mental illness

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.

So yesterday was a banner day for views. Between my YouTube version of a Hallmark greeting in honor of my handymanly husband and taking part in nursemyra’s T-Shirt Friday, I nearly topped out at 150. Woo-hoo, eh?

The week was packed with errands and reno and school preparations and family melodrama.

BabyD has been having tiny bouts of anxiety about her upcoming induction into grade one and all day school. To the point where she has been making Rob and I a bit peeved with “growing pain” episodes and tears at the drop of a hat about – nothing as far as we can ascertain.

We dropped by her school on Thursday as the teachers were finally back in the building and a visit to the grade one classrooms and a chat with her kindergarten teacher – in addition to picking up her supplies – has calmed her a bit. I will be taking her in on Tuesday but Wednesday we start with the bus back and forth. Fortunately, the little boy behind us (renters – it won’t last) is going to be riding the bus with her and with luck they will be in the same class.

Tee is a nice kid though Rob doesn’t think he is too bright (he thinks that about the boys ElderD and MidKid bring around too) and today BabyD and Tee played princess and My Little Ponies happily for over an hour. I have high hopes for this friendship*.

Most major activities for the fall are now booked. Ballet on Monday night for BabyD. Yoga twice a week from 10 AM to 11:30AM (me). I found a yoga strength training drop in class on Friday mornings too, and I am signed up now for the writing course at U of A. It’s being taught by a local journalist and writer and is designed for immigrants to tell the story of what brought them to the area. She is going to put together a book in which some of the stories might be included and there is a public reading after the class is over. Very cool opportunity.

Thursday being my dad’s birthday, I gave him a call around lunch because it is better to talk to him early in the day anymore. He is in bed most of the time and is not really eating again. Our talk was brief. He was not very responsive and sounded worn out and very old. Sometimes he is lively and witty but more often than not now he is sounding far away.

CB tried to call dad too a few hours later but got our mother instead and was told to call later as dad was asleep again. His call to dad was really about him – he needs help escaping his situation in San Francisco and wants to go home. To Iowa. That’s desperate folks.

Thwarted, he called me but got the answering machine. His tone told me I needed to call him right away and my instinct was right. He was zoned on his anti-anxiety meds and he talked – mostly at me – for an hour and a half. Basically he wanted me to convince the folks to bring him back to Dubuque.

And that’s what I have done.

But first I told him that it was time to really put the past in the past and take his relationship with our parents from now forward. No more looking back.

I told my mother the same thing when she tried to bring up CB’s long ago hell raising of his teens. I pointed out that he was a kid and they were the adults. They didn’t know he had mental health issues even as a small child but they had made mistakes and some of them were wrong no matter how the spin played.

I talked to my brother again on Friday. He sounded much better and I told him to call home and hash details out with the folks. Later DNOS called to wish Rob a happy birthday**, and when I told her about urging our parents to bring CB home for a bit, I got her pat reply,

“Oh really.”

Our mom uses the exact same expression and tone. DNOS sounds just like her sometimes – and would be horrified to know it.

Anyway, it means “WTF are you up to” or “Thanks so fucking much but I don’t think so”.

I noted but ignored. I am tired of some of the older family dynamics.

Dealing with CB is upsetting. It reminds me of Will in the earliest days of his illness – before we knew anything really – when he would get anxious or angry and plaintively tell me he had no idea why he felt as he did but that sometimes he felt like he was losing his mind. Sadly, he was and no one believed him or me.

CB’s quest to find mental help or help period has been fruitless with most doctors and other professionals telling him (or accusing him – take your pick) that he is actively choosing to live an effed up life. My folks and DNOS still believe this to some extent too. I don’t.

But I have no magic wand (or excess cash lying around) to help him, so I remind my parents that CB is their son and they have amends still to make. Unfair? Perhaps. But that is what big sisters are for.

Today Rob is off to the city to help ElderD move in with her friend who is a boy whom she loves and who loves her. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. Our massage therapist thinks BoySheLoves is gay***. We’ll see.

BabyD and I are off to shop for school clothes.

Next up is cleaning for a garage sale (good freaking god help me) and to put our new fall schedule to a serious road test.

Life in the Great White North.

* Like that the family doesn’t move soon. They are acreage crazy and it’s not looking good.

** My family worships my husband like aboriginals with a Coke bottle*.

*** Okay, we wondered about that too but ElderD says “no” because she wondered also and asked.

* nursemyra rightly reminds me that Australians might take offense at the coke bottle reference. I was thinking about that movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, when I made the comparison. My family acts as though Rob dropped from the sky like a god in Greek Mythology and it irritates me to no end as it seems to me they are happier with him than they ever were with my late husband. I meant no offense but realize now that some people were offended and I am sorry.