It all began when her grandmother, my other m-in-law started becoming noticeably worse right after the beginning of the year. Ann and I were talking about things that we could do, especially to take some of the burden off Ann as taking care of her mother was becoming a full-time job. Ann said that if she could just get help for a few hours in the evening, it would make such a difference.
I suggested that we ask Alexis; after all, she wasn’t working, and this would be perfect. She could earn some money by spending two to three hours in the evening with her grandmother with whom she has always had a wonderful relationship, make sure she took her evening meds, ate something, put her to bed, and make sure the house was secure (as in no stove burners left on or doors left unlocked). I felt that it would also be a good way for Alexis to get back in the habit of having somewhat of a regular schedule without jumping into full-time work right away.
Ann and I both thought that it would be a win-win situation, and I thought to myself that I might even ask my ex if he could contribute a bit of funding if necessary. All that was needed was my daughter’s cooperation . . .
I called Alexis and left a message for her to call me as soon as possible. No response. The next day I left a voice mail as well as a text that she really needed to contact me regarding her grandmother. She called me the next day. I made my pitch.
I talked a bit more about how it wouldn’t require that much of her, just a commitment to help out five evenings a week, and perhaps some weekends.
Apparently, I was not being clear. I mean, it was actually a fairly easy proposition, not requiring that much of her time, and as she was family, my m-in-law would be more comfortable with having her in the house. Perhaps I hadn’t explained it well. So I tried again.
Finally, I asked what the hell her problem was that she couldn’t respond. Was she not interested in helping out? Was she not interested in picking up a bit of cash? Was she not interested in working her way gradually back into a pseudo-normal state of being?
She just couldn’t commit, she responded. She wasn’t sure if she could do it every night, and what if she had other commitments? What if she got another job?
Well, I said as calmly as I could, you would have to work around it just as you would do with any other job. You wouldn’t make commitments from five to eight in the evening. And, of course, if you got another job, then that would take precedence. I could feel myself becoming angry, not just angry, but livid, but I held it in check. Perhaps she had a really good reason for not wanting to do this.
- “Mulberry Tree,” Vincent Van Gogh (1889)
This is what I got as an explanation: She just wasn’t ready. She needed more time to get her shit together (her words). She didn’t think that she could do it. She was really sorry to be disappointing everyone, but that’s how it was. Then she tried the guilt card:
I know that everyone is disappointed in me. I have an Oma who I never see, who calls me. I have a grandmother and grandfather who are both really ill. My best friend is dying. But I just can’t. (I’m summarizing here).
I lost it. I told her not to even attempt the guilt trip. I was the master of the guilt trip, and it wouldn’t work on me. If she was so damned concerned about her grandparents and her best friend, then why didn’t she do something about it?
She just couldn’t, you see. She wasn’t ready.
Okay, the conversation deteriorated badly at this point, but in my favor, I did not say all of the things that I was thinking. I did ask here if she knew when she might be ready, when she might have her shit together (my words). After all, it had been almost a year since she had worked, and all she was doing was sleeping. I might be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure that it’s darned near impossible to get a job when you don’t try—at all.
She just didn’t know. She was sorry. She knew that I was disappointed.
No. Truthfully, I wasn’t disappointed. I was shocked, and I was pissed. That was what I was. It ended pretty much with me saying that she should call me when and if she ever got her shit together. I told her that I loved her, and I hung up.
“. . .you and I together have gone down a single river with linked mouths filled with salt and blood . . .” ~ Pablo Neruda, Furies and Sorrows
- “Vegetable Garden and Trees in Blossom, Spring, Pointoise,” Camille Pissarro (1877)
My entire body was shaking, truly. Trembling. Given all of the things that I had wanted to say, I think that I did fairly well. I didn’t want to say those horrible things that people say when they’ve lost control, when the argument has gotten away from them, and nothing but vitriol spews out, and then the words are out there, forever said, embedded in history, and no amount of apologizing will ever erase them.
I tried to process this. Corey and I talked and talked. Was I being too hard? Was I expecting too much? I mean, if anyone knows how paralyzing depression is, I do. I know that depression and anxiety can completely waylay an otherwise energetic person, and I know that those of us prone to wild mood swings (without medication) can be almost useless. So I try hard not to compare myself with Alexis as that isn’t fair; she is her own person with her own chemical imbalances. But geez, it’s as if she has absolutely no interest in helping herself. Her doctor prescribed her medicine that—when she takes it—really helps. But the key term here is taking it. She doesn’t. She doesn’t take the medicine even when someone else pays for it.
This is her logic: If she doesn’t wake up until 8 o’clock (PM not am), then it’s too late to take the medicine because she’ll be up all night. I suggested setting all 72 of her alarms (exaggeration, whatever) for 8 AM, wake up, take the medicine. No, no. That won’t work.
It feels as if I’m staring at one of those images, you know, the ones that look like a duck, but if you stare at it long enough, it’s really Albert Einstein. You get the point. I look at her, and I see my daughter, but the longer I look, the more she morphs into something unrecognizable.
“To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
- “Chemin Fleuri,” Emile Claus (trans. Flowery Pathway)
One of the aspects that is so hard to bear is that I have always been my daughter’s biggest cheerleader, believing in her, encouraging her, telling her how much potential she has. In my own attempt to be my mother’s antithesis, I have gone to the other extreme with my children, writing them letters on special occasions in which I extol their virtues, urging but never pressuring them to try new things, to think about life as an adventure, and always to remember that we are not alone in this life, that many, many people help us to get where we need to go.
Yes, a bit smarmy, but it’s my own version of up-with-people for my offspring. But in the end, if she doesn’t believe in herself, in her own capabilities, then what I have to say doesn’t really matter.
So that’s the story. I called Ann and told her it was a no-go and summed up my daughter’s reasons for turning down the opportunity to help everyone, including herself. Since that big conversation, I have spoken with Alexis a few times, all but one time initiated by me. When her grandmother went in the hospital, I texted her but did not hear from her until the next day. So in the interest of keeping myself sane, I have compartmentalized, big time: There is all of the regular crap that makes up my day-to-day life, you know, bills, cut-off notices, more bills . . . and then there is the Alexis box.
This box is akin to Pandora’s box. If I open it, I have no idea what will fly out or how badly I will be hurt by it. So, for now at least, I’m keeping the lid on. Does this mean that I don’t care? Of course not. (I made the mistake of saying something along those lines to my mother, and she immediately went for the guilt juggler: How can you say that? What if something happened to her?) Does this mean that I wouldn’t help her if she asked? I’d be there in less than a heartbeat. But does the decision to leave the situation and her alone for now make me a bad person? Perhaps. Does this make me a horrible mother? Probably, but I honestly don’t know what else to do, so for now, I’ll do nothing, which grates against every Type A cell in my body.
Emotionally, I refuse to give up on her. I’ve already lost one daughter; I will not lose another. But for now, I have to step back and just suck it up. There isn’t a baby book in existence that has a chapter that covers the heartbreak your children can cause. No one wants to read about that aspect when life and the future seem so full of possibilities. If we knew all of the potential heartache in store when we thought about becoming parents, would we have done it anyway? Yes. Does that make us stupid? No, just human.
More later. Peace.
*I began this post at 1:35 in the afternoon. I finished writing it around 3. It is now 6:15, and I have spent the last three hours or so trying to take out weird coding and entering coding for borders around the images since the WP feature to do that doesn’t seem to be working. This is why posting lately has been so damned taxing . . . Update: It’s now 8:08. This post is still royally f-ed up. I am considering abandoning it in between my mother calling to say that the sky is falling (tornado warnings in the surrounding area), I’m losing track of the sections that have mysteriously disappeared . . . Spell check isn’t working, so apologies in advance.
Music by Jimmy Eat World, “Hear You Me”
Of course it was a disaster.
The unbearable, dearest secret
has always been a disaster.
The danger when we try to leave.
Going over and over afterward
what we should have done
instead of what we did.
But for those short times
we seemed to be alive. Misled,
misused, lied to and cheated,
certainly. Still, for that
little while, we visited
our possible life.
~ Jack Gilbert