Latest update: March 6th, 2012
I am writing this letter in tears. I am a newlywed visiting her parents and am breaking down. Many people do their utmost to make a good impression while their children are dating or engaged, but this facade cannot be maintained forever. In my case, it has collapsed.
My husband and I walked through the door of my parents’ house to be greeted by an avalanche of chaos. There are mattresses, pillows and blankets strewn all over the living room, since the air conditioning is not working upstairs where many of the bedrooms are.
The kitchen is a filthy disaster, coated in grime and cluttered with piles of dirty dishes. When my parents are desperate to clear some space, they move leftovers and dirty dishes to what used to be a functioning guest room — only to have them be forgotten in a cloud of putrid odor.
There is no prepared food; the fridge is filled with rotting leftovers and I am in despair over how to feed my husband. We are not wealthy enough to eat out three meals a day. Cooking is difficult because there is filth covering every available surface near the stove, and other family members crowd around everywhere in a frenzied attempt to fashion a meal for themselves amidst all the chaos.
We are to be staying for several days, yet have no way to do the laundry since the basement is flying with everybody’s belongings, and trying to maneuver a way to get one’s stuff in and out of the washer and dryer causes much territorial tension.
The bathroom has not been cleaned in almost a year, and the shower is covered in mold and mildew. A couple of hours ago my husband stepped out of the shower only to find no towels. With no one around to hear him yell for one, he had to fish one out of the overflowing hamper.
On a more serious note, my father is unemployed and sick, and my mother just had her work hours cut. Since walking through the door, I have had not one conversation with either of them that did not include the mention of sickness, economic doom and gloom, and finger pointing.
My two sisters who still live with the folks are of marriageable age, one in her late 20’s and bitter. It is a strain on my marriage to have to “tone down” my own good fortune of having found my zivug, for fear of provoking the ayin hara (evil eye); this a strain that rests mainly on my shoulders since my husband could care less.
My other sister is married and refuses to visit the folks because the contrast between our family and that of her husband’s is just too humiliating. She once decided to do my parents a kindness and spent $20 on some new, much needed kitchen supplies for them. I know that my sister is not only reading this article, but is certain that it is me writing it — and I hope I am not breaking her heart by revealing that my parents are STILL using the same old grime-encrusted cutting boards!
I came here with my laptop hoping to get some work done, but the wiring in this house is defective and my laptop won’t work. I am writing this in a hurry because my sister will be home any minute and kick me off her computer.
To top it off, my husband is playing the martyr and pretending that everything is okay, while I suffer. I wish someone would give me some sympathy.
Nowhere to turn…
Congratulations on your marriage — to a man apparently able to maintain his cool in the most awkward of circumstances.
Due to the scant details your letter provides, one needs to do a lot of reading between the lines.
Many questions come to mind, such as: Were your parents expecting you? Did you live at home with your parents before you were married? If so, how come you were unprepared for the scenario that greeted you? Have you not been in touch with your parents, or with your two sisters still living at home, lately?
Generally speaking parents delight in having their married children over, especially at holiday time, and it is in the nature of married children to look forward to spending quality time with their parents in the secure comfort of the home environment they grew up in.
Both you and your parents may have started out with the noblest of intentions, but then reality set in — when it was much too late (or too embarrassing) to do anything about it. But look at the bright side: your painful experience may have been heaven-sent.
Be grateful that your eyes have been opened to the fact that your ailing parents are overwhelmed by their own daily needs, let alone the burden and stamina it takes to feed and entertain guests.
It’s time to set your own grievances aside. You are one of four sisters, enough of you it seems to manage a feasible and effective plan to get your parents’ affairs in order and to ensure their long-term upkeep in all areas.
You may also wish to keep in mind that there are wonderful chessed organizations more than willing to assist the needy, but they can only do so for those whom they know to be in need.
Everyone is busy, blah, blah. But that does not free us of the obligation to support one another. Kibud av v’eim is, moreover, not fulfilled via a 3-minute weekly or monthly call, or a drop-in visit for the holidays or at your convenience.
Chances are your parents didn’t abandon you or let you fend for yourself when you were dependent on them for all your needs.
It’s payback time.
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About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.
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