“Where are you going?” Mac asked, as Jen stormed out of the room. “To Australia or New Zealand!” she shouted. Mac knew that his wife was struggling again; and this was her way of communicating that she couldn’t take much more.
“What happened this time?” Mac asked. He remembered that Jen was scheduled to visit with her mother and father earlier and usually that was enough to awaken her emotions. Jen was an adult, but her parents still had a hold on her. Their words could transport Jen to back to childhood, a time of neglect and pain.
“The usual”, she replied, “a shouting match, a few drinks, more arguing and then more alcohol. Honestly Mac, I think they drink more than ever before! Why can’t I change their behavior? Why won’t they see what they are doing to each other?”
Mac lifted up a quick prayer for wisdom and understanding and prepared to have another talk with his wife. Her visits to her parents had to change or stop. He couldn’t allow her to step into the past each time she walked into their apartment.
“Jen, come sit down,” Mac invited. “Let’ talk about this again. You can’t change them” he calmly said. “You can’t control their insane behavior. In fact, it isn’t your place to change anyone. Haven’t you heard this in your recovery meetings?”
“Jen,” Mac pleaded, “you have to quit visiting them alone, let me come along with you.”
“You know Dad; he is so bull-headed, he wants what he wants when he wants it. If Mom doesn’t move fast enough to suit him the tirade begins. Your presence will annoy him even more.”
“I’m not afraid of him or his temper tantrums.” Mac said.
“That is part of the problem,” Jen added. “He feels like he has to get in the first and last word with you around.”
Having been raised in a similar home life, Mac understood the dynamics; he knew that Jen couldn’t change her parents’ behavior. He learned the hard way that the only changes anyone is able to make in their lives are changes in themselves. He finally recognized after 2 years of talking things out with a counselor that he could only control himself. This is something Jen would need to learn as well. But, Mac knew he would not be the one to teach that lesson. Jen will have to learn it just like he did.
Mac turned to his wife and asked, “I am curious about something. Why do you say you’re going to Australia or New Zealand every time you get to the breaking point with your mom and dad?”
Jen hesitated a moment, smiled and replied, “My counselor asked me the same thing last week. I didn’t know then, but I do now.” She paused, taking in a deep breath began to explain. “When I was in sixth grade I had a geography project. I had to research everything I could about the culture, terrain, history, government, religion and the people of either Australia or New Zealand and write a report.”
Mac was stunned. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“I’m getting there,” she said. When dad was a child his parent took him to Australia for vacation. It was a time in his childhood that was very memorable. This project brought back memories for him of a time when he was very happy; right before the accident that took his mom and dad from him.
He worked with me on that school project, enlisting the help of mom. It is the only time I can remember ever feeling such peace and happiness and love. We all worked on my Geography project together and when I received an A for my grade we celebrated together. I know it sounds ridiculous, but that was the only season of happiness my memory will bring back to me.”
Mac had suspected something like this and hearing her story he grinned. He pulled the envelope, containing two airline tickets out of his pocket and handed it to his wife saying, “Happy Birthday, hon, let’s make our own memories!”
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