Today I visited my mother in the nursing home. I go every week and usually it’s an okay experience for both of us. Not today. Today I made my mother cry… again. I didn’t mean to do it, but I walked into it nonetheless.
I’ve always been the one who made my mother cry. My father made her cry quite a bit, too, but he didn’t do it on purpose, I did. My brother just frustrated my mother. He made her yell.
I resented my mother when I was a child because I had to take care of her while my dad went to the gay bar each night to “get away”, as he put it. I had to listen to my mother express all the anger she felt towards my father every single night. I wasn’t old enough to drive and didn’t have anyplace to go even if I could actually leave. Because my brother didn’t want to deal with her, and he could drive, he left. There was no one left to fetch her drinks except me.
My mom had a stroke when I was 4 years old. It left her brain damaged with poor reasoning skills, no short term memory and a lot of mobility issues. It subsequently caused all kinds of addiction issues but I didn’t understand any of that at the time. I was just pissed off that I had to sit with her and fetch her drinks while everyone else seemed to be having a good time.
My father died 10 years ago and she’s been in a nursing home pretty much ever since. The nursing home is located 40 minutes away so I only get out there once a week, which is still a helluva lot more often than anyone else goes out to see her.
Which is neither here nor there because she can’t remember if I was there or not. I can’t tell you how often people have suggested to me that I don’t go out as frequently as I do.
Sorry, I can’t. I’m a glutton for punishment.
Today was pretty normal. When I walked in she complained of feeling sick to her stomach. She complains of this only to me. To the staff she feels just fine. The staff (who are wonderfully caring) and I have determined that it is me that brings on the stomach ache.
Mom is captivated by the election which is good because without it to talk about we’d just sit and stare at each other. Usually she will ask how I am doing, I will reply “fine” and then we have nothing left to discuss. Instead we talk about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And even that conversation only takes a few minutes because she thinks they are both horrible candidates, and so do I. What more is there to say?
She asked if I was still doing the same job. She isn’t really sure what I do even though I tell her just about every time I visit. She’s never used the internet and has no idea what a web page or blog is so that she can’t remember it is no big deal. She then asked what my brother was doing.
“The same thing, mom.”
And then she says this:
“What happened to you two?”
I’m not sure where this is going, I should, but I wasn’t expecting it and she’s often delusional. For the last several visits she’s been convinced my brother is in the CIA (he’s not, though I suppose if he was I might not know it) and that I have been writing all of Donald Trump’s speeches. If she still believes that, it’s a fair question.
“What do you mean?” I say.
“Why are you two such failures?” she asks, “you were given an excellent education, you have no excuse for not being successful.”
Now I have a choice. I can answer her question honestly or I can lie to her. I’m feeling like I was just sucker punched so I choose the honesty route, though I try to temper it as best I can without pointing fingers at anyone.
“Well, when you are a child in a chronic state of depression and no one addresses it, it can be difficult to get your shit together and become a success,” I say. “I can’t speak for (my brother) but I know for me it was just about surviving each day.”
And then she starts crying.
“That’s not fair,” she says, “you can’t blame it on me.”
And then I go and undo a nice chunk of what my therapist has tried to fix over the last year and a half.
“It’s not your fault mom, it was a crappy situation,” I say, thinking I should try to physically comfort her by hugging her, but I just can’t bring myself to do it so I stare at the wall behind her while she collects herself. “No one could have done anything.”