Bless me, for I have sinned.
Members of my extended family seem to believe you are wrong to be my friends, because, if you knew the worst of me, you would never talk to me again. They seem to want me to confess all of the most horrible things I have done such that all of you will leave, and I will be left, essentially, alone. I’m granting their request. Should you choose to leave, I will understand, but I will be at least disappointed, and, quite probably, sad.
Your value to me is greater than for many people since I have a complete terror of seeing people in person.
So… what is in my past that is so horrible that I need to confess it to The World (at least as I know it)? I don’t know, with absolute certainty, which offense my family means, (“I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in.”) but I’m guessing it’s that, when I was taking care of Mom for a while, I accepted money from her.
How did we get there?
My father died in October, 2009. My mother was, obviously, depressed beyond imagination. She had been with him for nearly 50 years. Her entire life was built around him. Stevie Nicks would understand the Landslide.
By April of 2010, Mom really couldn’t make it on her own, anymore. She was barely feeding herself, and it was time that someone take care of her. I was appointed by the family. Mom moved in with me.
We did well for some time. She was not necessarily happy, but she was certainly less depressed. She and my dog, Melanie, became best friends. Melanie would lie on the bed with her every night. They loved each other.
At 47 years old, I could still function. I was teaching 6th Grade, and on weekends, teaching Defensive Driving. Mom paid her bills. In the beginning, she made us both dinner every night. By the end of our Time Together, she couldn’t cook anymore.
I wasn’t quite done with my poor attempts at a Social Life yet, and it’s difficult to be successful with women when your mother lives with you. As even in the best of circumstances, my success with women was all but nil, carrying extra weight against it wasn’t really the best thing for me. I had been married and divorced twice, and I had hoped to find just one more woman who could tolerate me, and who I might love. That simply wasn’t going to happen. And I learned to be okay with it. I have, in fact, given it up entirely now.
After 54 months, our situation became too difficult. Mom had broken her hip, and while she had the necessary surgery, and the best rehab facility in The Valley, she never managed to walk again. She was in her wheelchair for months longer than the doctors thought necessary. To this day, she has to have a walker. And, as she became increasingly depressed, the first signs of dementia set in. It wasn’t just that she forgot things. Her personality was changing, as well. She really didn’t like me very much anymore. I couldn’t please her.
I asked my brother if he could share some of the responsibilities for our mother. Sometimes, he would take her for a weekend or something. If I wanted to have him care for her for more than that, it wasn’t the time. He was too busy. We fought about it.
My own depression was now in full force. I found no joy in anything. Mom and I were miserable. I finally told Jon that I would just bring our Mother to Flagstaff and drop her off, and he could deal with the job. He wound up having Mom move in with his girlfriend. I got a new, cheaper, place. I never charged Mom rent, or utilities, or any of that, but she often paid for groceries, she helped to keep my car running when repair bills came up. We kept each other afloat. And she could still remember to pay the bills she had left.
It wasn’t long before it failed to work out for Mom at her new home. Her money was suddenly gone. Her bills were unpaid. She had been paying much more than her share. It appeared she was going to sign her money away. The family and I engineered a kidnapping to get Mom out of there. We showed up around 8:00 PM, unexpectedly, and took Mom away to the beautiful home of my former sister in law. The plan was she would live with my sister.
That lasted less than a week. Mom couldn’t be left alone anymore. It wasn’t safe. My sister found her a Group Home. She’s been in one since.
A few years ago, my Mother started begging me to let her come live with me, again. By now, my career was reaching its end. I was physically exhausted, my diabetes was kicking into high gear, putting me twice in the hospital in my final year as a teacher, and I thought we could work it out. I was ready to quit. We could live off of my retirement and Mom’s. She wouldn’t have to pay all her money to the Group Home anymore.
The entire family rose against any such plan. When I discussed it with them we reached an agreement that if I could show I could take care of Mom every weekend for a few months, I could have her come live with me. My sister had power of attorney, and she could prevent it otherwise. I agreed. I failed to call my sister on time one night about the arrangements for Mom for the weekend, and that meant I had failed. Mom couldn’t come live with me.
Every time Mom heard about the arguments, she got more depressed. The more depressed she became, the more her dementia accelerated. It was incredibly bad for her.
Finally, I had Mom give me power of attorney so I could let her come live with me. I did everything legally. My sister’s response to the news was fury, and the entire family rose against me, again.
I had a room ready for Mom. My previous roommates painted it, and we put her favorite pictures in it. It had a low enough bed that Melanie, now too old to make the jump to a regular height, could still get on Mom’s. We were ready for Mom to move in. This was met with threats of legal action from the family, and it was clear that a court proceeding of any sort would fry completely what was left of Mom’s brain. Mom and I decided not to do it.
After I quit, I found I couldn’t really earn much money anymore. Mom gave me money. I shouldn’t have taken it. It was wrong. So… my sin is this: I took money from my mother when I had power of attorney. She never went without anything she wanted. I had not just her permission, but her insistence. Nevertheless, I was wrong to accept it.
My family convinced Mom to sign power of attorney back over to my sister. It has remained there ever since.
Where are we now?
I’m not allowed to take Mom out of her Group Home anymore, even to lunch. I can still call her, however, and I do, every night, at 7:37 PM. Each conversation is nearly identical:
“Good evening!” I say happily. “I’m calling to check on my Mother, because, you know, I never really get around to it, so I thought I should see how you are. So… how are you? What kind of day has it been?”
By now, Mom is laughing as though it were the first time she’s heard the joke, or that it was actually funny. “Oh, it was fine. Just the same, you know. I’m just so glad you called.”
“Well, it’s what we do. I have to make sure my Mother is all right. Did you get good naps today?”
“Oh, yes. I always get a good nap.” Now she talks about the TV I got her, and how that’s her life saver, because she can watch what she wants, and she doesn’t have to sit in the living room with other people. “But now tell about your day.”
And I will go through the basics of my day, without any detail, and then she will ask again, at least two more times in the next few minutes.
Finally, I get around to, “Now there are a couple of things you need to remember.”
“All right.” (She knows what’s coming, and this is her favorite part of the conversation.)
“And the first one is, no matter WHAT happens…”
“I always have you.”
“You ALWAYS have me. And I never want you to forget that. It would be too easy for you to feel lonely and disconnected over there, so I need to remind you every night. You can call whenever you need me.” (She never does.)
“You don’t know how much that helps me.”
“And the second thing you need to remember is that you and Dad put together this great big family. And, yes, they’re spread all over the damn country now, but you’re still connected to them, because, as it turns out, I’m still your son, and I love you very very much.”
“And I love you very very much, too.”
“Well, I like to call you every night before you go to bed because I heard a rumor once that it was just possible you might worry about me a little bit, and just in case-”
And by now Mom is laughing again. “Boy, have you got that wrong. Don’t you know that your mother worries about you all the time?”
“But now you don’t have to worry about me because you know I’m okay, and I know you’re okay, so we can both relax and get some sleep.”
“I know. And that’s so important. If you didn’t call one night, I’m sure I would never get to sleep.”
“I know. But, now you can. And I know that when you go to sleep, you’re going to be talking to Dad, and when you do -”
“Tell him Fred says hey. I do that every single night.”
“I know, and it’s really important, because I’m doing so much writing these days, and I can’t have him annoyed with me. I can’t write without him.”
“You learned a lot from him. We were lucky to have him.”
“Yes we were. Now, I’m going to let you go to sleep, and then I’m going to write a little more, and then I’m going to bed, too.”
Sometimes, she’ll still ask about Melanie. Melanie died on June 14. I told Mom a week or so later, but it upset her, and my sister told me never to mention it again, or she wouldn’t let me talk to Mom anymore. So…if Mom asks, I just answer as honestly as I can (“She’s fine.”), and move on immediately to anything else. I despise lying to my Mother, but, having twisted it around into a pretzel, the logic is undeniable. I have to lie.
And then Mom and I remind one another of our love, and we say good night.
I have admitted my worst sin.
It’s a part of who I am. I am not all good. I am not all bad. If my sin is sufficient that you believe me unworthy of your friendship, I understand.
I hope this is sufficient to appease my family.