Scared

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I am going to see my parents today. To take them shopping. My mom was pretty angry after I went to visit her a few days ago. We were having a pleasant enough conversation and then things took a turn for the worst.  I called my dad the next day and it all went pear shaped- again. My mom was listening to the conversation, or at least my dad’s side of it, got angry and got on the phone and started in on me and then my dad. Yikes. I felt bad for him. I felt bad for her. I felt bad for me. There are certainly no winners in this family. None. Zero. Zip.

I took the next two days off from contacting them. It was kind of like a mini vacation. I feel guilt- but time lessens that. Yesterday, I took my daughter shopping and bought some fancy schmancy stuff at Sephora after getting a highlighting mini-makeover. I know it shouldn’t, but there are times when money can indeed buy happiness. Or at least nudge it along a little bit. My daughter was feeling happy. I was enjoying myself. And we had a great time. It was much a much needed mini spending spree for both of us. Followed up with a nice lunch at California Pizza Kitchen- which is right across the mall from the Cheesecake Factory- which I just don’t get.  People are ALWAYS lined up and waiting to go in that place.  I’ve been there twice- thinking there must be some reason for all these people wanting to go there- but the food is always meh. I just don’t understand.

I did make some major decisions yesterday. I decided that I need to take better care of my hands. I also decided that I need one of those long, down, black Northface jackets. And some new shoes. I want to get dressed and not have to think about what I’m wearing. And also- and probably more importantly not look like my inner dirtbag self.  I am joining a health club next week. I can’t have shopping as a hobby and/or pastime. That’s embarrassing and dumb. But I need something. My daughter and I both need something. Exercise should help me be less portly. I am a stress eater. And I am fat right now. Fat. That should help us both with stress and anxiety. And it is a place to go. We’ll see how that pans out.

Back to today. I am bracing myself for  being told that I am quite a terrible person.  And the subtext will be that my parents think that I am stealing money from them and not following through on things that they have asked me to do and on things that I have said I have done.  I will need to put on my invisible Kevlar body suit and balaclava to protect myself and to not get angry and counter all of their examples with data that directly points to the opposite. They do not care to be challenged. I think I just have to be the person that they need to be to make their lives more tolerable. Blaming me allows them to move forward because they already feel like they are losing control. That doesn’t mean that it makes it much easier on me. I have to try to remember these things when I’m being berated. When I want to lash out and walk away.

I do believe that in their eyes I am all of the following: a liar and generally untrustworthy, incompetent, a thief and an all around terrible person. I think that my continuing  support and help is really confusing them. They cannot reconcile that this terrible person (me) is helping them. They must think that I have some master plan to take all their money away from them. That must be what they think. And or, perhaps what they fear. I can’t blame them. If I were either one of them I would probably feel the same way.

Since my Dad’s stroke last year, he hasn’t been able to process things as well. He’s in a wheelchair and has lost most use of the left side of his body. My mom has been in the hospital at least 3 times- for panic attacks and a bleeding ulcer.  She’s been furious with me multiple times. She may be on the starting path of dementia of some sort. I’m not sure. She has always had a bit of a mean streak and is fairly stubborn and unforgiving. So they forget things. They conflate conversations. They lose paperwork. They get confused. And they blame me for stuff, because I’m easy and I keep coming back for more.

Both of my parents have no close friends or family. They have pushed away all their siblings and relations. Or maybe all of their siblings and relations have pushed them away, Not sure which it is. I do not want to be like them. I believe that both of them are fairly narcissistic. I’ve never felt particularly close to either of them. Not even when I was a kid. I think that’s why I was fairly independent- there wasn’t much of a connection there.

I generally watch a Korean drama to prepare myself. Watching other Koreans, young and old alike, get berated by elders- generally mothers and mothers-in-law, and take it with a slightly bowed head and promises to do better reminds me that I am not alone.

Two Grande Flat Whites

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I decided to treat myself to a grande flat white on my way into work this morning. Things were going along at a reasonable pace… so like an idiot, I thought I’d go visit my mom on my lunch break. I’ve been feeling guilty about not seeing my parents since Saturday. Today is Wednesday.

My mom started talking about her unhappiness. Which quickly went to money. Which I did not handle well. I keep trying (like an idiot) to explain the legal construct that is the annuity that was created in order for my Dad to receive Medicaid services. She doesn’t remember or care that  when we decided to do this, we discussed it a lot. I pushed for it, because it was the only way to get all of my dad’s care paid for. I was worried that he would have another stroke. Or something else. And even with Medicare, my parents were paying a lot of money for his on-going medical bills.

Between social security and the annuity, their income is around fairly reasonable. They have enough to pay rent and all their bills- electricity, cable and their credit cards. And they should have enough left over to spend on frivolous things, and still be able to put several hundred in the bank each month. They also have a savings account that has more in it than I’ve ever had- and probably more than most people.  All of my dad’s healthcare is paid for by Medicaid. They’ve paid off all the medical debt that they had after my Dad’s stroke. I think that they’re doing okay. I would even say good. My mom disagrees. I guess, and maybe here’s the disconnect. She is unsettled by not having a house. Maybe I need to help them buy  a house?  But then I think about taxes, and house payments and getting the house wheelchair accessible, and homeowner’s insurance, and yard work and shoveling snow…

I do understand that she wants her money. All of it. Where she has more control of it. Money means security. Her life has changed so drastically in the last two years, I get it. Where I am failing–miserably and  horribly failing  is in my sheer inability to contain my frustration at hearing this for the 37th time.  All I want to do is say,  “I hear you. I know you want your money. But just talking to your lawyer, will cost you money. They are literally going to charge you for every minute.  Maybe I should have said that we can try to find an elder law attorney- that can give them free legal advice. But I didn’t think of that. Until now.  Knowing very little about the construction and legal parameters of such financial instruments- I do know that based on the cost and paperwork involved in setting up the annuity, it is next to impossible to dismantle them. There are third party companies that purchase them, and pay you a lump sum, that I assume is a fraction of the total amount.  And I don’t care if they want to go that route. I just want them to understand how that works. But my mom thinks that I am being obstructionist. And that I think she’s dumb. And that I have no empathy for her situation.

I try to. But there’s never been much of a closeness between us. She’s been detached and slightly inaccessible to me for as long as I can remember. But she is my mother. I think that a lot of her character was shaped by living through the Korean war. And from being in a marriage that she almost immediately regretted but did not have the wherewithal to leave. I know this, because she tells me this a lot. She has my entire life. My parents don’t really trust me. I was a terrible child. And a horrible, selfish, asshole of a teen. When I was 14 I dated 19 year olds.  My parents had no idea. They just paid little attention to me. I was, in many ways, living my life on my own at that age.

Then we veer off into my lack of detailed knowledge about how much money they have, how much money they are spending, etc. It was such a stressful time, after my dad had his stroke and I was driving back and forth every other week. My mom didn’t drive. Didn’t know how to use her phone. Or her TV, if anything went wrong. I honestly don’t remember many details. My mom also ended up going into the hospital while my dad was in the hospital for a bleeding ulcer. And she had some dental issues- and had multiple teeth pulled out and an upper denture made. I was trying to balance my work life and taking care of my parents. With no help from anyone, except my daughter.

My mom agrees that I don’t know the details of their current finances, but that I did at one time have control of their finances when my Dad first had his stroke. And then, the gut punch.  That I was writing myself checks from their accounts. That I was paying myself a salary. Paying. Myself. A. Salary.

I want to say FFFFFFFUUCUUUCCCCCKKKKKKK YYYOOOOUUUU!  But I think instead I say that what whatever my mom is saying is simply untrue. She continues saying that I was taking money from them and says that my dad has the cancelled checks. She’s also weirdly not angry about this, and says as much. She says she understands. She then says my dad told her not to say anything to me.  She is resigned to the fact that her daughter is a ne’r do well and its as if she has confirmed documentation that I’m her thieving, horrible offspring, but that she’s accepted it and its okay.  I repeat that this isn’t true. My parents have little faith in me. Little. Faith. They don’t trust me. Voices are not raised. I leave before it gets too nuts. But I feel the weight of the situation. The idea that my parents think I’m such a terrible person. Am I? Are they right? I wonder if I did write myself checks. I may have- but if I did, it was under my mother’s direction. She gave me my Dad’s credit card to use for gas for our trips back and forth. And I did. And I did buy snacks for the road with his card- when we stopped for gas. At my mom’s insistence. Damn. I should have known. I should have known it was a trick. An unintentional trick, but one that would make me feel like a shit.

I think about all those seven hour drives to Missouri. The call from their neighbor that my dad had a stroke. My mom not wanting us to stay at her house. She got mad at me during their last Thanksgiving visit and left after two days- then refused to speak to me.  This wasn’t the first time she refused to speak to me. One time she went two years. She softened, when she realized I was there to help her.  I got their house sold. I got them moved out. I found my dad a rehab facility (My mom now blames me for picking a bad place.) I found my mom an apartment. (Which she hated.) I moved my mom to another apartment. Which she now hates. I managed my Dad’s care. And their finances. My life has been on hold for the last year. My daughter lost her job because of all the trips we had to take to care of my parents. Nothing is ever enough for them. Nothing is ever enough. Nothing.. It never has been. It never will be. Why can’t I get that through my idiotic head?!

Little did I know when I started my day, that I would need a second flat white on the way back to work after visiting my mom. It’s so annoying and sad when we have these types of interactions. No one wins a damn thing. Well, no one expect Starbucks.

 

The power

We lost power for a few days and boy did it stress me out! We tried one night at home with the fireplace. But it was too cold. I didn’t want to stay with my parents. So we booked into the Hyatt. Even so, I was discombobulated.

Sometimes I feel like I am physically located slightly outside of my brain. Like I can tell my brain is acting goofy, a little off kilter. But there’s nothing I can do about it. Like I am in my head- but outside the lines just a bit. It freaks me out.

One time, not long ago I woke up with a horrifying case of vertigo. Even thinking about it now makes me tense up. Everything was spinning and it wouldn’t stop. If you looked into my eyes, they would were tracking as if I was being spun around on a terrible, terrible merry-go-round. Ugh. Not sure if I can even write about it without having a slight panic attack. I would have chosen death over the vertigo. It was that bad. I wanted to die. I went to the hospital and they gave me lots of drugs. Eventually, the world stopped spinning. The ENT doc said it stemmed from a sinus thing, and swelling in my inner ear, and that there are these teeny tiny little “stones” in your inner ear and that they affect your balance and if one gets lodged in the wrong place, your balance goes bonkers and you get vertigo. I had a lot of physical therapy and learned a few techniques to shift those little stones, whenever I begin to feel that I might be getting dizzy. I sometimes feel that my brain is still spinning a bit. And any spinning sensation basically sends me into panic attack mode. Which is exhausting.

I think stress brings this on. Not having power and having to make a bunch of decisions based on assumptions of when the power might come back on, on top of all the other things was really making me wonky. Then, because I am a classically trained over-thinker- I started feeling the guilt- because: there are a lot of people in this world who don’t have the luxury of 24 hour electricity; there are people who don’t have the luxury of going to the hotel that’s a 5 minutes away; my cats might get too cold and lonely (yes- this is the crap that runs through my head!); I should call my parents and we should just stay with them, but that would add so much more stress- which makes me feel more guilty! You get the picture.

My life is very much about balancing multiple responsibilities. Probably a lot like many, many other people. My parents are both older and I go to their apartment between 2-5 times a week to take my mom shopping or to an appointment or sometimes just to hang out. I recently was promoted at work and my responsibilities there have grown into an endless list of high profile activities that all should have been completed weeks ago. My daughter, whom I love more than anything on the planet has some health issues and lives at home. She is making a lot of progress! And that fills my shriveled heart with joy. However, there are times when  it also freaks me out a little. Her health is connected to her independence and freedom. And that is what I want for her. However, she is the only other person on the planet with whom I can be my most complete and honest self. I’m not sure how good or healthy all of that is. I worry when she’s doing great. I worry when she’s doing not so great. Worry appears to be my hobby.

Our power came back on sooner than expected. Then we had to spend a couple of hours adjusting to that. But it was the better of the two realignments of thinking that we had to do over the last three days. I certainly do appreciate having my own house. And I have been using my sinus medicine- which is making my head feel less cloudy and funky. I wonder if those weird feelings were more sinus related and less stress/I’m losing my mind related.

My Mom Can’t Find the Plastic Bag From the Dentist: Day Four

I took Monday off work to take my mom to her two-part, final, upper denture appointment. This whole adventure/odyssey began when my parents were living a few states away. My mom’s upper, dental bridge literally fell out of her bleeding mouth as we were driving her to visit my dad in the hospital after his massive stroke. I did my best to  get her sorted; she had not been to a dentist in the last 15 or so years. I had been traveling back and forth 8 hours each way, as I was trying to manage all of the lives, in their various states of disarray, that had suddenly fallen into my lap. We had to find someplace that my mom was willing to pay for, that was quick- so we could get her seen and taken care of before I returned home. That meant a national chain. Now that I’ve moved my parents here, the closest office of this national chain of denture dentists is about an hour and twenty minutes away.

On our drive my mom, who is seventy-something (No one knows her real birthday, because she was born in Korea, records were apparently lost during the Korean war, compounded by the the fact that she had lied on her marriage certificate and no longer speaks to any of her family-so there’s some confusion around her age.) began to unpack her usual baggage. How this tiny woman is able to carry so much back-breaking, soul crushing, stress inducing baggage is unbeknownst to me. She must weight all of 87 pounds.  However, if you were to open up her carry-on, there would be about 3047 pounds of stuff. I have to think that she would love to leave this heavy burden somewhere, but something within her will not allow her to let it go. Or for whatever reason, she can’t.

And so it began. Everything that my dad had ever done wrong or not done right, since about 1964. This tiny woman started to unpack, and as she did she would carefully examine each memory, each angry little ball of hurt, sadness, regret, and disbelief, as if she was looking at it, and even feeling it for the first time. She could call up old emotions like a spell. And then she would  become inflamed over things that happened over fifth years ago.  (I think this is a fairly common phenomenon- but it still amazes me.)  I now wonder, was she looking for validation? Does she think that I can somehow heal or repair the wrongs of her sisters, my cousins, the army, my dad, my dad’s relatives? Hmmmmmm. Maybe that’s something I should ponder and maybe there’s some way that I can do this.

There’s a pattern to her  oratory- it starts with how she should have never married my dad- how selfish he was from the start. There’s a noodle story. After the Korean war, my om’s family were poor. Most Koreans were. My dad, being in the military had money. I think he left Korea and then came back after he was out of the army with $800.00. Which was like a million dollars then. Kind of. But he didn’t work. I don’t know what he did. But I know my mom’s younger brother (at least once) had to order and go pick up noodles for my dad for his dinner. And my dad would not offer nor share any of his noodles with my mom’s younger brothers, not even a drop of the broth…blah, blah, blah. Then we go fairly quickly into the how he cheated on her and then about buying some woman who lived in the same apartment building furniture with money that he should have spent on her and my sister… blah, blah, blah. Then there’s his terrible family and how they made my mom wash dishes and then they gave my infant sister some bourbon to get her to calm down and fall asleep (one time) and how my mom thinks that this is why my sister got cancer and died when she was 27, blah, blah, blah… I had to stop her when she started talking about sex. You know it’s a bit of a terrible day when your mom wants to talk about her sex life  and about your dad’s erectile dysfunction issues and his porn issues and blah, blah, blah. I think at times, that if this was on a Kardashian episode, it might be funny. It might reveal the closeness of the relationship between mother and daughter. But it is not funny. And it feels like I’m trapped. And that makes me feel guilty on seventeen different levels.

Part of me understands that my mom is older- wait, nope- not older- old. Period. She’s old and her brain is not functioning at premier levels. It’s probably functioning at the subpar level. Going round in circles, unable to untie itself. Looping endlessly about mistakes that cannot be corrected. Frustrated by degeneration.

There is a very bitter and unhappy person living within my mom. I imagine that she’s shriveled up, feels that life treated her unfairly, and is just angry for all the things that happened to her- because she had little or no control. Or when she did have control, she made the wrong choices.  It’s still hard for me, at times to try to see things from her perspective- and to understand how she got to where she is now. I just know way too much. And I hear it over and over and over. I have heard it since I was a child. She hated my Grandma. My Grandma was horrible. My Dad is horrible, America is horrible. We are terrible children. I am a terrible child. I know more than I want to know about how my mom feels about stuff. She tells me that she has no one else to talk to. And then my soul dies just a little.

Anyway- the denture dentist gave her a little plastic bag that you get from dentists, with a denture toothbrush, a polident sample, some coupons, and a container with her old denture in it. And that bag has been lost. And it’s been determined by my parents that its my fault. They are sure that I brought it home and threw it away. or left it in my car and lost it. Or that I did something with it, because  if I do not prove myself to them on a fairly regular basis, in their heart of hearts, they believe that I am a bad person with bad intentions.