“James Mark,” Mother said, “you are gonna drive me up the kooky wall someday!”
I suppose I exasperated Mother, with my keen intelligence and utter social withdrawal, putting the burden of ‘enabler’ upon her for, oh, 18 yrs. That was after the 18 yrs she had to legally take care of me.
“You know, “ I told people after she died in 2004, and I had a hell of a lot of explaining to do to maintain any semblance of self respect, “I believe, as do my sisters, that Mother kept me tied to her apron strings. Through enabling my bipolar disorder. To keep me close to her, and away from the wickedness of the world.”
People would shake their heads up and down and sigh and tell me what a good son I was and how highly she spoke of me.
“James, don’t you ever want to make something of yourself, “ Mom would say after months and months of sleeping til noon, getting up to watch the soaps with her & Dad, eating the food she made for me or I made for them, then settling in to some afterdinner tv. Over and over. Lost years?
“So what are you gonna do about it?”
“I don’t know.” I could barely talk then, from the shame and humiliation of my situation. Luckily I had four or five hours after they went to bed (“10 oclock sharp!”) to watch what I wanted to watch on tv, and suck down the beer Dad bought for me. “3 a night,Jim, that is all,” he said.
“Well, don’t you want a family of your own someday? “ She wanted grandchildren desperately. Her two daughters were childless. Her daughter in law forbade my brother’s only son from having anything to do with her. After an incident when her only grandchild was maybe 7 months old.
“Of course!” Blah. Unlikely.
“Well then, you need to make something of yourself” was her sage advice.
When Mom died, Dad was 82 and obese and far into the end stages of his drunken dementia. Yes, he still drank; the wine was watered down by me but it was the only way to get the beer. He’d take me to the liquor store, hand me a 20 dollar bill, I’d run in & get the wine & beer & a pack of cigs, and keep the change. I collected the change. 3 bucks everytime. Twice or three times a week. My income.
Dad would sit and watch tv after Mom died. Not much else, except swell up in his legs arms and , weirdly, testicles , in the months after September 2004. Deep fatigue struck him. “I am almost gone,” he said. He’d been saying that for years. This time, it was true, sort of. Congestive heart failure.
Heart failed him.
Dependency is an odd thing when it goes ‘co-‘.
I credit codependency with saving my sanity, but that is not the standard opinion, I realize.
The way I see it is: they made my life utter hell for the first 18 yrs, fucked me up so bad, sent me up that ‘kooky wall’ with their alcoholic nonsense just when I needed them most, that they fucking owed me a safe haven. This theory . this miserable justification for my utter withdrawal from life, I was not shy about throwing in Mom’s face if she took her maternal knives to me and tried to force me out. George and Eleanor were masters at both masochism and subtle sadism , and I was a bright student.
Anyway, the whole thing finally flipped over, with me as caregiver, when Mom started getting effects from her cirrhosis & suffering all kinds of maladies that she would need a good son to help heal: osteoarthritis! (Knee replacement) ; falls ! (1. Hip broken, 2. Shoulder broken); diabetes! (that was a shock, a 70 yr old gal getting hit with type 2); breast cancer! Ultimately encephalopathy. Death.
The flip was helped with Dad’s ‘vascular dementia’ and colon cancer, too. A demented man with a physically ill elderly wife and a colostomy bag that needed changing everyday cannot look after himself. “I am a mess,” he would moan, everytime he lay with his pants down, exposing his bag and his balls too, and that teeny tiny uncircumcised old man penis. “I am sorry”.
I was a mess too, and they knew I was sorry.
We helped each other through terrible times. I still say, “I cared for my parents” when they ask what my lifehistory was.
I not only did that, but ushered them calmly, peacefully, to their graves, without either of them knowing they were about to die.
But maybe that was them. Sparing me. And my sisters.
I have never really looked into the eyes of anyone who knows for sure they are gonna die, except..