First it was Human Trafficking Awareness Month, which I got through mostly by dissociating. I thought I wasn’t, but I was. My past homelessness and survival prostitution still haunts me, and although I have forgiven myself, I can’t forgive my parents for not rescuing me, nor can I forgive the shameless bastards who raped me when I was a naive little girl trying to survive on the streets.
Then it was Child Abuse Awareness Month. I really thought I might get through that in one piece, but after the pieces on emotional and psychological and verbal abuse started coming hard and fast, I have to say I took a pounding. I grew up with a relentlessly abusive mother and an absent, codependent father who played the sympathetic one and passed me his handkerchief while explaining that Mom wasn’t feeling well, had her period (he described her as a “wildcat in a hatbox” when she was menstruating), or any of a million excuses for her evil behavior.
Since my chief drive as a recovering Adult Child of Abusive Parents is still to try to mollify my mother and protect my now-disabled father from her wrath, I moved to the US from my beloved Jerusalem to try to help them in their old age. He is 88 and she is 86, although she claims to be 85.
They live in what my dear friend R_ in Jerusalem affectionately calls “East Bumfuck.” Their house is in a remote hollow, and the road leading to it is so steep that the UPS man refuses to drive down there–he parks at the top and walks down, except in the winter when their access road is a bobsled run and utterly impassible. Then he leaves the package at the post office, which makes the postmistress frantic because they’re not supposed to do that and what if she gets inspected etc., but there’s nothing to be done about it.
Because of the nature of the road and the ice in the winter, they are often housebound for weeks. Several years ago when Dad was still healthy he slipped coming down it and broke three ribs. My mom broke her ankle on it. My dad broke his wrist on it.
The power goes out frequently. Since Dad has been losing his balance and falling a lot, I pitched a fit about the kerosene lamps they used to put around everywhere when they were younger, and they finally caved in and got a generator, which has made life easier in that area.
I moved here in a panic, in the winter of 2010-11, when there was storm after storm and they were completely snowed in. My mother was putting on ice cleats and crawling up the hill to gather firewood. My dad tried to help her and slipped on the ice and got another of the three concussions he racked up that winter.
I had been calling all the neighbors to please go and check on them, since if anyone asks my mother if she needs help she will say no, whether she does or not. Please, please, walk down there and make sure they’re all right and have what they need. Since they only have one neighbor, I didn’t have many to call, and he never did go down there. So I packed up my house in Jerusalem and three weeks later was on a plane to East Bumfuck.
I had a hard time getting there because it had just snowed three feet, so I rented the biggest SUV I could find and put the fucker in four wheel drive with the towing gear on and managed to get down into “the hole,” as the UPS drivers call it. They were in pretty sad shape, and mighty glad to see me. I had brought groceries and eight gallons of spring water, since the electricity was out and they didn’t have the generator yet.
Well, that was two and a half years ago, and the winters since then have been mild, and my dad’s dementia seems to have stabilized. And now is the time to start talking about the fact that East Bumfuck is no longer an appropriate place for them to live. My mother has a million reasons why they can’t move, which I will not enumerate here. None of them is insurmountable.
Then comes the question, where will they move to? Their first thought is to move to the nearest small city, which is a lovely artsy place with all the amenities and museums and theatres and lovely architecture. I remind my mother that Dad is not going to get better, and she is not going to be able to handle him herself for much longer, since she is no spring chicken.
“Well if we move to Hip City, what will you do?”
“I will go home to Jerusalem. I miss my home.
“But this is your home!”
“No, mother, this is YOUR home. My home is Jerusalem, and my soul cries for her every day, all the time.”
Her mouth twists with disgust. I get triggered.
Anger starts to brew. What does she expect me to do, spend the rest of my life taking care of her? Dad won’t be around much longer, although his own father lingered in a pitiable state till the age of 91.
I get hold of myself. ”I’ve sent for a packet from Lovely Hillside Retirement Community, where you can live independently until you need more help.” She is a geriatric social worker and knows exactly what I mean, and knows the place.
“We can’t afford it.”
“I believe you can.” I outline the plan.
“But what will you do?”
“I am going back to Jerusalem, and will visit frequently.”
It’s obvious that HER plan for me is to be the caregiver, so that she can live the way she wants, with no regard to my life, my needs, my health…
Anger starts to brew. I will not go into the childhood abuse issues that started coming up, because I don’t want to go there again.
Anger brewed into rage. I live in a separate building, so there was no chance of confrontation, thank G-d. Rage filled me, overcame me, and every time the sonovabitchin’ trains across the river blew their infernal horns, I was screaming with them.
I started feeling exhausted. My exercise tolerance was for shit. I started having these vague, vapory headaches, and I am not a “headache person.”
My blood pressure has been creeping up in recent months, to 130′s over 80′s, which is not good for a person who usually hangs out in the 120/60 range. I felt so weird that I bought one of those home BP monitors: 150/100! Fuck, I’m gonna die, and it’s all because I feel trapped by my guilt at not being able to fulfill my idea of filial piety without ruining my not-so-good health and sabotaging my future, which I hope will contain a home and a partner. I went to my internist, and now have yet another pill to take twice daily.
At this point, my plan is to get them into someplace appropriate for their now and future needs, which is going to be a shrek in itself, since their house is a fine art museum which will have to be turned into money in order for them to afford the new place. The property will be sold, so that means no inheritance at all for me because they failed to plan for retirement.
And they planned to use me as an unpaid caregiver, room and board included of course, with my social security for pin money. But now I’ve come and thrown a monkey-wrench into the works, by coming to the realization that I deserve to have a life. They also deserve to have a life, a pleasant and comfortable life. But I’m a person too, and I sure don’t plan to live out the best years I’ve got left caring for people who made my whole life hell, and would continue to do so, if I let them.