Monday, October 29, 2012

Too Many Pieces In This Particular Puzzle

They called me from the assisted living this morning that my mother's eye was red and swollen and that they had made an appointment for her with her eye doctor and that the bus would take her.
I sighed because I knew that just taking her to an appointment was not enough. Whatever the doctor told her, she would forget before she got back home and so I needed to go.
And so I did.
She was hugely upset, not because of her eye (and it turned out to be an oil gland on the lid which was inflamed, not the eye itself) but because she had lost a hundred dollars. She had called the week before in tears- she had a hair appointment but no money with which to pay for it. We haven't figured this money thing out yet. There used to be a bank branch in the basement of the AL but it's no longer there and it's a moot point anyway because Mother can't remember her password for her debit card and so getting cash that way is impossible for her. Besides that, she loses every debit card Mr. Moon gets her and then he cancels them and gets her another and the cycle is repeated. So he has been taking money from her account and taking it to her which he did last week. One hundred dollars in twenties. And he gave her the money and watched her put it in her wallet and she went to lunch and he left.
And then, she did something with that money. She had told Mr. Moon that she wanted to take some out of her wallet- that was too much money to keep in one place and he had said, "Fine, do whatever you want, it's your money but do it after lunch. You need to go eat."

And in her mind, the money had never been in her wallet. She swears up and down that no, she had not even seen the cash, it had been in an envelope and she had put the envelope of cash in a stationery box but now it was not there.

I checked her wallet when we were at the doctor's office and her entire purse. No cash there at all. I told her I'd help her find it when we got back to her place. And I tried. I looked through every stationery box (and there are many) and through things in her desk and in her drawers. I found other things- a gift certificate for $250 from 1982 to a jewelry store in Winter Haven. Other gift cards from Target, Barnes and Noble, and an old bank envelope with four dollars in it. But no envelope with one hundred dollars in it. And she kept saying over and over again that she had taken the envelope from Mr. Moon and put it on top of a cabinet and then, after lunch, she had put it in a stationery box but Mr. Moon said there had never been an envelope and when I would tell her that, she'd say, "Well, that's just not true," and she also, at one point, told me that the bills had been new and crisp although a little while later, as I said, she declared that she had never seen the cash itself and when I pointed this discrepancy out, she said, "Well, I don't remember telling you that."
She knows she can't remember shit and it's killing her. But she refuses to believe that there was no envelope and that the money was ever in the wallet. "I'm the old one so we all know who everyone thinks is crazy," she kept saying.

She went and got her late lunch and I continued to look through her things for the money. I HATE going through her things. It's one fucking memory after another. The jewelry gift certificate was from my stepfather. Just seeing his name made me want to scream. There's old jewelry and old pictures (interestingly enough, and perhaps telling, as well, I never found one picture of me and there are no pictures of me in her room on display either) and old obituaries and newspaper articles and decades of years' worth of address labels from different charity organizations she gave to and I just hated going through that stuff. I found symphony tickets, some for concerts yet to be played and when I showed her those she said, "I didn't buy those. I don't remember paying for those." And then she said what she always says, "I just wish I were dead."
She must have said that ten times today at least.
And it's not that I can't sympathize with her when she says that. I can. What sort of hell on earth is it that you can't remember anything, whether it's what the doctor told you two minutes ago or it's buying symphony tickets or it's where you hid what seems to you the vast sum of one hundred dollars?
But I can't take it, hearing that. I have heard her say, my entire life, that she might as well kill herself. From my earliest memories I can hear her saying or screaming or sobbing that very phrase and finally, today, I told her, "Mom. Please don't say that to me anymore. I know you feel that way but what can I do? I can't kill you and I can't change anything and it just makes me feel terrible."

She didn't know what to say. I've never really spoken to her that way. I've never been able to tell my mother how what she says makes me feel. I tried once or twice but was shut down so severely and so quickly that I simply quit. It wasn't worth it.

And today, after I said that, she said, "I don't expect you to DO anything about it. I don't mean to make you feel bad." And I'm sure she doesn't but god damn!

I do not especially like the way I am with my mother these days. Not that I ever have, truthfully. But there seems to be some evil side of me that comes forth now and I contradict her, even if I know that it does no good. I tell her flat-out if what she is saying is not truthful, even if I know in my heart that what she is saying is truthful in her mind, whether it's that there was an envelope and the money was never in the wallet or that they make them eat dinner at four-thirty or that they assign them seats where they MUST sit in the dining room no matter how much she doesn't like a table mate. I just tell her the truth of the matter and she disagrees with me or shuts up with a resigned and hurt expression on her face and frankly, it doesn't bother me and I wonder- am I truly evil? I am quite aware that it does no good whatsoever to point out the truth to her. Her truth is her truth and nothing I say is going to change what she perceives that to be.
And really, this is the way she has always been and of course, it is the way she will always be, however long she lives.

And so I finally gave up looking for the money. I told her to please try and relax, that perhaps if she quit worrying about it, she would remember what she had done with it. She told me that she would be worrying about it for the rest of her life, no matter what I said. She had lost Mr. Moon's money.
I told her that no, it was HER money. And that seemed to calm her a little bit although she is quite certain that she knows exactly what she did with the money and it is just not there any more.
At least she isn't blaming any of the AL's employees for the missing money. At least she isn't accusing them of theft the way the table mate whom she does not like is constantly doing.

Oh, god. It would be funny if it weren't so tragic. She also told me today that the candidates running for the various city offices had come to speak to them and the woman who was running for sheriff is just way too little to be a sheriff. That there's no way she could handle a criminal.
I was thinking, dear god, does she believe she lives in Mayberry?
I told her that in Tallahassee, the sheriff probably never goes out on the street to deal with criminals and that size does not matter. She thought about that and I think she realized this might be true. That, she believed. But she does not believe that the hundred dollars was ever in her wallet and she does not believe that she can sit anywhere she wants to in the dining room and you know what else I think she does not believe?
That her husband sexually abused me when I was a child. Or that he may have abused his sons, as well.

And there you go.

That explains almost everything.

Except you know what? I think maybe she does believe it. I think she always had an inkling. Why else would she never have redeemed that gift certificate at the jewelry store from him from 1982 which was years before I told her about the abuse? Two hundred and fifty dollars in 1982 could have bought some sweet jewelry. And there it's been in that desk for thirty years where it was easy to see. I took her to buy a new watch at Walmart today and it cost thirty dollars and she thought that was an enormous amount of money to spend on a watch. She knew the value of two hundred and fifty dollars. She knew it. She just didn't want to accept any gifts from that man, her husband. Or at least, that's what I am thinking. I could be so very, very wrong.

It's all so tangled and so hard and if I was half the person I wish I was, I could figure out some way to heal things, to ease her mind. To be more loving. And maybe before it's too late, I'll figure out how to be that person.

I'm not counting on it though. Which only adds to the entanglement, the difficulty. I know that. I'm not stupid and I'm not truly hateful.

Well, I'm also not going to solve anything tonight.

But it's time to make supper and that I can do.

I'll see you tomorrow.

Love...Ms. Moon Who Talks Back To Her Mother And Who Does Not Feel That Good About It


  1. wow. Your life is full, your heart is too. I hope your mother knows how lucky she is to have you.

    love d

  2. Ms. Moon, it is not my business to tell you what to do, but I had this thought... you are such a good mother. And you know how as we get really old, we revert to childish ways? Could you think of her as you would your child? I don't mean patronize her. Just be the mother that she can't be.

    It's not fair. You shouldn't have to. But maybe?

  3. WEll, there you are then, having a silent scream like so many others do, and keeping it all rolled up until you have to express in words on the page, and then you feel guilty for feeling bad for all the bad things that were done to you and others, and that you were never believed at the time.!!!.. but maybe you were, and she didnt know what to do about it.. That silent scream is much better out, dear Mrs Moon, and you did it this evening by writing, and good for you..You have no reason to feel bad, its just programming... you are caring for her despite all the odds, and I and many others admire you for it.. Try to be kind to yourself and remember, you are so very loved by that Mr, your kids, grandkids and now a whole bunch of us on blogland!!

  4. You need to write a memoir, dear Ms. Moon. Missed you! So very busy on my end, but I think of you every day.

  5. Maybe you have to tell her how what she says makes you feel before you can get to the place you would like to be. Maybe you have to be able to tell her even if you aren't for sure that she remembers or understands because of all those times you were shut down when you tried. I can't imagine you are hollaring at her, just saying it. I think it's ok.

    This is my 4th time trying the capcha.

  6. Oh Mary, sending you love, love, love. I wish I could give you a big old hug. What a winding around, twisty day you had.

  7. You know what? I needed to read your stream of consciousness today. It made me feel like my finger was on your pulse and it just reminded me of the power of the written word. What you have described is the part that often gets forgotten. I was reading and trying to reconcile who your mother was with who she is now and also who you once were with who you are. All of it clashed together. . .it's hard and I'm sorry.

    Thank you for being such a brave writer, person, and friend. We are better for knowing you.

    Your friend, KM

  8. For heaven's sake. You know as well as I do that having your buttons pushed by your parents doesn't make you evil. Just human. You haven't figured out a way to manage it better and not take it personally yet, like most of the rest of us. That's all. It's not like you're sticking pins in her. Are you? Or hiding her money... right?

    You know, the thing to do is probably to go get another hundred dollars from her account and 'find' it under her stationary. I'm sure you've thought of that already, but ... well, that's what occurred to me as I was reading.

    I wrote a post about my grandmother and the woes my father's having too... it's all so very hard.

  9. Deirdre- I don't think she ever has that thought. Ever. She does, however, appreciate The Mister. As you might say. And she should. He does so much for her.

    Stephanie- I sure have thought about that. But it does not come naturally at all. She is not really child-like.

    Janzi- Thank you. I am trying to keep it all in a sane perspective which does not come easy to me! But I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. I will ponder them.

    Angie- I've got a memoir going. Slowly. Very, very slowly.

    Kristin- The captchas are evil these days. I swear. No. I'm not hollering. Just saying. I don't think it would make much difference though.

    Lora- I'm so glad we "know" each other. I swear I am.

    gradydoctor- Sometimes there is just no good ending or way to wrap things up with a positive note. It's just the way it is. Life is NOT a sit-com, is it? I sure am glad you're here. You have no idea.

    Jo- That idea to "find" the money never occurred to me. Because I am NOT COMPASSIONATE. Plus she still has enough cognition to realize that I'd done it.
    Going to your blog now.

  10. Oh dear oh honey. Mothers know when their husbands are abusing their children. And fathers know (and so do the siblings) when mothers are abusing their children. There is no excuse for it.

    I cannot bear to see my mother face to face. I'm waiting until she's on her death bed to tell her what I feel.

    Which one of us will go to hell?

    I love you Mary Moon.

  11. Radish King-Look- if there is a hell, I'll save you a seat and I'll have a drink ready for you at the bar. I'll be sitting right next to Keith Richards. I'll be wearing a pink camellia in my hair. I think you'll recognize me.

  12. Mary, what you are doing isn't easy. It sucks and it sucks and it sucks, and the past sucked and people don't protect us when they should and yet: you are protecting your mother. You are an enormously good and real and flawed and beautiful person. Remember that. And you know what? You changed the cycle, you did. You did that amazing fucking thing. And we all love you out here in the ether. Hang in there.

  13. Be easy on yourself. Every day I see children trying to convince their parents of things. It is very normal.

    As for the money, check under her mattress and in the freezer.

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  15. I became impatient with my mother as she got old. I hated that I wasn't patient with her. She would repeat the same stories and questions. She also lost her things--her wedding ring, clothes, etc. I loved her so much and regret that I didn't have more patience with her. Perhaps I was angry that she had gotten old and wasn't the same strong person that she used to be. I just know that getting old sucks for all concerned.

  16. I know this is so hard for you... spending time with her and having to be her advocate/caretaker. It's hard under any circumstances, but I'm thinking the historical tentativeness of your relationship with her makes it even more intense and frustrating.

    A wise woman recently told me to try to be patient with myself... :-) Not bad advise.
    Big hug,
    xoxo m

  17. You broke the cycle, Mary. You did. And you're the most extraordinary earth mother -- you are. And as I read this post, I kept thinking, "what the fuck" and "why?" and "what the fuck," and "why?" and then I wanted to just brink you a drink and sit and drink with you and laugh and cry at all the world's absurdity.

  18. Oh, my god. So hard. You seem incredibly patient to me. I think I'd have only a fraction of the relative calm you manage given the past and present circumstances. And, you know, maybe a little talking back is okay. It shook up the usual dynamic, so it seems. Maybe that's a good thing.

  19. I went thru every emotion you are experiencing with my mother. She had severe dementia, I was her caregiver and I loved and hated her at the same time. I never said anything to her about what happened. I couldn't. She lost her ability to speak and I felt it would be cruel. She died. I have no feelings about her at all most of the time. I miss some of her but she harmed me, changed me, killed a part of me. You have had the strength to make a life for yourself and create your own loving family. In my book that would be all I needed to go thru the motions of taking care of my mother and letting her shit go. Don't put yourself through this because of what she did. You didn't do anything and you are having to care for her. So sad to witness the pain and yet I know as I lived it too. Pat yourself on the back for showing up at all. You could have dumped her there and let the home take care of her. It sucks. I hope she is gone soon because I hate to read the impact on you. Is that cruel or what? Just let it be over. S Jo

  20. You may not like the way you are with your mother, but you're THERE, which is the important thing. You're helping her cope with her confusion, even if it's just repeatedly setting her mind on the right path (and even if it drives you crazy). You're there despite everything, which says a lot about you.

  21. Sometimes life offers no reconciliation. Only when we leave this place are the books balanced... or done away with all together.

  22. Believe me when I say I hear you, Ms. Moon--I really get it. First, because of the person you are, you have shown your mother respect all your life and prob way more than deserved. You have a 100% right to your feelings. What has worked best for me is to tell everything about my point of view and history to an old friend who validates me. Saying anything to my mother results in gaslighting--telling me it didn't happen that way. There will always be a lack of empathy, and it will always be about her. Forgive me if I am projecting, but, I can tell you that as we age and raise our own children, our brain figures out what our heart always knew about betrayal. There's anger too. And then it takes days to recover ourselves from the raw exposure after a visit.
    It is not a piece of cake to have to be 50-something and always have this reality inside. But what remains behind is a woman who broke the cycle of narcissism, and who loves her children for the people they are. It is interesting how sometimes in a family there is a survivor and that is you. You fell far from the tree and are capable of truly loving so many people, from your children to grandchildren and old, old friends, new friends and your husband. And they love you in a way she will never have. You did not cause the problem.
    --Michele R.

  23. I give you hugs, as if that's enough.

    I too think I would just get anothe envelope with $100 in it and hope for the best - that she doesn't realize it's not the same $100. But maybe she'll forget that she lost it altogether.

    Dear Lord I give you hugs.

  24. Uggh. Life is so damn complicated.

  25. Sara- It's funny. Today I feel so at peace. I don't really think I'm evil. I do know how flawed I am but, somehow, today, that is just okay. Thank-you so much.

    Syd- It helps to know that I'm not the only one. Yes- my experience is the same as yours was. The endless stories (all five of them), the questions, the losing stuff. It's so frustrating and hard to be patient. Your words remind me though, to try.

    Ms. Fleur- Today I am. Thanks, honey.

    Elizabeth- As you asked today- who knows? It would be so lovely to sit wit you. So lovely.

    Denise- I think of you and your mother and I just hate the fact that I am never going to have that ease, that feeling of respect that you have for your mother. I hate it. But I can't seem to change. I cannot undo the past. I can forgive, sure, but I can't undo what my bones are formed of.

    S. Jo- Hell. SHE wants to die so why would wishing her dead be cruel? I hope that like you, when my mother does die (if she predeceases me which is not a certainty) that I, like you, won't have many thoughts about her at all. And maybe that's cruel.

    Steve- Well I sure don't LIKE being there. I do not do it graciously. Believe me.

    Nancy- That's just the damn truth.

    Michele R- No. You're right. I did not cause this. This problem. Whatever. I hope with all of my heart that I am NOT the sort of woman my mother is. On my worst days, I fear I am. On my best days, I think maybe I am not. On all days, I worry that I will eventually become more and more like her.

    Jill- I don't freaking care if she ever finds the money. Seriously. Which says a lot about me. Not good stuff, either. Thanks for the hugs.

    Betsy- That is the damn truth.

  26. Maybe she bought the symphony tickets with the missing money? Just a thought.

  27. I have a hunch you're right and Radish is right. Your mom is probably filled with deep-seeded guilt and denial that are conflicting with one another and breeding turmoil.

    I know i could never forgive myself as a mother in that circumstance- maybe she realizes that and chooses to keep her head buried rather than face the awful music... But it's a crazy, fucking unfair thing to do to you which could never be justified.

    We've had to face similar realities in my family and my mother's sentiments were also, "I want to die" There's no way to deflect that sort of stabbing sentiment. What power our mothers have over us. I'm so sorry you still have to endure those words.

    I had the same compulsion as Elizabeth, but since she has drinks covered, i'll bring the weed.

    Also, if you go to Hell, i definitely want to find myself there too.

  28. It's hard. My husband's mother is a difficult, difficult person. Now she has dementia and she and his dad still live in their big old house and refuse to move and it seems every other week is a crapshoot of who will end up in the hospital after falling down. I have smiled and nodded at the woman for years but last week, she was being as awful as she could be and we were in the hospital and my husband had been awake for a long time and when he walked out of the room, she said something nasty about him and I snapped. Then I felt guilty. Then I felt vindicated. Then guilty. It's just... hard. Love to you, Mrs. Moon.

  29. Oh, for crissake, Mary......reading your guilt laden agonizing and all the comments of your readers makes me want to scream. (I don't give a damn whether that makes me a bad person or makes me comfortable to express my feelings instead of hiding them and pretending that it is all fine)

    Why, in all of the words written above has no one mentioned the fact that parents are PEOPLE who just happen to be our Mothers and Fathers. They hold a slightly exalted position but they are not Gods. You would not be criticized for speaking up to a friend and explaining that what they said or did had made you feel terrible. For our own good we must often....and, indeed, SHOULD..... defend our tenderest parts against attack or abuse. Without doing so we have no self respect. Why can we not use the same rules when dealing with our parents?. And it is especially important when we have bottled up those feelings and protests for so long.

    It took me most of a lifetime to realize this and my relationships with my family became infinitely better for it. I did not become a monster. After finally reassessing our roles as people and expressing myself I was able to treat my parents with more patience and sympathy and loving kindness than before speaking up. Being a good son or daughter does not require that you turn yourself into a guilt-ridden doormat nor a desperate,subjugated servant.

    You are no longer a no longer need your parents to survive. Gaining their approval does not trump doing the right thing by them and by yourself. They now need YOU and indeed, become more like the child in the relationship. In order to love and care for them well you must behave like the adult not the child. You really need to feel your own worth as a person (not just a son or daughter) before you can properly care for aging loved ones. And you gotta stop treating them as though they were godly creatures and if you fail in any way you will go straight to hell. (If you do, you will meet them there and you can continue the foolishness for eternity.)

    Of course, I could be wrong, but
    it seems to me that what I have said makes perfect sense. (How come nobody else seems to believe it ? ) Sigh.

    Sorry for the rant, I will shut up now.

  30. Damn it, it's not YOUR job to heal her. Oh this post made me ache. First off, do you know how amazing you are for putting that boundary there, for saying finally please don't say that to me anymore? Huge. So huge. And not at all easy. I know.
    Do you know what it does to a child/person (I know you do) to hear their mother say over and over she might as well kill herself, die?
    Perhaps yes, she knew about the abuse, and those words speak to that. She would rather be dead than really know or accept or do anything about what was happening. It was too much, only death made sense. But it's a cop out.
    And saying that just did more damage to you and confused you more.

    Damn Mary.

  31. Birdie- She has no freezer but I will check under the mattress.

    Ms. Bastard-Beloved- Nah, she bought those tickets way last year. And they cost a lot more than a hundred bucks.

    Ajax- You are wise AND you crack me up. I'm so glad to see you around again. So glad. Thank you.

    Lo- You just gave me a whole new perspective and I am SO grateful. You're right. Parents are not gods. I'm a parent and I'm not a god! That's for sure! Bless you, bless you, bless you and thank-you. I am SO glad to know you. So glad to be able to hear what you think because you think about things in a way that has wisdom and experience behind it.

  32. Thank you, Mary. I am so glad you found some good out of my rant. You must know that I love you dearly and only want good to come to you. It pains me when I read you berating are such a fantastic, amazing and truly good person and such a brave one that I cannot help but shoot my mouth off sometimes in an effort to ease your pain.

    Continue with your struggle, dear may not know it, but you have already won.
    Love, Lo


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