Conversations with Mom

I waited until Thursday to call Mom this week because I wanted to see how her first session with hospice grief group went. She was a little leery but felt she had to go because a) it was recommended to her by the hospice as a good thing for survivors to do at the five or six month point and b) she thought perhaps she wasn’t grieving right because,

“I just don’t feel sad all the time.”

Which is the Catch-22 of grief, the fact that you don’t feel sad every single second of every single day for months, years or decades after losing a loved one. It’s just not physically or emotionally possible, and no one ever really tells a person that. It’s just something you figure out as time goes by.

But when I called her, she’d had another encounter with CB and a voice message from the X-SIL which upset her.

“Your brother called and he needed money again, ” she said.

I always feel like she throws the term “your brother” out there as a way of reminding me that she would be rid of him if I hadn’t stuck up for him last fall and convinced her to bring him back to see Dad before he died and to be there for the funeral.

“What’s wrong now? His van again?”

“No, he wants the money to move back to the Bay Area,” she said.

“How many times can your Mom fund his moving back and forth from Tahoe?” Rob asked me later.


CB needed $350 to rent a U-Haul for his stuff. He has a place to stay. Yet another friend will be putting him up. I marvel at his ability to always have a friend in reserve for those prolonged periods in his life when he is in breakdown mode, but he is a charming bastard when he needs to be. He never seems to need to be as charming where his family is concerned.

Long story short, Mom sent the money, but what really pissed her off was the phone message from X-SIL which can be summed up thusly,

“You made a commitment to CB when you adopted him (almost 43 years ago now) and you need to honor it by helping him out now. Besides, you are old and alone and he could come live with you and help you out (which would get him the hell away from me).

X-SIL’s predicament should be a lesson to all who foolishly have children with men they don’t want to marry all that much. I mean, if you don’t like or trust a guy enough to marry him – ever – why sleep with him in the first place? And the no-breeding thing should go without saying.

On Thursday, I tried to be rational and matter of fact and it was not what Mom wanted to hear. She wanted me to share her outrage and do the verbal equivalent of a head nod as she ranted. Trouble is, I have been in the widow window she is in, and I know better than to feed that kind of pointless emotion. It’s draining and in the long run, not really what serves a person best. So I pointed out the facts in a non-judgmental way:

1) CB is mentally ill. Being angry with him is pointless. Send him money or don’t, but stop expecting my agreement that he is somehow responsible for his looniness. 

2) X-SIL is nearly as nuts and she isn’t a part of our lives – hasn’t been for a decade easily. Consider the source and erase the message. 

Afterwards I wondered just how annoying I was when I was 6 months out with my perpetual focus on myself and how the world was impacting me. My poor family, friends and co-workers is all I can say though truthfully, most people dealt with me by pretending nothing had happened and I seldom brought it up in real time. I know now that there is a very good reason for the “pep” talks the grieving are given starting from around that time period. These are “make or break” months. Whether a person pulls themselves together and begins moving forward depends on those around us being supportive without enabling.

Friday, of course, I felt bad. Six months out is a rough time, and I didn’t want Mom to feel as though all I do is give her advice when she wants validation. I called her again. I told her I was sorry if I added to her trouble or made her feel bad. She assured me that I didn’t. And then she rehashed the whole thing again, this time throwing in the fact that Nephew1’s grandmother (he lives with her and his dad now) called and asked for a loan of $200 to pay the electric bill.

“What I should have told her was to stop eating out every night and buy food that needs to be cooked rather than microwaved and maybe she wouldn’t be short at the end of the month,” Mom was indignant, but she gave her the money.

I feel bad about having counseled  Mom to use money as a way to keep the problem people in her life at bay, but at the time, it was the quickest and easiest solution. That time, having past, means that the heavy-lifting of redefining her role and willingness to be supportive beyond good thoughts, a shoulder and prayers has arrived, and I am not sure she can do it.

“I am all alone now,” she said.

And while she is not technically alone, she is spiritually/emotionally alone with Dad gone because no one has her back at a moment’s notice anytime and anywhere anymore. I get that.

As I was listening to her on Friday, DNOS showed up to hear the offending voice message. When I talked with her privately today, she confirmed my suspicions that X-SIL was simply being manipulative and trying to rid herself of the burden of CB by convincing Mom into bringing him home.

At the time of the conversation however, DNOS was in,

“Uh-huh. I see. Really?” mode, which is code for “Just shut up and let me handle things because I am here and you are not.”

Later at dinner – BabyD was off at a birthday party – Rob and I discussed, yet again, extended family and our siblings in particular. Rob’s younger siblings are just as off track as CB and my youngest sister, but they rarely ever contact him the way CB does me. Rob doesn’t like the way CB’s issues and my Mom’s difficulties dealing with CB affects me. I don’t either. I wish I could figure out a way to disengage from CB completely. I can’t help him. The system hasn’t any mechanism to allow for his being helped without his permission, which he isn’t capable of giving anymore, and the whole thing is now boiling down to damage control.

In the end though it is up to Mom to simply putting an end to the mooching and being the go-to for our less responsible family and shirt-tail relations.

7 thoughts on “Conversations with Mom

  1. Holy smokes- this is a tough post for me on a number of levels. I think primarily that I say that because I want to “fix it”- I want the people I care about to be looked after, and have their lives be happy, and stuff. (Words fail me, here).

    Try again:

    I hear that this is tough for you. You want to provide support and solutions for your family, and you can’t, and I want to provide support and assistance to you, and I can’t (other than with sympathetic words here).

    I also hear/ remember the 5-6 months out piece. I was bone-deep lonely; I’d proved to myself that I could “do” widowhood and solo-parenting, and I was done with proving it. I went and found myself a man- I didn’t “need” one, but I wanted one, and it’s worked very well for me. (Now I’m high-jacking).

    In a disorganized way, I’m saying that I’m here, I hear you, and I care. I also believe, absolutely, that you have the goods to deal with whatever comes along in your life, whether it be family, or all the other stuff.

    Okay, I’m done with the floundering- Happy Easter!

    1. The lonely valley of the half-way mark. It’s the turning point and so few people realize that what they do here has long lasting ramifications.

      Thanks for the support, friend.

  2. Sometimes you have to do that. I think the family meeting after Dad’s funeral was my sibs attempt to deal with me. So far, it’s worked. Most of the money is locked up where I can’t get to it. I had some money to blow, and I have some to put into short-term savings to keep me out of trouble. I also know that the big money is locked up for five years, so it’s tough luck if I spend the rest. It’s good for me to see myself through the “sane siblings” eyes.

    1. I hope you took no offense. I am aware that sometimes I am a bit harsh with my assessment of CB (and X-SIL). It is difficult dealing with people when they aren’t aware of their own volatility. I think that it is time to let CB find his true bottom and see what can be done after that though I fear the possible bottom options he may choose.

  3. “…I wish I could figure out a way to disengage from CB completely.”

    if you figure this out, please let me know… i’ve tried. regarding the money? i ended up making some of it conditional – meaning “i’ll loan/give you the cash, so long as you hire an attorney to help you determine a long-range strategy out of this mess, which will keep you out of the same mess in the future…”. with the overtly stated comment “and if you can’t manage to do that? i won’t help again”. they simply don’t ask me for money any longer.

    and when they complain about the latest predicament? i just say “wow. that’s tough. you need to figure out what to do with that…”

    but i still feel guilty. i just haven’t lost as much money in the process…

    1. Money given to relatives is usually a write-off. I have no idea how one disengages although I know people do cut off ties without ever looking back, I don’t think that is me.

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