Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #39
After returning from visiting my mother, I continued to hear about her situation through Snap. I had no way of knowing if my mother would get better or not.
Before my next therapy session, I heard from him that our mother had been moved from the hospital to a skilled nursing facility. She was getting better, eating more. Suddenly she was much worse and had to be taken back to the hospital. The next day she was again getting better.
–Sessions: 25 of 53
Monday, July 6, 2009 2:00pm
I asked Elsie, “are you allowing me to be delusional?” She assured me she wasn’t, and she asked what I was referring to. I asked because I was surprised how glad I was that I went to visit my mother. I wonder if I’m missing something because it simply felt good to have gone. Visiting allowed me to really see the situation. I heard what the doctors said about my mother’s condition so I didn’t have to wonder about what I was hearing from my siblings. I had seen my mother getting wonderful care. I wasn’t expecting to feel this good about the trip.
I told her all about what I experienced on my trip. Elsie says it is interesting that Pop doesn’t want to be involved but wants to know everything that is going on. I told her that I had told my siblings that while I would tell them everything I know about our mother’s situation, I can’t be expected to provide information I don’t have or to explain one person’s actions to someone else. She says this is very good.
Elsie pointed out that since Pop lived in the same city as my mother and Snap, he could be as involved as he wanted to be.
I asked her why she had told me, during our previous session, that is was generous to plan to tell my mother that I loved her. Elsie says some people would indeed be nasty or say nothing at all.
I told her about Crackle and Snap not responding well to the doctors discussing hospice care. Elsie says they aren’t ready for their mother to die. They may also be upset with the doctors and other caregivers that bring up any discussion of end-of-life care.
After this session Snap left voicemails. Our mother was improving and he wanted to discuss her condition. I had never understood his financial situation. He told me that he had some sort of rented room that he had to move out of. He was owed some sort of refund but this had been delayed. There was always lots of story, but it always ended with him needing more money. I was fully aware that his stories were his way of manipulating me. I had decided to help with my mother’s care. I had decided to get Snap setup independently from my mother. There wasn’t any way for me to know how much money he really needed. I didn’t know if he was working or how much income he had. He usually needed $100 or $200. I kept track of all the money I gave him. I wanted to know how much this was all costing.
–Sessions: 26 of 53
Monday, July 13, 2009 4:00pm
I wanted to ask Elsie, again, if I was being delusional. I had thought about my trip to visit my mother and my interactions with my siblings. I wanted her opinion of how I was reacting to all I had seen and heard. I wanted her to tell me if I was hiding from my true feelings, if I was being delusional about how I felt about what was happening.
Since Snap had been living with my mother I assumed he had been helping to some extent with her care. I told Elsie that I felt no guilt that he had been caring for my mother. Her response was clear. He could have made different choices and he could be far away from his mother, sending money for her care. Elsie is very firm that Snap is responsible for his life and that I am not. She also pointed out that someone needed to be working to help pay for things. That someone was me.
This is an important point. My siblings made choices, choices that affected the options they now have, later in their lives. The fact that they have limited options, later in life, is not my responsibility. I have been made to feel bad over the years because they have fewer choices. This was a manipulation which I would no longer be part of.
I told Elsie that I didn’t feel shocked or sad about my mother appearing smaller and frail when I saw her in the hospital. I wasn’t surprised that she had dementia. I asked if I was being delusional, since I wasn’t upset by all of this. Elsie said I was being very realistic. I was seeing my mother’s condition as it really was. My mother was smaller, frail, had dementia and probably wouldn’t be going home again.
I told Elsie that I had a feeling Snap and Crackle would want to have a big funeral. She agreed, and tells me her mother’s funeral was simple but still cost $6,000. She asked me to think about how I would feel about paying for a big funeral. She told me that I had no obligation to pay for what my siblings wanted. She told me to talk with my wife, decide how much we would contribute towards the cost of a funeral. No one had told me that my mother was dying, but after seeing her I was convinced her death was not far off.
Elsie was concerned about Snap needing more money. I told her that his perception of something being completely taken care of was very different from mine. My way of handling this would be to figure out all the debts and how to pay them all off. His way was to deal with whatever crisis came up one day and not even look at what is coming next. I had to put aside my agenda, my way of doing things, and wait for all the various financial issues to come to light. Elsie said it was very good that I was able to put my way of doing things aside. I talked with my wife and she agreed with me that I had an obligation to help pay off my mother’s debts. We agreed on a maximum monthly amount that I would contribute to whatever my mother’s care was costing.
I had taken my oldest son to his orientation at college. I told Elsie how glad I was that I went. My wife had worked with him on his college applications and many other aspects of getting ready to attend. I handled his orientation. He and I talked a lot during the days we were at the college. It became clear to me that my son really believed we would pay for his college. He trusts that I will honor my commitment to him. I had created a reality I had never experienced.
This is another example of what Elsie was asking me about back in Session 2. If I were to leave, as my father did, I would not have been involved in my sons going to college, and they would have no reason to assume that I would honor my commitments to them.
Elsie told me that to be the parents we are from where I came from is “astounding”. I didn’t know what to say. She asked me to think how my sons will describe me to their children. Again, I wasn’t sure what to say. She said I am being so supportive of my sons going to college. She said I internalized all my issues from my childhood instead of externalizing, instead of taking it out on my kids. She said most people externalize.
My youngest son was in the high school marching band and my wife and I volunteered a great many hours to help. One of my activities was helping sell fireworks for the 4th of July weekend. I told Elsie that while I was helping I saw a young family. Their daughter was just tall enough to see over the counter and she looked right at me. I told Elsie that I wondered what it would be like to look into those eyes and explain why I had to leave her, explain that I had a new wife, new children, as so many fathers do. Elsie said that would be a conversation I would have to have every time I saw her, even on my deathbed, she would still be wondering why.
Elsie wasn’t harsh very often, but she said, “and that love bullshit”. I looked at her, puzzled. She explained that when the parent leaves they tell the kids they love them. I can’t imagine having that conversation once, let alone over and over. My father was able to.
I told her that I had been thinking about something she said in an earlier session. I had never thought about how my father left me with my mother even though he knew she had mental health issues. Elsie emphasized how wrong this was, because he knew how mentally ill she was.
This is how therapy works. They ask you about things, you tell them about things, you think about what they said, you come back and discuss what you thought about. It sounds simplistic, but it is very powerful.
After this session I needed to get cash to Snap. I had thought a lot about what I would and would not do. I decided that whenever I gave him money, it would be cash. This would prevent any link between my finances and his. I didn’t want him to have any checks from me, or a joint bank account, to make sure I had no formal connection with any of his finances. This seemed a bit paranoid at the time, but later on I would be really glad I was this careful.
He had an account at a bank that had a branch near my home. I could deposit cash into his account at this local branch. The bank would not allow me to deposit money into his account through the ATM so I had to go inside each time I gave him cash. The tellers got to know me over the months to come.