Author Archives: Bryce Warden

About Bryce Warden

Married mom of 2 humans and 1 dog. I volunteer for tons of stuff and started a small business last year. Writing is a creative outlet for me.

Breathing Room

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Breathing Room

I watched his breathing. At times it was barely perceptible other times it was labored, loud and had some shakiness to it. I hoped and prayed that he wouldn’t die during the three hours while I sat with him. It was my first time visiting, it got scheduled the way they usually do.

Initially the hospice coordinator sends out an email to see if any of the volunteers are available for a given case. She provides basic information; the day/time preferred, the town and a general synopsis of the situation. She’ll tell us if anyone else will be in the home or if there are pets and give an brief sentence about the condition of the patient. It’s almost always some form of cancer, the second runner up is COPD.

Usually the caregiver just needs to get out a few hours for work, doctor appointments or some other urgent matter. There have been several occasions where I relieved the caregiver so they could make funeral arrangements. That is such a sad and necessary outing. Once at a support meeting for hospice volunteers, a peer complained that the caregiver she relieved went out to play poker with friends. I don’t judge what the caregiver does with their time away. Providing care to someone who is terminally ill is difficult, if you want to take time off to play poker or have a beer, I am totally cool with that.

After the first email goes out, volunteers will alert the coordinator if they can take on the case. Once that is done a secure, private message is sent to the volunteer best suited for the task. This confidential message provides more in-depth information about the patient including the name and number of the main contact. Then the volunteer calls that person to schedule the visit.

My initial call for today’s visit happened two days ago. The wife needed about 3 hours to run some errands and I told her my available hours. Ginny sounded tense on the phone, I could hear the strain in her voice. You might think that’s the norm but oddly enough, it isn’t. Most of the families I have dealt with have a poise and calm that I can only attribute to denial, exhaustion or some zen like state that I have not yet obtained. Ginny was how I think I would sound if our roles were reversed. We agreed to the schedule and I told her that I would confirm the morning of my visit just to make sure we were still on. This is a sad and necessary precaution as you do not want to ring someone’s doorbell and find out that their beloved passed away the day before. It happens.

I called again this morning to make sure we were still on. Ginny sounded the same as the first call and I gently repeated the agreed upon times. When I got to the house, I greeted their neighbor in the driveway. She informed me that she would relieve me if Ginny ran late. Then I let myself in through the back kitchen door. I announced my arrival and Ginny welcomed me from a distant room. This is not uncommon as the tasks of terminal care can make it hard to leave the bedside. I made my way to the correct room and introduced myself.

The next 20 minutes was a series of harried movements and Ginny’s out loud mental check lists and a final dose of pain medication before she could leave. In these moments I witnessed a love that was so sweet it broke my heart. Ginny crawled into bed with Bill and explained where she was going, who I was, and that she would be back soon. It pained her to leave his side though I could tell she needed to leave for her own sake. Just a couple of hours to not be surrounded by the inevitable death of a man she has given the past 47 years to, the love of her life.

In a private moment in the kitchen, Ginny told me that she didn’t understand why he was holding on. I asked if he was waiting for a visitor to say good bye, a final conversation? She said she asked him but he didn’t confide in any such need. Sometimes the body lasts longer than you can possibly imagine, other times it expires in such a rapid decline even the most experienced hospice nurse doesn’t see it coming. Death is fickle and unpredictable even to the stewards who’ve witnessed it hundreds of times.

Ginny was finally able to pry herself away and I sat in the room with her love. Saying silent prayers, reading a book and keeping one eye on my bedridden friend. He was quiet until he needed to go to the bathroom. This was indicated with hand gestures and a reach for the portable urinal. A bit of panic always goes through me in these instances. My first concern is safety followed closely by privacy.

I’m not a nurse, nor do I play one on TV. I’ve been in the trenches and I can handle a mess. What I don’t want to do is accidentally cause someone with brittle bones to get a fracture by moving them the wrong way.  My Aunt had bone cancer and she broke both her legs trying to bathe herself, it was horrible. I think of her when I’m in these situations so I air on the cautious side.

We got through it without breaking anything and he fell back into a restless sleep. His agitation level at times made me wonder if he had just hours or days left. In the nearly 10 years I have been doing this I’ve seen many patients get into a state of agitation; flailing limbs, mumbling and a burst of energy followed by calm. This has happened in the last few days of life for many of the people I have visited as a hospice volunteer.

I’m not sure if Ginny will call me again to sit with her husband. If she does, I will make room for her and Bill. I will take the experience with me and think of them when I drive by their house. It’s something I do often when I drive past the houses where I have visited my hospice friends. Sometimes it’s a single encounter, other times I spend months visiting on a set schedule. Every experience is sacred and is something that becomes a part of me. The sad truth is, we are all going to die. The hospice patient just has a little advance notice.

 

 

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That’s my business…

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That’s my business…

Today I met a client who used the word “fuck” as a noun, a verb and an adjective. She switched tenses with the finesse of a linguistic ninja, it was spectacular. The fact that this person is an ordained minister is the icing on the cake. I love my job.

I started a small business in 2014. I basically fill in the gaps for people when life gets complicated. My usual clients are elderly and they need a little TLC. I check in on them while their adult children work – share a meal, do some light housekeeping and socialize. I am the eyes and ears for loved ones when they can’t be there.

I’ve visited clients in their own home and I’ve been the jail break conspirator for nursing home residents. I used to visit a 97 year old man who was in a nursing home. Twice a week I would take him out for lunch at Chick-fil-A and each time he acted like it was the best meal of his life. It’s incredibly rewarding to be the best part of someone’s day….even if they don’t always remember the details. My lunch date never could get my name straight but he always leapt out of the day room chair when he saw me. He walked across the room with a happy purpose in his stride and a wide smile planted on his face. One time around the holidays, I told my nonagenarian (great Scrabble word) friend that he looked “festive”. He replied – “Did you say I look sexy?” to which I said “I sure did, John” with a wink. These are golden moments.

It isn’t always so fun and carefree. There are always medical concerns lurking in the background, potential embarrassing moments and the sad realization that this friendship likely won’t last that long. I used to visit Eleanore, she was 88 and had severe dementia. One day I came in for my usual lunch visit and she wasn’t wearing pants….how do you handle that you ask? I said “Eleanore, you didn’t tell me it was no pants Monday” and I promptly got her dressed. I always look for ways to add humor and preserve a person’s dignity. If someone doesn’t want to be checked on I’ll tell them I’m there to walk the dog or do laundry, we a find a way to make it work.

The saddest situation I have encountered was Ted, a man in his mid fifties with Early-onset Alzheimer’s. His wife worked full time and needed someone to check on him during the day, feed him lunch and tidy up. This man used to be an Engineer. He was well educated, had a brilliant career and then it all came crashing down way too soon. They had one kid in high school and another in college. His wife amazed me. She also had a puppy because you need that chaos as a distraction from the hard stuff. On the good days, I took Ted and the dog for a walk around the neighborhood. We had to be careful of Ted wandering out of the house when no one was there. I suggested cameras and safety locks but he still managed to escape a few times. Eventually it was no longer safe for Ted to be home and he had to go into a memory care center. That one still haunts me.

One of my earliest and favorite clients recently passed away. Pam reached out to me because she was recovering from an injury and needed some help. She was young somewhere around 60 and had a little dog that needed to be walked twice a day along with other odds and ends like shopping, opening jars, rides to the doctor and anything else she needed. We became friends and the lines for work and friendship blurred. Trips to the doctor turned into social outings of movies, lunch and Marshall’s. We remained friends after my services were no longer needed and I was heartbroken when she died suddenly last June.

I meet most of my clients through a friend or family member. My business is based exclusively on referrals as I do not do any advertising. I tend to have one or two clients at a time because I can serve them better that way. The family dynamics vary with each client but they all love their family member and are so grateful to find reliable help. They each hold a special place in my heart and I am honored to be entrusted with their care.

 

 

 

The Pedophile Next-door

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The Pedophile Next-door

When I was in my late 20’s I lived in an apartment across the street from the Atlantic Ocean in Central, New Jersey. It was an amazing time. I was newly single, young, ambitious and full of energy. I worked hard. I had a full time job, a part time job and college courses. I was disciplined and stayed focused on my goals. I recognized that I had the time and energy in this phase of life and that things would likely change at some point, so I persevered.

Somehow, I managed to find time for a social life and I made some close friends. Many of which I’m still in contact with today, some 20 years later. We would celebrate birthdays together, take turns hosting parties, we went dancing in clubs and roller bladed together on Friday nights. It was a time I look back at with fondness. It’s a mid/late twenties I would want for my kids a dozen years from now. Those memories got somewhat tainted this weekend.

I got a Facebook message from one of my close friends from that time period. She informed me that she had some gossip that I would be interested in. I didn’t see the message for a few hours and when I did two people entered my mind….one was an ex-boyfriend who I found out did time in federal prison for embezzlement…the other was my old neighbor, Paul. I’ll save the ex for another post.

Paul lived in the apartment above mine and he was a bit of an odd duck. He would never confirm his age but we had him pegged at least ten years older than the rest of us. He worked for the government as an Engineer and was also going to grad school. He was from Ireland and had lived in the United States for a large chunk of his life. He had a sister that was married with a couple of kids and a mom that drifted between Ireland and the US. While we were neighbors, he introduced me to a couple of his girlfriends. None of those relationships lasted very long, a few months at most.

He threw off a creepy vibe which was hard to pinpoint. Several of us thought he was possibly gay and not ready to come out. However, he would also leer at me and other females sometimes which was awkward and puzzling. He made suggestive comments at times that I just brushed off. It wasn’t ever going to happen. There were also plenty of times when we had interesting conversations. He was an intelligent, creative person with varied interests and lots of friends. He wasn’t all bad.

After hearing from our mutual friend, I googled his name and read a link to a newspaper article. Paul was arrested last month for viewing and sharing pornographic images of children. I don’t know if he has ever touched a child in an inappropriate way, I don’t have any further information. It’s just sickening and disheartening for those children and their families. This is a crime and an impulse that I just can not wrap my brain around. It is so destructive and vile.

As much as I hate the crime, I took a moment to think of the criminal. This person was kind to me on many occasions. I considered him a friend all those years ago. And while I knew there was something off, I chalked it off as not urgent. Was he acting out then? Did he harm his nieces? Was he abused as a child? Questions that will likely never get answered.

 

Making the Bed…..

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Making the Bed…..

As a midlifer, I have finally decided to start making the bed on a consistent,  nearly daily basis. Now I have shirked this responsibility for decades minus the rare occasion when guests were stopping by and even then, I was a keep visitors to the first floor kind of gal.

I’ve had some decent reasons for not making the bed mind you. One being, I’m not the last one in bed in the morning. The hubs sleeps later than me 99.9% of the time. I have a rule that states the person to stay in bed the longest has to make it. So I guess he hasn’t been making the bed for the past 20 years, tsk tsk. I should note that I haven’t clearly explained this rule more than 3 times so it may have slipped his mind.

The real reason for not making the bed, it’s simply not a priority. I don’t care if it’s unmade most of the time so why bother. I realize I may have wounded a few people with that last bit so let’s pause here for a deep breathe. OK, we all have different priorities so let’s just move along. So why on earth have I decided to make the bed now?

My husband commented about beds being made a few times this year. Honestly he’s probably mentioned it consistently over the past 20 years and I just slid it to the back burner of my brain. I mean, if he felt that strongly about it, nothing was stopping him from making it, right? So why now?

Why indeed? Well I guess after a couple of decades together you still need to find ways to surprise your partner. Trust me it gets tricky to keep things fresh. We still enjoy each other’s company (wink) so that isn’t the issue – I just wanted to find other ways to show him I still care. Making the bed is different for us, it takes just a sliver of effort and is something tangible.

So my new routine started about a month ago….it coincided with the purchase of some pillows and a new comforter. Perhaps the guilt of indulging on those items also propelled me. My good deed did not go unnoticed. After about 2 weeks my husband commented. He acknowledged that the bed was being made and that he liked it. Then he said I should vacuum more. This my friends, is why half of marriages end in divorce.

 

*Not our actual bed in the photo. Plucked from the web and to date, unable to identify the photographer for proper credit.

 

 

 

Alternate Universe

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Alternate Universe

I’ve managed to create this nice little alternate universe for myself via my blog. I have a handful of in the flesh friends that know about it, but not many. My blog followers, select few that you are, have come here like a gift from the blogosphere (that’s a legit word). I get a slight tingle when I see a new country highlighted in the WordPress stats. Today someone from Japan read one of my posts. No idea how or why they got here but isn’t that cool? I’m in Pennsylvania, typing away and someone in Japan just wandered in. It’s fascinating to me probably because at my age, I can still remember when none of this was possible.

For those of us over 30 (OK well over if you’re going to get particular about it) doesn’t it blow your mind how much technology has changed in the past 20 years. How much more will change in the next 20 years? I suspect we will have autonomous flying cars, artificial intelligence that can learn beyond human capability and a staggering unemployment issue and oh yes, Mars isn’t off the table – thanks Elon Musk.

What are we losing with all of this technological advancement? Do we have to lose something, is that required? I don’t know but I have observed a some things that concern me – instant gratification, loss of privacy and a lack of creativity and freedom.

I have two kids a tween and a teen. They have reasonable restrictions on device time. There are no devices allowed in their bedroom at night. For one kid it wouldn’t even be an issue as he doesn’t care at all. My daughter, on the other hand,would be up all night on Instagram, chatting with friends, making bad musically videos and would be busy not sleeping.

The ability to text, tweet, post and communicate instantaneously has helped to create a generation that expects instant gratification. Midlifers, remember when we would call our best friend in 5th grade on the corded phone on a table or attached to the wall? The phone was always located in some public space in your house and you had to push down on buttons or worse, stick your finger in the circle of the corresponding numbers to spin the phone wheel and call? And, gasp, sometimes no one answered or the phone was busy so you had to try to call them again later and move on with your 10 year old life. Kids don’t do that today. They rarely have to wait more than a few minutes to hear back from a friend and if they don’t hear back immediately, a bit of panic sets in. It’s kind of crazy.

I remember being bored plenty as a kid and I would go outside or write in a journal. We had to make up our own games to pass the time and if we were lucky we got some local kids to join in. We played spontaneously and we figured stuff out. You didn’t like everyone and everyone didn’t like you but you could usually make it work long enough for some variation of tag or cops and robbers. I don’t see that much where we live, sure it happens but it’s special when it does because it isn’t the norm. The usual here is organized activities and sports.

Kids aren’t off the leash much either these days. We need to know where they are all the time because there are bad people out there (and no sh*t, there really are bad people out there). Hell there are sneakers with tracking devices in them now….it’s kind of like Little Johnny is on house arrest or maybe block arrest. Their expectations for privacy are at the bare minimum. They don’t want you to walk in on them while they’re getting changed but most anticipate some level of monitoring of their electronic activities. Late 70’s and early 80’s kids wouldn’t stand for that. We kept our stuff private and if someone read our journal there was hell to pay. Our parents didn’t know where we were half the time and we couldn’t be tracked with a Find My Phone app. If they asked where we were we would either tell them or make up something that sounded reasonable. It was kind of awesome.

Here’s a little something to make you laugh, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

 

The Tipping Point

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The Tipping Point

Charlottesville was the tipping point for me. I watched the Vice video which opened with a parade of angry looking white men carrying torches, shouting “Jews will not replace us!” “Blood and Soil!” “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”Here’s the link in case you missed it – https://news.vice.com/story/vice-news-tonight-full-episode-charlottesville-race-and-terror

I will admit that the sinister music playing in the background added to the fear and severe disgust I experienced while watching it and I’m a white Christian. I can only imagine the horror that a minority would feel watching that. I wept for my friends for whom this hate was directed, I wept for all of us. I thought we were further along than this, we are not. The fact that I didn’t realize how bad it is….that is shameful in itself and I own that.

In the days that followed I saw a post on Facebook by an acquaintance. The post used white letters and a black background and asked something like – Has anyone lost sleep over statues in public squares? Not just now, ever?

Now I have stayed out of most of the political fray with the exception of some occasional low level snark. This wasn’t even political in my opinion, he just asked a question. I thought about my reply…it went something like this – “I have not personally lost sleep over a statue in a public square. That said, I can see where having to pass by a statue of someone who died trying to keep slavery intact would be hurtful to a person of color. Imagine being the ancestor of slaves and having to pass that every day on your way to work, school or home. I do lose sleep over the fractured state that our country is in.”

Things declined from there. The man who made the original post went on and on about art and artists and honestly I wasn’t sure if he was joking. And commented. “I’m not sure if you are joking – too soon.” Then I unfollowed him. I did post about my new found love of the unfollow button on my page and signed off to go to bed. Unbeknownst to me, this infuriated the man that made the original post.

The next morning when I logged on I could smell ash and smoke from a night gone terribly wrong on my Facebook page. The comments had been deleted by then but there were some cryptic messages from a few participants in the prior evenings rant. This man made the unfortunate choice to go after me on my own Facebook page. Foolish on his part since he is a local business man. I wasn’t present but a small army of mom friends had my back and held this person accountable. When he tried to attack me personally, they shut him down. When he tried to argue his worldview, he was outed as a sympathizer of white supremacy. Things got ugly quickly despite the fact that I wasn’t even present to argue with him.

Now I suppose I could have just scrolled and rolled on his original post. However, this was after Charlottesville, my tipping point. Silence is complicit and that is no longer an option for me. I’m not sure what my next moves will be – protests, posts, one on one discussions, etc. I do know this though, I will not be silent.

 

*photo credit to The Boston Globe.

 

My Monkey is a Prairie Dog

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My Monkey is a Prairie Dog

I attended my first Writer’s Digest Conference this past weekend in New York City. It was an interesting mix of topics ranging from improving your craft to branding and more. Lots of options for newbies and veterans alike.

I noticed a recurring theme with the variety of sessions that I attended. Writers were consistent in their suggestion to the audience members to “find your own voice”, be authentic, use your personal experiences to filter through your writing. The business end was more cautious – be authentic but not so much that you lose market share. Sigh…mixed messages. Be authentic…..BUT…..everyone knows anything after BUT is bullshit. Guess I’ll just keep offending people and not make money writing for now….double sigh.

One workshop was titled “Shut Your Monkey! How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Writing Done.” It was facilitated by Danny Gregory. He wrote a book about it in case you are so inclined….https://www.amazon.com/Shut-Your-Monkey-Control-Critic/dp/1440341133

It was an interesting topic which sadly afflicts a majority of humans. That inner voice that says you suck, you’re stupid, are you really going to eat that? The asshole that lives inside your head and spreads doubt like pixie dust in a Disney movie. Apparently most humans (except psychopaths) have this negative voice that we constantly shush. Danny Gregory calls his a monkey…..I prefer to think of mine as a prairie dog. I never know where that bitch is going to pop up. She’s kind of cute and kind of annoying and damn unpredictable. What’s your monkey?

No Paper Thin Skin

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No Paper Thin Skin

The other day I posted this on my Facebook Page:

“Informal Poll – If your kid went to a dairy farm camp and they (along with a friend) decided to name their cow “Burger” would that be considered funny or disturbing? Asking for a friend….”

Most of my FB friends thought it was funny. Except one person who wrote this:

“Are they prepared to butcher and eat it?That would be the difference between ” for real/funny” and “removed/ callous”. If my kid were in the first category, I would be immensely proud because I think we all need to own our shit, and as a parent and teacher, our kids NEVER own their shit because we have failed and created “snowflakes in climate change”!”

And with that the levity and humor was sucked out of my post. I know the person who wrote that and I like that person. I still do. It kept nagging at me though so I decided to put in under my mental microscope to take a look.

First, the use of NEVER is non starter for me. I point out my kid’s errors on a daily basis. I don’t consider myself a maker of snowflakes but perhaps that is like the crazy person who can’t see their crazy. To say someone NEVER does something would actually take some serious effort at consistency. Doesn’t apply, let it fly.

Then I focused on the term callous and that’s what got under my skin like a splinter you can’t quite get regardless of the tweezers and incessant picking. Then I came to the realization that my kid needs to be a little calloused. The fact that she is showing some grit in a humorous way actually puts us in the plus column.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to raise assholes. I’m not looking to groom my kids into soulless androids that put themselves first 100% of the time. I also don’t want them to have paper thin skin that can tear at butterfly breezes.  Once again it’s all about balance….and growing some calluses.

 

 

Mourning the Living

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Mourning the Living

Grief isn’t just for the recently deceased. Sometimes it’s for those we must purposely leave behind. We’ve all experienced it at some point….a bad break up, a friendship that can’t weather a bad storm, or a relative that is doing more harm than good. Grief paints with a broad brush.

Anger is my emotion of choice when dealing with the hard stuff. Some would call it a crutch, a better description is a shield. It protects me from the deeper, darker emotions that come from grieving the still living. My shield is past it’s expiration and the wear and tear is breaking it down, leaving me with profound sorrow.

Perhaps you have been there. Maybe you’ve experienced a relationship so broken or toxic that it is beyond repair. That’s the spot I’m in right now. The fact that it involves a parent, makes it especially harsh. So many missed opportunities for myself and my children, displaced by someone who is either incapable or unwilling to care. It’s sad and I need to allow myself a moment to acknowledge that.

Grieving the living is tricky business because it is ultimately a choice. It may be the most healthy, sane choice you can make for yourself. Self preservation doesn’t come cheap. I have spent years trying to fight the undertow of my mother’s mental illness. The constant tug to take me under while I continue to tread water is causing my head to bob up and down. It’s at my chin now and I refuse to go under any further. That leaves me with one option, to pluck myself out of the water and walk away.

Trying to balance compassion and self preservation…..

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Trying to balance compassion and self preservation…..

I’m trying to balance compassion and self-preservation and it’s a bitch. My mother has certifiable mental illness. She has a long history of mental illness issues including hospital stays for suicide attempts and alcoholism. She is generally miserable and unable to maintain long-term relationships. She has seen doctors and specialists by the dozens, she’s had inpatient stays in psych wards, has more than 3 decades into 12 step recovery and has tried every pill known to big pharma to treat depression. She has been on disability for at least 25 years for her depression so it’s well documented. Sometimes though, the lines blur between her mental illness and her just being a shitty human. Other times she is amazingly thoughtful and generous, mostly to strangers or acquaintances. She saves the gnarly stuff for my brother and me, we are the only relatives that have stuck it out.

I’m not sure when her mental health issues began. She has told me a lot about her life (too much if I’m honest) and I know she always had a terrible relationship with her brother. In fact she had a rough go of it with both of her parents as well. Was that due to their treatment of her, her mental illness or some other sad combination….I don’t know. I do know this, misery is her most frequent companion. If there isn’t something to lament about, her razor-sharp mind will find something obscure and mold it into a formidable monster.

She’s smart, so very smart that it makes pitying her as a sick person near impossible at times. Master manipulator and rationalizer extraordinaire, check and check. She can twist the most innocuous situation and turn it into filth and wretchedness. She has left a wake of destruction behind her. When she goes, she goes big, in a huff…..a cloud of confusion, hurt and anger swirling around her like her own personal tornado. It’s sad, infuriating and exhausting.

I have to mentally remind myself that she is sick. Like cancer, diabetes, MS, lupus, fill in the blank…..except it isn’t like that at all. If your mom has cancer she doesn’t typically say “I wish you were never born” repeatedly to you as a young child. Diabetes doesn’t abandon you in the state of Florida to go to New Jersey when you are 9. MS doesn’t call you a “whore” because you over did the eye shadow and lip stick at 14. Cancer won’t leave you and your brother homeless at 15  because mom doesn’t have it together. Lupus doesn’t tell you that you’re a bad person because your husband bought his dream house, the one he worked his ass off for, but it’s too big so you’re all horrible people. Mental illness and alcoholism does that, not the other diseases. So I’m a bit tired of the mental illness is just like any other disease line, no it fucking isn’t.

So now I have a 72-year-old broken down mentally ill mother who has basically treated me like shit most of my life. And as much as I want to let go of past bad experiences, they keep reinserting themselves into present day. Every time she makes an unreasonable demand or is inconsiderate I am haunted by the ghost of reason that says – “seriously, why are you doing this for her?”

Why indeed. I’m a good person and I don’t want her to haunt me when she dies and she would. I have had my share of obstacles that I have overcome and I basically cheer for the underdog. At this point I’m not sure which one of us is the underdog. I think it’s me today. Yesterday I told my mother to “fucking move then”.  What got me to this point beyond the cumulative effect of 49 years of insanity?

I bought a house at the beach in New Jersey in 1999. It was a struggle to purchase it and I did it on my own before I got married. That house was a testament to my financial and emotional independence. It was one of the most empowering things I ever did as a young woman. Fast forward 14 years and I no longer needed the house. We hadn’t lived there in years. My brother and his family lived there for 5 years and they moved away. My husband and I have a beautiful home in a neighboring state. After Hurricane Sandy, we began to worry that at some point it would get destroyed in a storm and we would lose the financial appreciation. I sold the house a few years ago and tripled my investment. As someone who had been a reluctant, accidental SAHM for a decade it felt great to make a financial contribution to my family. I also used a portion of that money to buy a small house in a nearby adult community. I bought a place for my mother because she was so unhappy where she lived. For nearly 10 years she complained about her living situation.I also thought it would be more practical to have her closer to me as she aged. My brother moved to Maine so he can’t help with medical or other issues that require hands on assistance.

Fast forward another 3 years and there isn’t a week that goes by that she doesn’t complain to me about something. Some of it is normal life stuff, a few ants, a nosy neighbor, the air filters. The air filters get to me. My mom smokes about a pack a day but INSISTS that the air filters in her house get changed on a monthly basis. She complains a lot about her financial situation which has always been awful. I bought the house so there is no mortgage but there is an association fee that she pays. She also has utilities and other bills. It is a stretch for her and I help with some of it.

The other day she called to tell me that I “had to pay” her Comcast bill so she could pay out-of-pocket to see an eye doctor that isn’t in her plan. If she said “can you help me” or “I want to go to….” that isn’t how it was presented at all. It was a command given with a bitchy tone and she went on and on about how horrible Pennsylvania Medicaid is compared to New Jersey and……..I just snapped and said “fucking move then”. Granted I could have delivered the message in a calm tone minus the expletive but she wouldn’t have heard me then. I’ve tried that approach for two years, no luck. She heard me this time.

Later I got an email from her telling me how she doesn’t expect me to pay ALL her bills. She then went on to describe how she is the victim of a corrupt government of evil ne’er-do-wells. Blah blah blah I’ve been reading and hearing this crap for years. I’m worn out I tell you, worn out. She has never taken financial responsibility for herself and she is seemingly incapable of any consistent emotional stability. This life long inability or disregard (not sure which some days) has left her facing her “golden years” pretty much broke and alone.

The biggest barrier for me though is her complete lack of interest in me or my family. She has two kind, funny, smart, beautiful grandchildren 10 minutes from her home and she could not care less. Soccer games, shows, Sunday dinners she is frequently invited and rarely shows. When she does attend a dinner she is consistently late. She shows absolutely no regard for how her actions or lack there of could have an impact on others. Again, I don’t know if this is part of the mental illness or just someone so self-absorbed that they are incapable of basic consideration. Either way the end result is the same.

So here I am again trying to balance compassion for her with my own self preservation. This isn’t new territory I know what I need to do. Take a break, don’t call her for a few days or minimize interaction until I can fortify myself enough for the next round. Once again I remind myself that this isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. I just hope I can make it to the finish line.