Who really would believe that we are stuck in the SAME OLD DANCE year after year after decade? Doesn't it all get old after a while? Why then was I crying when I got off the phone Monday? I guess that's what makes me want to write about it, because I cried. (Humph. There's something wimpy in tears forcing a blog spot.)
I've been meaning to write about this, but then I've been holding off because it all seems so whiny and repetitive somehow. But it's also so amazingly otherwordly -- the turns of the gerbil wheel that is the drama of my family. Again I say, if I read this in a book, I'd never believe that people stay on this track year after year after year. Novels are about change, but not life. Not in my family.
I'll talk about the aftermath in Part Two, which I had to pull off into a separate post because this one got sooooo long. In fact, you may want to brew a cup of tea before settling into this one. I'll wait.
My mother called Monday to tell me how horrible her weekend was. Fuck me, why do you have to do this? Isn't there someone else you can complain to? My brother (now finally divorced) learned that his ex-wife was allowing his eldest son's girlfriend to sleep over and in the same room, so he called the DSS (which is child protective services in MA) to start an investigation on his ex-wife for neglect and contributing to statutory rape (Dramatic much?). My mother was positively gleeful. (I'm not sure I believe the story as presented either. I'll be interested to hear what the DSS investigation turns up.)
After a lengthy pause I said, "Wow. Well, I guess if he goes ahead and proves her unfit this is an opportunity for him to grow up and actually take responsibility for his kids."
"I don't think that will happen really. I don't think either one of them have the skills to take care of their kids." (Wait. Is that honesty I hear? What the hell?) "Of course, you know what that means. I'm going to have to be the one to raise those kids."
"Could be. You know, if you think that's where this is going, you really should just file for partial legal custody so that you'd have some say in what happens."
"I can't do THAT! I'm not going to be taking them into my house. Teenagers. All that loud music. The noise, the food. Fighting about homework. I like my life. I'm not doing that again." (And the honesty lasts for about point three seconds. Start up that gerbil wheel, here we go.)
"So you aren't going to raise them -- I thought you said that you were going to end up with them."
"Not in my house. But if your brother (I love when she does this. When she tries to explain a point, relatives often lose their names. Your aunt, Your brother -- like it's somehow my fault that they're fucked up? What is that?) gets custody of them, I'll be the one paying all the bills, taking them to classes, making sure they get to tutors. That will all fall to me."
"But you do that anyway. How is that him taking responsibility for them? You don't have any control over them or him as it is. What's different?"
"Oh no. If he gets them away from Her (She-who-shall-not-be-named) then he'll listen to me. He will. I'll be all he has."
Whoa. Red light. What?? Think highly of yourself, do you?
"He doesn't listen to you now. He doesn't give a shit what you think or what you want, as long as he's able to head off to his spin class at 5:30 in the morning. Are you going to go get them up for school? Are you going to pack their lunches? Nothing will change if they get taken away from Steph. In fact, it will all be worse. I didn't say take them into your house. I didn't say physical custody. I said legal custody. Get some legal control. Legal. Not physical."
Very huffily, "I'm not going to do THAT. File for custody. Hmn."
"Great. So once again the kids will learn that no one gives a shit about them. Their mother wants their idiot father to have them every weekend so that she can have those free. Their father doesn't want to take care of them on the weekend, nor does he want to pay $200 a week in child support. What is that: groceries? And you can't be bothered to be responsible either. Excellent."
"I am responsible. I take them to the museum. I pay for everything." (The museum. Yeah.)
"Then why does he have a judgment against him for non-payment of child support? They're garnishing his wages. For two hundred bucks. He's never going to get another salaried job again. He knows it will all be sucked up in the DOR judgment. Some responsibility there."
"Oh I know. It's awful. He's so impossible. Do you know that this weekend he came to us saying that he couldn't pay his rent (Oh shit. I know where this one is going.) so we wrote him a check for fifteen hundred, and he deposited it in an account that had been seized? His accounts have been seized! And then when we wrote him another one, he was yelling at us. At us! He's not even grateful. I don't know what to do with him."
Something nasty and vile just fell inside my chest. A hunk of rotten flesh fell from my sternum, a putrid stalactite letting loose, landing in my belly, bursting open on impact. I can feel the maggots wriggle. I'm going to vomit. But then I'd be vomiting worms. Swallow down. Swallow down. Jesus H. Christ. I can't believe I'm listening to this shit. I can't believe I'm here. Swallow down.
"Wait. You spent three thousand dollars on him this weekend? You gave him more money after you KNEW his rent money had been seized?"
"We had to." (Her Shirley Temple Voice. Little Miss Sunshine. On the Goo-oo-od Ship Lollipop.)
"No you didn't. He can't pay his rent. Make him be a man. He's forty six years old. Let him pay his own fucking rent."
"But he can't."
My head explodes.
"Oh my Good God. Cut him off. Stop it. Read a fucking book on co-dependence. Why are you doing this to him? You know what, forget about him. What about his kids? 'The Boys' as you call them. Their father is always going to be like this. Think of The Boys in their thirties. Their forties. When you die, he's going to come around to them, 'Pay for this. Why won't you support me? After all, I'm the one who took you away from your horrible mother. I need money. You need to pay.' No wonder they hate him now. They'll hate him more later. Why would you DO that to your own grandchildren? Every time you bail him out, you are condemning your grandchildren to a horrible adulthood. Can't you see that? Jesus Christ. You are helping him be this way. He's dependent on you. He's damaged. You are co-dependent together. Stop it. Step out of it. Jesus Christ."
There's a lot in here that I don't quite remember, or is too repetitive to transcribe in intimate detail. We went round and round and round. She absolutely doesn't see that she is bailing him out. She has this incredible fear of homelessness, that much is clear. "I can't let him end up on the streets" and" He can't live in a cardboard box" and "He needs clean clothes, not rags from some thrift store." Such a snob. She buys him clothes from Macy's and Brooks Brothers. Brooks Brothers!!
But my favorite line, when I kept harping back on co-dependence ( You think you can control other people's actions and emotions: co-dependent. You are addicted to the drama he brings you: co-dependent. You are made to feel as if you are the center of someone else's universe : co-dependent) was this gem. I'm not sure I can type it so that her inflection is clear.
"So I read a BOOOOK on co-dePENNdence. Then what?"
At some point I realized that this was hopeless, a mind-fuck, and a complete waste of my morning, so I started saying, "I can't listen to this anymore. It's too much. You do what you want, but I can't hear about it." And, "I can't listen to this. I'm warning you, I need to stop." And, "OK, enough. We need to change the subject because I'm not kidding. It is damaging to me to listen to you go on about this."
Said in a nasty whining, snitty tone, "Oh, it's daa-maging to YEW."
At which point, I held the phone out in front of my chest and said into the air, "I'm sorry. I've had it. I can't do this anymore," and hung up the phone.
And cried for about ten minutes. Huge gulping sobs.
I'm better now, but wow. That was a bit more intense than I had expected. What's insane, above all else, is that she's been in therapy with the same psychiatrist (whom she sees once a week and who she calls at home if she's having a crisis) since 1989. Nineteen years of weekly therapy. Nineteen years. Rock of Gibraltar she is.
Or he's a really bad therapist. Or both.