I love King Lear. But just today, I find myself wondering which I'm more like, Regan or Goneril.
I'm feeling guilty, and frustrated, and doubly guilty for being frustrated.
I see my Mom growing old; not seeing her for a while makes the changes more apparent, perhaps. And the changes scare me, more for my own future than anything else. Yeah, I'm selfish enough to know that things will be pretty sucktastic for me if I hit my 70s.
But back to Lear. Remember when he wants to take his retinue to stay with his daughter, because, after all, what's another 100 mouths to feed? They won't be any trouble at all! We're "supposed" to sympathize with Lear; his daughters should take him in, should care for him in his old age. It's a no brainer. They should take some time off from work to make sure he settles in, to take him here or there, or just visit. And if he tells them how to run their households, to bring a sweater, to get this other brand of toothpaste, they should listen respectfully because he raised them, and he's older and wiser than they.
It's part of our mythology, that in the "old days," children took care of their parents when they grew old. But, as historians of western Europe will tell you, it's mythology, and not how households were usually organized from at least the middle ages on. Certainly all those colonial types who left "the old country" didn't bring the 'rents along. Nor did the pioneers have a "mother-in-law" apartment above the ol' Conestoga.
But it's still a potent myth, isn't it?
And there's the rock and the hard place, Scylla and Charibdis, of how to deal with the reality. I think my Mom's articulating her own frustrations more fully, too, both with my sibling and myself. I get the feeling we're both big disappointments in the family responsibility department. Usually, in the past, she's pretty much held my brother exempt from criticism, but not now. And while at one time I would have been glad not to be the only one subject to criticism, now I feel doubly defeated. She's critical, but at the same time she realizes that she didn't spend her middle age taking her parents or in-laws on family vacations. It's just the rock and the hard place.
Of course, we're neither the first nor the last family to hit these issues. It's same old, same old back to Leir.