My husband tells me that I give the Nincompoops too much credit. “You’re arguing with idiots,” he reminds me (and he’s being very charitable when he uses “idiots” when something much stronger is in my mind), “they’re going to pull you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

Good point.

Nevertheless, I find myself acting just like my Jack Russell – obsessed with the ideas they have butchered, pick-pick-picking at the inconsistencies in their logic, talking louder and louder (in the safety of the car ride home) about how wrong they are. I find myself thinking in italics and capital letters more often (which is a bit much, even for me!), and I just don’t like who I am after these hold-your-tongue-for-the-time-being sessions.

So I feel justified that I only see my parents once every couple of months.

And yet, I feel like I’m wrong. Don’t the kids need to be around them, know who their grandparents are? But then, on the other hand, won’t the kids pick up on the many things we don’t want them to pick up on? Oh, but they’re family and isn’t that Important?

After yesterday’s session, I think that the balance has tipped in favor of my absence-makes-the-heart-fonder strategy. Around the dinner table, just in time to make my appetite disappear completely, a conversation escalated about immigration and all those bleeping people who are getting rich going to Florida and those others who can’t speak what should be the national language (no, it’s not Spanish; guess again). I’ve still got tooth marks in my tongue from where I was biting down. I popped up to help get dessert ready, and thankfully so, because the patronizing comments about the Catholic Church were just out of earshot (though I did catch one about how “all Catholic churches have a southwestern flair because the Mexicans brought it here” and I couldn’t help turning around and standing agape to make sure there wasn’t suddenly an imposter sitting at the table).

The conversation I didn’t hear – but had been really bracing myself to parlay for an entire two weeks before seeing them yesterday – had to do with all the reasons why they had prioritized rabbit projects and the fair above my brother’s wedding. Yes, you read that right. There’s more to the story than just that sentence, but the essence of it is that my stepmother decided that they wouldn’t go, so she enrolled the younger kids in fair projects that require them to be at the fair. Then it became a “which will it be?” conversation and now dear father is convinced his marriage will end (like the four before it) if he chooses wrong, which would be going to the wedding. This particular round of defenses came about as I was occupied with the kids in the other room. Apparently there was major tripping to make sure my hubby understood why they can’t go; hubby wasn’t buying any of it, and he said it was funny to him how the defenses escalated.

I’ve been really struggling with my role as the Oldest Child, and with my obligation to remain charitable. I’ve been really trying to muster up the courage to call, to write, to visit them. I had the opportunity yesterday, and I couldn’t bring myself to be ugly about it. My husband, in his quiet way on the way home last night, reminded me that nothing we say will matter. He reminded me that perception is reality, and for Dad’s reality is that he has to choose his marriage. (Side note: husband says he thinks this is just a power play by stepmom. Husband is not at all convinced there would be any problem if Dad went, but somehow Dad doesn’t get that…)

Nothing I can say will change his mind.

I have this feeling that, as a parent, I’m in the wrong role right now with my dad. Is this foreshadowing how I am going to feel with my own kids when they’re making their own decisions?

Lord have mercy.