Living with my mother is
usually fine, but it’s often also very frustrating.
The transition from senior citizen to senior citizen who is unable to take care of herself is slow and painful and this week, whether it is actually the beginnings of that transition or if it’s something else, has been jarring, triggering and upsetting.
So, hey. There is still a pandemic happening. We are still social distancing, we are still wearing masks. My mom got the first dose of the vaccine, she will be getting her second dose in a week. It’s exciting! Since I stopped working and am not interacting with the public on a daily basis, we expanded our bubble and now we can see my sister, brother-in-law, and my niece. My mother has missed her grandbaby so much, the joy she had when I brought my niece back with me from visiting my sister is hard-matched.
Circumstances changed and we extended my niece’s stay at our house. Not a big deal, just life happens.
And then our COVID bubble was breached. By my mother. She had a serious lapse in judgement and when a neighbor came by, unmasked, my mother opened the door and let her in the house, unmasked, and they visited, unmasked. It wasn’t a long visit, thank goodness, but all safety protocols were dropped. When the neighbor left, there was even a hug and a kiss and during the conversation it was mentioned that this neighbor had been to church the day before.
I was supposed to take my niece home the next day.
The reasons we are taking it so seriously is COVID is serious and I don’t want it, I don’t want my family to get it, but most of all, I don’t want my immuno-suppressed sister getting it. She has had enough weird ailments that have drained her quality of life. I need to protect her, I need to protect my niece. (YES I hear you, sister, I need to protect myself too)
So now we are under quarantine. My poor niece is bored and misses home, and you can cut the animosity in the air with a knife. To be clear, the animosity is between my mother and me. My niece is all sunshine and rainbows.
We are so close. My sister will be vaccinated soon, Oregon is opening up vaccines to everyone over 16 in another couple weeks. We are so close and have come so far to fuck up now.
Mistakes happen, but there is a lot more happening under the surface. This whole thing has been triggering. It’s taken me three days just to unpack some of that baggage. So, we tried to get COVID tested. Due to some rules and guidelines, apparently we have to quarantine for 7 days before we can be tested. I forgot, we live in the US and our systems are better than before January but still fucked. Anyway, instead of coming straight home from the clinic, she went to the grocery store. What part of quarantine includes a leisurely trip to the store? Side note: I have fought tooth and nail with this woman to let me do InstaCart before this week. This woman is such a control freak and technophone that she has a desperate need to go to the store and pick out her own slab of dead cow or else, in her words “it will feel like I am DEAD.”
So, I asked her today, “if you are supposed to be under quarantine, why did you go to the grocery store?”
“Please don’t pick on me today,” she says, tired. I don’t blame her for being tired. It’s been a terrible week. And it’s only Wednesday.
“I’m not picking on you,” I say, “I’m just trying to understand.”
She tells me that she didn’t think she had been exposed to COVID since it was such a short interaction where she hugged and kissed the neighbor who went to a church event the day before.
And logically, she is probably right, except, there is no way to know for sure and we aren’t in a position to take chances. And of course, my rage is now uncontainable. I am pissed the fuck off. “So, you decided that you know better than everyone else, is that it?”
“Yes. And my doctor also said he didn’t think I would have been exposed with such a short visit.” She retorted, in her trademark passive aggressive way.
I repeated my statement. She agreed, adding, “and my doctor too.”
Her decision making doesn’t just affect her, it affects everyone in her bubble. It affects me, it affects her granddaughter, it affects her other daughter who is immuno-suppressed, it affects her son-in-law. Her decisions affect everyone else. I told her this, and I continued. If we are to keep my sister and my niece in our bubble, we have to take extraordinary care.
And I found the trigger.
It was me. The little girl inside of me who was left behind, not picked up from school, left to fend for herself. The little girl who was never able to get whatever love or attention she needed from my mother. She was screaming within me. My mother’s decision (and lack of accountability) rendered me invisible, like I did not matter. And this was the crux. I told my mother “I live here too. I don’t feel safe here. This is not my home.” The little girl inside of me was fighting and clawing her way out of this horrible feeling of being unseen.
My mother said, “I heard you.” I believe she meant it. I hope that it clicked for her.
But the other thing that makes all of this so painful is knowing that it will change nothing. I will still be at odds with my mother, and I will still hate her tomorrow.
My mother will be getting tested for dementia. It might be depression. Sometimes these things look like one another and either way it needs to be addressed.
There is another uncomfortable truth, one that I learned when I was young because of my alcoholic father. Do I have a duty to my mother, to take care of her because she is my mother? The answer is a complicated “no.” Complicated because regardless of what I know in my heart – that she has not earned the privilege of having me take care of her, there will still be guilt in my heart over it. I feel it now. The little girl inside of me that has been crying and screaming for three days really needs a hug, and I know my mother, who also feels angry at herself for such a huge mistake, also needs a hug. But I don’t want to hug my mother. I don’t love my mother. She has only become a burden of pain, anger and toxic poison. She is a wall. I can’t do anything with it. I can’t even stand to be near her.
This week has been awful.
All I got from both of my parents are conditions and distance. Toxicity and trauma. Poison and isolation.
I hate it here.
Here’s an angsty throwback song for my sister.