Next Of Kin.
By Tabulous on September 10, 2012
My mom is on food stamps.
There, I finally said it.
She's on food stamps, living in a foreclosed condo that the IRS will kick her out of at any moment, with a homeless man she knew while they were in high school and reconnected with on the internet who spends his time wallowing in his OCD by obsessing over the Kennedy Assassination (they were literal infants when it happened) and eating her out of house and home while refusing to apply for his own assistance because he doesn't want the government to know where he is or information about him.
There really isn't a sad tale here, of a bad economy and hard luck and betting on the odds and losing. That would make this pill easier to swallow, make the whole situation more bearable to witness. But no, the only sad thing here is my mom's inability to accept responsibility for herself, her actions, and her issues.
Three years ago, she took an early buy-out at the university she first taught at, and then became administration at for 17 years prior. Her last five years at the university were as an Assistant Dean in the College of Liberal Arts, of which both she and I (and my husband and about half of my friends) are graduates. She took the buy-out because she felt she was failing at her job while swimming in the murky waters of high debt and an adjustable rate mortgage on the condo we lived in that was about to make it's big step up.
Her plan was to cash out her retirement, pay things off, and live frugally for about a year while she did one of the eight thousand revisions of her memoir that she's been "writing" for nearly my entire life.
Yeah, as you can imagine that didn't happen.
I started to detail every misstep she made that slowly showed her descent into the current delusional state she's in, but I realized that doesn't really matter because the end result is the same. She plays a victim to her situation but refuses to see it's self-imposed, refuses to listen to any one's concerns or valid input characterizing it as criticism or mean-spirited commentary.
And I'm furious.
I'm furious because ever since the day I was three years old and she received the phone call that her mother had successfully committed suicide, I have been enmeshed with her, being the rock she needed to make it through the day, the week, her life. I didn't realize that, growing up, of course, I just thought I had an awesome mom who rarely corrected me, often encouraged(enabled) me, and to whom I was one of the most important people/things in her life.
When my parents divorced in my teens, I villianized my father for hurting her, fracturing an already tenuous relationship with him based in rabid defense of my poor, fragile mother. I stayed with her throughout college because I didn't want to leave her on her own so soon after such a major life change. I even convinced my then-boyfriend-now-husband to live with us in that condo, partly out of my own anxiety for leaving the only constant person in my life, and partly because I felt responsible for her and her well-being.
That isn't to say my mom was secretly a terrible mom -- she wasn't, and she was often there for me. She was someone I could always count on to be in my corner even if she completely disagreed with my choices. If I hadn't been with her in my late teens and early twenties, I would not have been able to survive my own mental demons and come out on top, with a greater understanding of myself and the things required of me to live the life I want. And if it wasn't for that knowledge of her steadfast reliablility, I surely would have been railroaded into a divorce without custody of my six month old son when the damn that held in my postpartum depression broke.
But these acknowledgements are merely that -- acknowledgements that she had a heavy hand in forming the woman that I am today, for better and for worse.
The for worse part is the harder part to swallow, and only contributes to my rage at her situation now.
She is severely depressed (as she has been most of my life), but it's at a level I've never seen before. She's attached herself to a man who is merely leeching what little resources she has off of her for his own benefit, resting her future in the quagmire of a psuedo-relationship with someone she "rescued" from his own familiy who was, from her account, trying to do to him what exactly needs done to her -- an intervention.
I'm angry because she refuses to listen to anyone's opinion or concerns, deciding somewhere that her path in life is to be a self-help guru, preaching some prescribed drivel her father paid for her to be "certified" in about how catering to the male gaze will get you ahead in life, as long as you're in touch with your inner femininity.
It's bullshit and the woman I thought she was wouldn't fall for it.
My brother steadfastly believes that she's on an insane path, but that it's not our place to tell her how to live her life. My sister agrees with me that actions need to be taken and therapy had, but short of a full-scale intervention that we're not sure we can get other people on board with, there doesn't appear to be a way to reach her because she doesn't want to be reached.
We all hate the man living with her, and agree he has long since been exacerbating her situation.
But I'm so filled with rage and bitterness and frustration and anxiety because I learned from both of my parents to be a Person Who Fixes Things, and I can't fix this. I can't fix her. But to watch her deteriorate in this horrific freefall into a fantastically dark and overwhelming place makes me angrier than I know how to hold inside of myself without feeling like I'm rotting and turning black inside.
I'm afraid for her. Every time something blows up in her face or a new hardship is found I'm afraid that it will be the beginning of the end of her sanity. I'm afraid with every new crackpot venture and half-baked plan that she will only fall deeper into her dark place when it doesn't work out as she hopes. I'm afraid that her grip on reality is so loose that we are losing our ability to reach her, to explain to her that no idea or person or plan is going to save her from herself, except herself.
I'm afraid that one day I will be sitting with my young children on a sunny afternoon, they the same ages my brother and I were twenty-five years ago, and I will get a call saying that she was successful in taking her own life, and I will have to fight every impulse to pull them to me as she did to us because I won't want to burden them with that load, the load I've had to carry as long as I can remember.
I don't want this cycle to continue.
But I feel powerless to stop it.