers, tomatoes, radishes, sliced locally grown mushrooms and lettuce, with a sundried tomato and oregano dressing.

    Then I served chicken baked with a store bought glaze made from pear, apple, sesame, garlic and onions. I threw some whole uncut carrots into the baking dishes ten minutes before taking the chicken out.

    On the side I had a Jicama Mango Coleslaw and a Tzipora Mushroom Salad, made from button mushrooms, red and green peppers, celery and spices in a vinaigrette dressing. I served it (cold) over white rice.

    Mom brought a lemon sorbet and a homemade fruit salad for desert (chunks of kiwi, raspberries, cantaloupe and banana). Which we had with tea.

    Canada and Russia are just about to go into overtime in the finals of the World Hockey Championships so I’ll write about the actual visit later on… thanks to all of you for your best wishes and thoughts (prayers?) over the past couple of days. They helped.

  15. giannakali says:

    wow…that sounds totally awesome…

    good for you…

    I want to hear how the interpersonal stuff felt like, but you sound upbeat so I’m guessing it all went well…

  16. bine says:

    wow … you’re making my mouth water and i’ve just finished dinner an hour ago …
    glad it went good. the whole evening sounds great.

  17. thordora says:

    i’m yeah, I’m coming to your house next time Im home, and you’re so totally cooking….

  18. Pingback: After Dinner Debriefing « …salted lithium.

  19. Pingback: Some Things I Learned About My Recovery From My Trip Back To The Big City « …salted lithium.

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