Saturday, June 5, 2010
Spin Cycle: Bondage....I mean Bonds
The Spin Cycle this week is bonds. As in family bonds, the bonds that link members of family together.
So much of my life has been unbloggable these last 9 months, but I suppose one aspect is semi-bloggable. My mom. Mostly because she has never even learned to turn on a computer.
My mom is the funniest mom on the block. Friends love to come to our house because my mom is a hoot. She can burp the ABC’s and talk like Donald Duck. She spends three hours every afternoon in the kitchen and makes scrumptious dinners. She is bigger than life and sings and dances around the house in her apron.
She has a dark side that appears now and then. We can see it coming. Her eyes flash, her upper lip hardens. We learn that no amount of ass kissing will prevent the storms, so my sisters and I learn to weather them as best we can. Usually that means watching television and pretending we don’t hear the escalation of emotions.
Circa early 1970’s
Three daughters hitting adolescence triggers my mom’s mood swings more often, or perhaps it is just her own hormonal changes. My father comes home later and later. My mom’s drinking increases. So does her depression. Her doctor gives her Valium and she combines these with vodka and beer.
Her journeys into nightly hell storms often evolve into suicide threats. At first it gets the reaction she is looking for, but eventually she and all of us realize nothing we say or do will really make her happy. She threatens suicide so often that when she finally downs an entire bottle of Valium one night, no one believes her until it is almost too late. My older sister and my dad rush her up the coast to the nearest hospital and leave my little sister and me alone. We were 9 and 12.
My older sister leaves home at 17, which seems to makes things even worse. At 12, I am suddenly thrust into the role of talking my mom down. I take this role seriously and believe for years that if I find the right sentence, the right combination of words, an epiphany will occur and my mom will see the light. I am the one takes the gun from her when she comes into the living room twirling it around her index finger and explaining her plan to “blow her brains out all over the pier.” When she sits naked on the stairs with a pack of my dad’s double edged razor blades, scratching one half-heartedly along the smooth, pale and innocent inner surface of her arm, I am the one to get off the couch and take the razor blades away from her, despite her throwing them at me while I ascend the stairs. When she stands at the open front window naked for all the neighbors to see, smoking a cigarette, I am the one that wraps a robe around her and leads her away, while she curses her worst at me.
My dad finally leaves my mom and is awarded custody of my sister and me.
My mom drinks and dials when her moods hit her, but she gets lost in a world of divorcee partying.
My mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. In the fight of her life she gives up drinking. It becomes apparent that it wasn’t just the booze and pills; she still has mood swings, but her recovery time is much better and the arc of the swings much less.
My grandmother dies. My mom inherits her parents’ home and savings, and also has the home my grandmother bought her after the divorce.
She quits her job and lives off the money. She sells her home and lives off that. She refinances her parents’ home and lives off that. This process takes four years and all the while I try and talk some financial sense into her. It is the proverbial train wreck. I am still too young and idealistic to accept that I cannot help her. But there it is.
I move to Hawaii.
My mom loses her home and is penniless.
She goes back to school and gets her CNA.
She works for 25 years.
During the best of these years she visits us in Hawaii. She is a fun and funny grandma. She burps the ABC’s and talks like Donald Duck. My children bring all the neighborhood kids in to be entertained by Grandma. They love her and she loves them.
My mom is 79 and living in a two bedroom townhouse that she really cannot afford. Although she gets social security and a partial pension from her divorce, she works to stay where she is.
Despite failing health.
Despite having long term health care insurance and a doctor who wants to sign her into long term health care.
She says she needs help “going through her things.”
So I go for a week and I learn my mom has become a hoarder. She was never neat, but this is beyond that.
I clear out over 80 phone books, dating back to the 1980’s.
I go through hundreds of small plastic bags with receipts and remnants of packaging. Like the cardboard package from a light bulb. I cannot throw out anything without looking because she also has plastic bags with important papers and mementos.
I spend a week and a bit of money. I make 8 trips to the dump. 10 trips to the Salvation Army.
While I am going through her things in the garage, my daughter comes out and tells me to please rescue them from Grandma.
Apparently the purging has brought out her fidgety worse. I come in to hear her wreaking psychological havoc on my son, her grandson.
I ask my mom for a copy of her long term health care insurance so we can get on the same page and figure out how to get her moved.
But she refuses and I go home.
The bond continues. I’ll give her this. She has a lot of guzpah.
For more spins on family bonds, head on over to Sprite's Keeper.