Sunday, October 12, 2014

THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

I don't really know where to start this post.  My thoughts are pretty jumbled right now.  I think it's a combination of not feeling well and being emotionally drained, so please bear with me while I stumble through writing about my latest ordeal which of course involves some rather drama-filled family issues, but aren't all family issues drama-filled? It seems to be the nature of the beast!

About 8 years ago my mother had some sort of break with reality.  It was as if aliens had swooped down and abducted the woman I had always known to be my mother and replaced her with a body double void of a mind.  She was merely an empty pod for the better part of several years.  Naturally, the specialist she had been sent to see quickly diagnosed her with Alzheimer’s and put her on meds to stabilize her condition and to slow down what he claimed would be a steady downward spiral.  I never agreed with that diagnosis for many reasons and eventually I weaned her off the meds she had been prescribed for it.  Several years later the same doctor admitted that he had been wrong and was amazed by her "recovery".  With a lot of hard work and persistence I pulled my mother back from wherever abyss she had fallen into during her breakdown. I have to admit there were times I thought I was ready for a rubber room, but I hung in there and did what I thought was right regardless of what the doctors told me.  Today, I'm glad to say my mother is thriving at the young age of 86.  The moral to this part of my story is that sometimes you have to follow what your heart and instincts say and cast aside what science and logic dictates.

I try very hard to be a good daughter.  Yes, I fall short of perfection on many levels, but there's one thing I can say with absolute certainty...my heart is always in the right place.  Because we have friends and family who live in Maine, I try to take my mother there each year so she can spend time with them.  As a person ages it becomes more important to be with all the people they love and for that reason I try to be accommodating to my mother's needs.  This year our finances didn't allow for our annual trek "home".  I felt bad about it, but if you don't have the money, you don't have the money!  It's as simple as that!

In July while visiting my Aunt Nancy she asked me why my mother and I weren't going to Maine this year.  After explaining to her why I felt we couldn't afford the trip this year, she made an incredibly generous offer by insisting that the three of us make the trip to Maine together and she'd pay all the expenses.  Because I knew how important it is to my mother to go to Maine, I agreed to let my aunt do this for us.  My aunt is like a second mother to me and after her husband died over 6 years ago, I stepped in and started doing things for her that her daughter and only living child was either unable or unwilling to do.  As a result of our increased contact we formed a very close, loving bond and she became even dearer to me than she already was.  She recently made the decision to move to Florida so she'd be closer to family so she wouldn't have to be alone any longer.  Her decision to move was something my entire family and I was looking forward to and it was a decision she knew would make it easier for all concerned when her health problems started to worsen and she'd need help.  Because I love her dearly, I was willing to be that go-to person for her.

Let me now fast forward to our vacation from HELL! The first of two indications that the month we were supposed to spend in Maine would be anything, but paradise was upon arrival I got sick and had to eventually seek medical attention because my own efforts to nurse myself back to health didn't result in me getting better...in fact, I got worse much worse.  And the second key indicator of what would lie ahead was when my aunt informed me that my mother and I would have to start paying our own way the first day after we arrived in Maine.  Yes, you read that last line correctly!  Paying our own way is rather difficult to do when we have very limited resources and was the reason why I had decided against a Maine trip this year.  Paying our own way wasn't what she had initially discussed when she insisted that the three of us take this trip together nor was it ever mentioned until we reached our destination.  She had offered to pay for everything and it was only because of her generous offer that we had agreed to make the trip to Maine.  After being completely blind-sided I took what little cash I had and bought groceries so we could eat while we were there.  I never expected nor wanted to eat out every night so cooking our meals and dining in was no big deal to my mother and I because it's what we do every day anyway.  My aunt on the other hand likes dining out and although she did eat the meals I prepared, she turned her nose up at the thought of having to eat leftovers and wanted me to cook a different meal each night.  Because I was sick the thought of leftovers appealed to me because I simply was worn out and didn't feel like cooking every night.  Obviously, she didn’t realize how sick I had gotten or else she just didn’t care. 

What became glaringly apparent quickly was that my aunt is an extremely difficult person to please at times and she expects everything to be her way right down to what's watched on television and how loud the volume is.  Nothing at all seemed to please her and she had no problem with hatefully telling us that she was not satisfied with anything about the trip and wished she hadn't come. Her obvious unhappiness about the trip made both my mother and I feel bad for agreeing to let her do this for us and we didn't know what to do to help remedy the situation and felt like we were treading on thin ice all the time especially at times when she either wouldn’t speak to us or when she did speak, she’d snap at us harshly.

Our first night in Maine my aunt had a major meltdown (crying, yelling, cussing, etc.) and I expected her to ask to be taken to an airport the next day so she could fly home, but the next morning she perked up and surprised me by continuing on with our journey. Each time she expressed negative feelings it was as if all the things that troubled her from years past had just happened 5 minutes ago. As one day slipped into the next, negative feelings seemed to be all she had and the dark cloud hanging over her seemed to darken even more.  Each time we listened to her tales of woe from her troubled childhood, I reminded her that I too had grown up in the same environment so I understood how she felt.  I encouraged her to let go of those feelings she had been harboring so she could be at peace.  And each time she raved about what a miserable marriage she had for 50 years, she never once felt any relief that she now was free of that misery.  It was as if her husband, my uncle was just in the other room and not dead for over 6 years.  It was like he still had a strong grip on every aspect of her life.  Each time she ranted I told her we'd support any decision she made and that we only wanted her to be happy. Ultimately, she needed to do whatever she thought was the right thing for her.  I guess the right thing for her was to spread as much misery as she possibly could and use my mother and I as a whipping board for all the things that had been troubling her.

All the while as we visited with people we had wanted to see while we were in Maine, she refused to allow us to include her in any of our plans.  Once when we had close family friends come to where we were staying, she went to her room and refused to come out briefly just to say hello and meet the people.  Her actions caused an awkward situation for my mother and me because we were continually put in the position of having to explain why she didn't want to meet and spend time with anyone.  Although she adamantly told me that "those people weren't her relatives and she didn't know them", at least half of them were relatives...she just obviously didn't feel the need to get to know them.  She also didn't see why I had to explain anything to anyone regarding her or her actions.  When I asked her to imagine the roles being reversed, she wasn’t able to see that if my mother and I had done the same thing while visiting her at her house, she'd be embarrassed and probably angry at our actions. 


As the days slipped away I felt as if my aunt viewed my mother and I as being bought and paid for thus we were supposed to keep our mouths shut and take whatever she dished out.  I guess she decided dowsing herself in Opium perfume even after being asked nicely to spray it sparingly because it has such an overpowering scent was a good way to make us suffer.  Try riding in a car or sitting in a room with someone who has bathed in a strong perfume and see how long it is before you feel like you need to vomit. Try having a relaxing vacation with someone who feels the need to clean obsessively or who needs the washing machine and dryer going from morning until evening.  Another punishment for us was when she constantly poured chemicals like straight bleach down the drains in the kitchen and bathroom. The caustic fumes just about ran us outside and she continued to do that even after I explained how a septic system works and how it needs bacteria in order to work properly.  No matter what was said about anything, she seemed to have no regard for my mother and me and was always right about everything all the time whereas most people automatically know strong perfume or bleach fumes in small confining spaces and people don't mix well and that when travelling in groups “compromise” and “flexibility” is the key factors in having a good trip.  For some reason she honestly seemed hell-bent on making our time in Maine as miserable as she possibly could on every level possible and her actions had me utterly bewildered.

At first by her actions had me confused and that confusion quickly developed into disappointment and hurt.  My hurt and disappointment only developed into anger at the very end after she apparently felt no need to cut me any slack because I was sick.  All the while she refused to do anything with us; she continually talked about her other two nieces, Debbie and Peggy, my cousins and constantly critiqued my brothers as being assholes for not spending any quality time with their mother or helping me with her care.  She ranted and raved and called them everything but human, yet when she talked to my cousins on the phone honey would drip from her mouth as she told them she loved them and invited them to come see her.  Instead of telling them how she really felt she opted to go the route of being two-faced and then take her anger and resentment of them out on my mother and I.  The first week we were there my cousins didn't call her and I thought I was going to go crazy from listening to her constantly bitch about them.  I finally went to see Debbie and asked her to please call our aunt because she was sitting there feeling as if no one cared about her and quite frankly she was making us miserable because of it.  My cousin promised to call and for a moment I thought all had been righted in the universe and the planets were back in alignment when Debbie called my aunt and they made lunch plans. She actually smiled and I saw a glimmer of sunshine amongst all her darkness and gloom. 

But then something happened...all hell broke loose and it was a like a boomerang gone wild.  It came swinging back with a vengeance to blindside me with what came next.   She felt that my cousins should come visit her and not the other way around even though Peggy has lung cancer and I'm sure she isn't up to making house calls and lengthy visits.  All I listened to constantly was how neither Debbie nor Peggy ever comes to see her and how they never call her and that the phone and road runs both ways.  She carried on about how none of them even expressed their condolences when her husband died and why should she care anything about them.  Listening to her talk about them got me thinking and reality finally smacked me in the face.  Not once in the last 6 years in all the times I've ran back in forth between Florida and North Carolina to check on her, to visit her and to spend time with her so she wouldn't be so lonely and so she'd know she had people who love and care about her has she ever made a trip to see me in Florida.  The road runs both ways, does it?  It looks to me like the road only runs the way she wants it to run!  As for the telephone working both ways, she rarely called me even though I called her at  least 2 or 3 times a week unless one of my many health problems was acting up and then I'd suffer in silence because it's difficult putting on a happy face when you don't feel good.  I guess the road and phone doesn't run two ways after all and it’s taken me a long time to realize that.  I also have rethought my feelings about how inattentive, selfish, self-absorbed and unfeeling her daughter has been in her life.  It really makes me wonder if all the harsh, hateful things my aunt has said about her daughter, Sharon is really accurate.  It makes me wonder where the truth really lies, but that's something I'll probably never know.  After the meltdown about my cousins she sat in her room for the next 2 days with the door closed and she refused to speak to my mother or me.  After two days of sulking, I guess she got tired of being confined and then the sun seemed to miraculously come out once again and she brightened her disposition once again.  That miracle came as a result of her calling the airline and finding out how expensive it would be for her to fly home.  At that point she expected my mother and I to change gears along with her and go do what she wanted to do like look at fall foliage, visit lighthouses and basically do anything that didn't involve our relatives or friends.  By then my mother and I had already decided that we wanted to go home.  We both had enough abuse and figured there was no salvaging this vacation. 
Most people can expect to be reprimanded for being rude, but what do you do when just the opposite happens? Okay, I never claimed to be perfect and my manners probably could use some polishing, but I have to admit I was utterly astonished for being harshly reprimanded for saying "thank-you" to my aunt at appropriate times when most people would say thank you. She declared “thank you” as a forbidden response to use ever again to her and made us feel awful for being polite.  All I know is that I'm just not cut out to be anyone's whipping board especially when I'm sick.  I know I should have just left it alone when she kept at me.  I shouldn’t have let being sick weaken my resolve. I know I was rude and disrespectful by finally blowing up and telling her "I AM DONE!" I was wrong to tell her that she ruined our vacation and it was unnecessary to tell her that she's a miserable bitch who isn't satisfied with anything.  I can admit when I'm wrong when I am wrong, but I feel justified in standing up for my mother and me after being subjected to two weeks of non-stop agony.  Maybe I could have approached it in a better way and saved the relationship, but I honestly felt at that point my aunt no longer cared about me.

I believe my aunt owes my mother and me a HUGE apology, but I can safely say that apology isn't something we'll ever get and that's okay.  I know how stubborn my aunt is and I truly am okay with how things ended.  I gave it my all, but my all wasn't good enough for her.  I can accept that.  Just like I can accept that in the long run it's entirely her loss and not ours.  Sometimes you have to cut your losses and walk away from people you love because they’re toxic and will do nothing, but bring you misery. Sure, it hurts, but time will heal the wound.  Unfortunately, she decided against taking a plane home and we had a very unpleasant road trip back to North Carolina to drop her off.  As I drove away from her house headed towards Florida it felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders and it didn't matter that I still had 500 more miles to drive until I was home again and in my own bed so I could be sick in peace. 
 

 

22 comments:

  1. Well words just fail me. All I can say is that I hope you are feeling better soon and that expressing yourself here lifted some of that black cloud off your shoulders. May the sun shine upon you my dear....

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    1. Delores, I'll feel much better after I get in to see my doctor and I get some medicine. I've been fighting a UTI and a abscessed tooth. The doc in Maine gave me Bactrim but when the culture came back after 72 hours, they called me and told me the Bactrim won't clear up the UTI I have. At that point I was already on my way home.

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  2. Karen, I think you put up with a lot from her. I know she is very difficult, from talking to your brother Brian and his wife Lisa. They do not even speak to her. This might sound harsh but, I think she has mental problems. I really and truly do. Bi-polar is what it sounds like to me. I think she should be left alone to sulk and wallow in her misery. Don't feel guilty about ANYTHING you said, She DID ruin your vacation and she treated you and your mother like crap!! I wouldn't have ANYTHING to do with her ever again. She is a very selfish and mean person. You did the right thing....just stay AWAY from her. No more calls, etc. you have done your best!!!

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    1. Debbie, I gave my 100% and she obviously didn't want that so like I said....I AM DONE! Yes, I think she has some serious issues, too and I never judge anyone by what they have done to anyone else. I figure it's between the two parties. What happened between Lisa, Brian and her happened shortly after the death of her husband...I put a lot of weight on that fact and stayed out of it. How they handled it was their business and I understand why they decided to stay away from her. I never tried to convince them to do otherwise. I feel okay with my decision to do the same. I just am not used to being treated so badly, but time will heal the wound. It always does if you let it, right?

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  3. cut the auntie off NOW. take care of yourself and your mom and screw everyone else. just cause she is "family" doesn't give her the right to abuse you; fuck her.

    now I wanna see a post from you soon that says you are feeling better! :)

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    1. Anne Marie, I promise you'll get that post. I'm overwhelmed by all the people who have come to my support. I truly feel loved and that feels so good.

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  4. Karen, I am truly mortified to hear of the bad experience you had because of Nancy. It sounds like she may be having her own breaks from reality. There is no excuse for any of what she did, and you were absolutely justified in standing up for yourself and your Mom.
    I know first hand how much it hurts to have to break ties with family, but there is a line, and she most certainly crossed over it!
    I hope you get back on track with your health soon!

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    1. Linda, I truly am okay with all of it. She showed her true colors and the reaction she got from me was one she deserved. Yes, it hurt to come to that realization, but it's one I had to make in order to feel right with myself.

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  5. What a difficult experience! All I can offer is a general reference to something personal. 15 years ago something similar happened to a woman upon whom I had relied as a stabilizer and sensible advisor. When she showed signs of cognitive dysfunction, I took her to her doctor --who found nothing amiss and recommended a psychiatrist. I had to tell her we were visiting a neurologist because people of her generation (she was in her 80s) assumed psychiatrists summarily sent people to insane asylums. Problem was corrected with a mild sedative and an antipsychotic medication. Main thing was to keep her trust in me by not showing how scared I was by what was happening to her, to let her know I loved her and would not allow her independence to be compromised. People get crazy-scared, but they still know what love is and take tremendous pains to have faith in it. By your cogent account of the episode, I see you care greatly for your aunt and I wish you all the best.

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    1. Geo, the "care" you mentioned in your last sentence should be past tense because she really did ruin my love and respect for her by how she treated my mother and me.

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  6. Karen my friend DO NOT feel guilty in the least. You went above and beyond what most people would have. I agree she needs "help". Her misery and hate was pushed on you and your dear mother. I will tell you that I would not of been as kind as you. There is only so much a person can do for someone like her and you did it over and over again. Know that you did and are doing the right thing by taking care of your mother and yourself. Rest and get well soon. Love you...

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    1. Margie, I don't really feel I did anything wrong except maybe not delivering what I had to say in a way she might have listened to me. It truly is a shame when someone chooses to be miserable and push everyone away, but that's a choice she freely made.

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    2. You did not one thing wrong.....NOTHING

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    3. That's what's so nice about having you for a best friend...we're perfect in each other's eyes!

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  7. Holy smokes what an ordeal. You are a good person to do so much for your family; you are better than me that's for sure. You shouldn't feel bad for telling off that miserable harpy of an aunt. She had it coming. I hope you feel better soon!!

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    1. JoJo, thanks...I so like that word "harpy". It's so fitting:

      1. a ravenous, filthy monster having a woman's head and a bird's body.
      2. a scolding, nagging, bad-tempered woman; shrew.
      3. a greedy, predatory person.

      Perhaps I should post a picture of a harpy! LOL

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  8. Writing this must have been a catharsis for you, Karen. Others would have been destroyed by such events but your writing outlet allows you to shed some of that which would destroy. Once you reconcile any feelings of guilt you can then find peace in whatever decision you make for your future relation with your aunt. I saw myself in many of your words and situations in which I had no control other then to persevere through each one. And then you must protect yourself. These memories will fade and while you are waiting 'for tide and time' to draw a veil over the pain and guilt, surround yourself with the protection of positives such as sunshine, things you love and friends on whom you can depend.
    I have read all the comments made by family and friend alike and lend my agreement to theirs.
    Continue to heal my friend.

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    1. Barbie, as always thank you for your words of support. It really has been overwhelming to have so many people take the time to share their comments with me.

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  9. As usual I am late to the conga line. I don't have any thing more to add to the Wise Women who commented already.
    I am glad to see you surrounded by support.

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    1. I'm so thankful for all the support I continually receive. Without it I think I'd be up the creek without a paddle.

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  10. Living that nightmare currently. We moved my husbands grandparents in with us a year ago. God help us. His grandmother must be your Aunties twin.not sure how much longer we will survive.

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