Thursday, July 16, 2009

Family Disonance: Vacation

I am back now from family vacation with Mom and Dad to the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Much as I feared and anticipated the trip, I come away with mixed feelings. It was trying and emotional to travel with my family at this awkward point in my transition. But it was an opportunity to connect, and I think that despite some emotional moments, it was a positive experience for all three of us.

The trip there was four days on the road, stopping each night at a different campground. Mom was looking away, with tears in her eyes often. And I had to live with the sad understanding that she was spending her whole vacation upset to tears by my appearance, actions and manner of speech. My dad also seemed down. I tried to keep a positive attitude, but by the time we arrived, I was starting to feel that I was ruining everything for everyone. Mom and I rode often looking out our respective windows to hide the tears.

When we arrived in the park I thought things would get better. But everything is so far apart in such open country that it mostly turned out to be another 4 days sitting in a truck with people who seemed depressed just to hear me talk. Mostly dad managed to stay positive once we got out into nature, but there were still moments I upset him. Mom was even worse.

Making matters more complicated, they had invited my uncle along. He is a nice enough guy, but his being there complicated things farther. It meant I had to share a room. It meant that I had to layer shirts no matter where I was, to hide the slight changes occurring with my chest; even relaxing around camp or driving. Also it meant all of us had to carefully conceal our emotions most of the time, and that discussing anything private was impossible.

It also meant more opportunities for me to inadvertently embarrass my parents. Anything I did or said, that looked or sounded to feminine, often merited extra sad expressions or even tears from either parent.

By the third night at our main camp, I was having a hard time keeping a positive mood. One night after Dad and Mom argued, I was thinking about how much I contributed to the moods that caused it. Suddenly everything seemed hopeless and it all felt like my fault. At dinner I started crying and couldn't stop. So I ate in a corner trying to keep the tears hidden. But mom noticed and asked if I was alright. I said no.

At that point I was completely unable to stop crying. After having to prepare my convertible dinette/bed in front of everyone, crying the whole time, I went to bed with everyone else still trying to talk and carry on as normal. I took my clothes off under the cover, like every night on the road. Then rolled over on my side. But it turned out my quilt had shifted, revealing most of my back. I think everyone saw a few girly angles before I noticed what was happening and managed to discretely cover up. Dad hurriedly left the room, walking very loudly. He only does that when he is upset, and so I was left to wonder if it was because of my little slip up with the quilt

I lay there feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and just wishing so much I could have some privacy to cry, to change clothes, to sleep, to just be myself. A few minutes later mom came by with a big oversized tee shirt for me. She was very sweet about the whole thing. I still cried myself to sleep, but I was feeling a lot better after her surprising show of understanding. It felt like like she had suddenly understood what difficult circumstances I was in, and how hard I was trying to stay positive and make it a good trip.

The following morning, I got up, closed myself up in the RVs master bedroom and bath, to finally do my hair properly for the first time since leaving home. I just needed something to do to cheer me up. When I stepped back out, I fully expected Mom to be angry, but instead she gave me this warm smile, and said "You know I love you, don't you?" and hugged me.

From that point on we both just tried to enjoy our trip, and things felt less hopeless. There were still some hard moments for my parents. Several times someone would see me and my parrot together at a distance and say "Look at that parrot, on her shoulder!" And I got a few odd looks on the trail and in shops and restaurants with the parents present. At one trail, there were people standing less than 15 feet away talking in a normal volume about whether I was a man or a woman.

There were positive times with Dad too. We both love landscape and nature photography, and when we were out chasing sunrises and antelope, everything felt like old times. It always makes me happy to spend time outdoors with dad. He is probably more respectful of, and more inspired by nature than anyone I have ever met. And I love taking part in those moments when he can be outside in the natural world doing the things he loves to do. I only wish we could have spent more time hiking around with our cameras.

I do think we all managed to enjoy most of the trip, and that my parents are each coming to terms with my transition in their own way. To me, family is precious, and I really want to maintain a positive relationship with my Mom and Dad. I feel this vacation was a positive step toward that. And there were times when we were all happy that I will always cherish.

I got some great photos of Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons too! But that might be another blog. Or at least a post on flickr. :P


chrissie said...

ms shandy.

I think there's a whole lot of positive things there, even amongst the tears and the awkwardness.

Your folks are maybe going to take a while but by the sound of things, I think they will come round.

It's going to be hard for themm, but they love you enough not to pour scorn and vitriol on you, and that's a real good sign for the future.

I think it will be fine.


Leslie Ann said...

Well, it sounds like Mom still has some maternal instinct remaining. It's got to be very hard on them to see others looking at you oddly. Parents always feel judged by people's reactions to their kids. I hope your Mom has turned the corner at last.

Suzi said...

Wow. I can certainly see how that trip would have its awkward times. I'm so happy your mom reassured you that she still loves you. That gesture says more than all the awkward moments...the stares out the car windows...the loud walking, etc. I believe that you need to reassure your parents constantly that you love them too. They may know it but the actual words seem to mean more...even if you end up crying after saying them. Your mom has finally given you something to build on...a foundation of love. Never underestimate the power of what, when, and why she said it...just build the building on that brick at a time. :)Suzi