April 17, 2017

File this under: 2017 is trolling me

Navigating rent increases and a complicated family situationThere really is a good reason I haven’t had my dad move to a cheaper place yet. There aren’t any cheaper places to be had within a 50 mile radius of his current space (and also family support) so it didn’t make sense to force a move that would further isolate the two of them and save maybe about $50, if that, while also racking up moving costs.

He’s earning minor income on his own which is erratic, to supplement his SSI check which is small, but I pay for all his major living expenses – rent and utilities.

This month, a 60-day notice landed stating that they’re raising the rent by 50%.

As a renter, I’m horrified. As a landlord with some experience, I’m not surprised. We’ve been there a really long time and he hasn’t been good at upkeep these last few years. If he had been, I’m pretty sure they would have just kept on with the same rate. But even if we didn’t have huge house-hunting expenses coming up, we aren’t able to just absorb that 50% increase.

I had to have a conversation about what he’s going to do with him. That conversation didn’t go all that well. But this is a process. I’m weaning myself away from financially supporting him since he’s shown me that I’m not a daughter, I’m the Bank of Daughter from which you just keep taking.

That may not have been his intention, that may not even be how he feels. But it’s how I’ve felt since he royally betrayed my trust.

It’s taken me months to reconcile. It’s taken more months, and a bit of a housing crisis, then to figure out that I had to ask for help. Those were huge, unsettling leaps.

***

Facing down this history, and our upcoming expenses, I had to suppress the reaction that it was another problem that I’d have to handle.

I made myself leave it all in his hands to determine the next steps and what to do, with the understanding that I simply cannot shoulder this increase. That was uncomfortable and unfamiliar but it had to be done. We can’t keep going like this since I haven’t miraculously doubled or tripled my income in the last year.

***

At the moment, his plan is shaky at best.

The apartment hunt has come up dry, nothing within a 30-50 mile radius is reasonable, but he’s finally gotten the ball rolling on applying for housing aid which he should have done years ago. He’s also finally wrangled Trainwreck Sibling into getting evaluated for disability and housing aid as well. It’s about dang time. But this is the state of California we’re talking about – it’s going to take weeks or months for them to approve, if they approve, the applications.

In the meantime, he’s getting a job. It doesn’t pay much but he can probably come up with about half of the current rent for a few months. If it works out, he can come up with about 60% of the new rent after then.

While he’s doing that, he also has to keep looking for a new place.

All of this hurts my heart. I hate every bit of it.

For all the mistakes he’s made, he’s also nearly 70 years old. The idea that he’s going back to work kills me, turning on the guilt like a firehose. It also infuriates me to feel that way because I have been doing my level best for ages. These are steps he should have taken years ago, and in fact, it’s highly likely that his poor behavior of late has come out of his inability to gracefully accept my help. Instead of being glad he had a back-up and working toward independence, he’s spent this time trying to justify his acceptance (such as it is) of the help and acting rashly trying to free himself of his dependence.

This conflict sucks. But after sitting quietly with the discomfort, and talking it over with trusted friends, I am coming to an uncertain peace with it. These steps feel painful but they’re necessary. I’ll feel horrible about it, because I’ll always feel my duty to support my family, but there are times the support needs to be direct, and there are times that it has to be from afar. I’ve been doing direct support so many years, waiting for him to fulfill his end of the bargain and as a result, waited a decade longer than I thought it’d take.

I have pushed him to make changes for years, to no avail. That was all I felt that I could do at the time.

Now, though I hate how it’s happening, he’s finally stepping up to at least try to do his part. That he let it go until this late date was his choice.

So now that it’s finally happening, I can’t, I will not allow my guilt, to push me into putting him back on my soon to be seriously strained household budget. I can’t do everything for everyone and it’s a disservice to them that I try. Everyone needs to feel like they can do for themselves, that they are capable for as long as they want and need to be. Taking over for them when they finally show willing would be the opposite of support.

If this does work, if he does start to earn enough to pay his own way, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll able to leave the money resentments in the past and try to rebuild our relationship. I don’t know if it’ll happen, but this way, there’s a shot.

The other way, we weren’t ever going to have a relationship again.

It’s too soon to hope but I am open to the idea that it might be possible.

:: Have you ever had your housing costs skyrocket? How do you handle sudden unexpected increases in expenses?

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

February 15, 2017

Figuring out family and asking for support

When helping family turns into a thorny mess The story of my money and my family goes back to the very start of this blog. I wanted to be independent for my own sake, but also wanted to take care of them as they had me. I wanted to support them until they got back on their feet.

More than ten long years of striving later, the truth of today is hard to swallow. My dad isn’t who he once was. He’s not the person I dedicated half my life to helping. He’s become, maybe as a result of my taking on so much responsibility, someone who lies to me, and takes from me. Because he’s not working with me, for his own benefit, but rather working against me, I have to step away from this relationship even more. He’s not just undermining my efforts, he’s damaging my ability to trust people, all over again.

This truth has lain heavy on my heart for months, for years. It hasn’t set me free, I didn’t know what I could do with this revelation.

In all these years, I’ve kept this a secret from the rest of the family. I didn’t share my challenges, or discuss Dad’s actions, I just took care of business. It was my other way of protecting them – I didn’t want them to look bad in front of their siblings. It wasn’t something they asked me to do but it felt, much like writing anonymously, it was just the right thing to do. Take care of your business and don’t share that with people outside the family. Heck, I barely learned to let PiC in on the secret, in no small part, due to the scars it left.

Walking Seamus in the dusk, ground wet from the (drought-breaking?) rain last week, I finally felt overwhelmed. After all the struggle, when confronted with a need to move, I find that honoring my responsibilities has left us with the choice of no choice at all. To change living situations, we have to make financial commitments that eliminate even the possibility of asking whether I want more kids. We can’t afford to have that answer be yes. We can’t afford to take on foster kids, we can’t adopt more dogs, we can’t afford to add to our family in any way.

With that frustrating realization, something in me dissolved. That last bit of pride fell right out of me and I called my aunt.

Not my rich aunt, I don’t have one of those. My poor aunt, the one who still knows what it’s like to struggle because she still works every day plus weekends to provide for her family, putting off retirement for another couple of years so she can be sure her kids make it through their internship years.

I asked her if she had a minute. I asked if she might talk to my dad about his housing situation, and convince him to apply for housing assistance. He should be eligible. For more than five years, he’d been telling me that he always intended to move out now that Mom’s gone but he’s done nothing. We think that he doesn’t want to move to a more affordable place because he’s tied to Mom’s memories there. It’s the only way I can see us squeezing any more money out of our budget – we’re currently footing the bill for his rent and utilities, all of which add up to well over a thousand dollars a month but I can’t very well push him again without coming off like a total jerk.

What she had to say shocked me.

Not only did she already know what I’ve been doing all this time, she’s talked to (at) Dad in the past already. She and the other aunts have always helped a bit as they can – bringing by food, or clothes when they spot a great bargain, but they can’t tackle his living expenses. This I knew.

What I didn’t know was that while doing so, she’s told him that grieving Mom is one thing, and his right, but he has to attend to the living as well. If he loves me, as he should, he shouldn’t let his grief for someone who is gone override his love for the person who’s still here working her tuchus off. He should be looking for ways to ease the burden on me. She and her family love me, unconditionally, and it’s clear to them that he needs to be making better choices, my support notwithstanding. He’s not, she says, “realistic.” That’s a very accurate assessment. He’s never had to learn to live with our poverty, not really. He’s always had me to cushion the financial hits, to pinch the pennies, and Mom did it before me. It’s past time that he starts making better choices, and nothing I’ve said has ever made a difference. She’s agreed to try to talk to him about it.

I don’t expect results immediately, maybe not at all, but the confession, and hearing someone in the family agree with me and offer to support me, was unexpectedly hard. You’d think it’d be harder to go solo – but I’m used to that. I’m NOT used to being vulnerable enough for someone to offer help.

Choked up, I confessed, I’m not sure that he loves me, judging by his choices. It’s a hard thing to say out loud and I thought it didn’t matter, but it does. The knowledge makes it much harder to continue to give and sacrifice freely, even if money wasn’t an issue.

While I can’t (won’t) put him out on the street, I must pull back on some of the bills we pay. With someone, another elder, willing to push him to live more prudently, and make changes, I can take steps to minimize the financial harm. He’s more likely to give into that pressure.

Whether it’s because of the shaming fact of my going to his sibling, or that he’s more willing to listen to her, it appears that he already has given in.

For 5 years, he’s said my sibling refused to apply for disability assistance which would include housing support to pay for the rent that I’ve been footing. I don’t disbelieve that, but I don’t necessarily believe he’d done all he could, either. Mere days after my aunt said she would step in, they started the application and approval process. I can’t know if the magic was my aunt stepping in, for certain, but the timing is certainly telling.

We need to save every bit that we can now, and he needs to make ends meet on his own eventually, with or without sibling. It’ll take months for the process to be completed. Then we’ll see if I see a penny of that housing assistance without becoming a bill collector but this is the first step toward that goal.

Wish me luck?

:: Have you ever had to make a tough love decision? Tell me about it?

October 26, 2016

The story I never wanted to tell

A story of denial

Does everyone have a price? I thought yes. Then, no. Then changed my mind again.

I wanted to believe the answer was no. I needed to understand the answer was yes.

Integrity and moral fiber become inherent, I used to think. They are part of consistently learning to be, and making the choice to be, a good person. To choose to do the right thing whether or not it was easy.

Suffice to say, that I could still believe into my mid-30s despite all my experiences that prove otherwise suggests a bedrock of faith I didn’t know I had until it crumbled.

But the story doesn’t start there.

It started with my first lessons in the school of hard knocks, toiling to save my family from financial ruin. I was 17 when I learned we were more than broke. We were in debt, deeply in debt, and my parents saw no way out of the quicksand they had built our lives on. Credit cards were used to make ends meet, too often. It wasn’t frivolous but it was absolutely foolish. When their siblings needed cash, or a parent needed a replacement something, they turned to my parents. Saying no is not an option for that generation, so they found a way. Half a lifetime of solving other people’s crises left them carrying six figures of debt on credit cards and personal and business loans.

Making mistakes didn’t make them bad people. My parents deserved my help because they always helped others. For a decade I made it my life to help them back, but I also learned from their mistakes. I helped them but I saved.

At first it was paltry. I was literally saving pennies. Nickels and dimes were salted away. I scrimped and skipped meals, worked overtime, saved like my life depended on it.

In a way, it did. More than my life, this was my Hope.

After more double shifts and sleepless nights than I care to remember, I invested my painstakingly hoarded nest egg. It grew a little bit and I reinvested it repeatedly.

18 months ago, the investment matured at $15,000, and I asked my father to pick up the cash. I hadn’t decided but was almost certain it would pay for JuggerBaby’s daycare so that’s what I told him the money was needed for. No immediate rush, then, I said, but I would absolutely need it by fall.

He’d been my loan courier for the interest payments in previous year but, this time, I wouldn’t be able to pick it up from him for two months. Two long months where I ignored my sense of misgiving over his characteristic silences, chiding myself for being worried, chalking it up to a hard-won sense of skepticism gone haywire.

By this summer, I had been put off several time. He was busy, they kept missing each other when he dropped in to pick up the payment. All normal, plausible, reasonable except it felt a little off. Nothing I could pinpoint but my instinct’s honed on decades of accurately identifying my brother’s lies. They had long outnumbered his truths, his half truths, and I’d become an expert at gauging when he was trying to con me.

I had never wanted to learn the art of detecting deceit in another family member.

An old friend always says, “your instincts are your best friend,” and I should have known when I was deliberately ignoring mine that they weren’t wrong.

They weren’t. But I wasn’t either.

I wasn’t prepared to accept another betrayal. I was trying to avoid it by pretending I didn’t sense the wrongness, the lie underneath, by giving him every opportunity to make it right. To make a clean breast of it and pay me the respect of treating me like an adult. Just a regular adult he cares about, never mind the fact that I’d sacrificed my life and health for his comfort and safety.

But denying your instincts always kicks your ass. My nightmares of fighting with my family started again. For years, they were so common PiC had mastered the art of soothing me without even waking himself. I’d wake screaming at my brother as we grappled over yet another bad decision.

Prepared to deal or not, once those nightmares started again, I knew I had to confront the situation head on.

A story of anger

So I did. And I saw the man who taught me to have integrity, to build a life by helping others and doing no harm, crumple under direct questioning. He had taken that money and used it to invest in a venture that was “expected to pay out within 6 weeks but…”

I watched as his face, once beloved, revealed that I could no longer trust anyone in my family. He regretted betraying my trust, he said, but the betrayal went far deeper than he understood.

Having made the colossally bad decision to take my money, my baby’s money, he then lied to me. Kept lying until he was backed into a corner.

The kindest possible interpretation is that he’s still grieving, that he’s eaten up by the shame and guilt of dependency, and the only way he knows how to deal with it is to try and make the most of any opportunity. Even if it wasn’t an opportunity that was offered. Even when it was clearly not his to take.

Some part of me still wants to be kind because any harsher interpretation is harsh for me too. But it’s been five years since Mom died. Three years since we had the incredibly hard conversation about our feelings of guilt and hurt and trying to mend things. Seventeen years since I first picked up this work of supporting my family and we had our first fights about honesty and making the household work.

He’s had time. He’s had enough chances to learn to work with me, and has proven in the starkest possible way that another chance is just another costly disappointment.

He promised to pay it all back when the money came back but in past year he’s called me once, and only because he thought he was returning a missed call and then to ask when we’re coming to visit. No updates on what’s going on, no calls to see how we’re doing. Not a word about receiving an email full of pictures of an (I’m not biased at all) incredibly cute grandchild growing up fast. Nothing.

That money, in other words, is lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry, Clementine.

What does this all mean? How do you go forward when you admit this is the state of affairs?

In practical terms, not much. I won’t put him out on the street by stopping his rent payments, I won’t punish him by stopping his utility payments. I’m not able to assess the cost of his betrayal and theft as equal to that of his right to live like a human with basic needs.

But it has cost him my love, my regard, and my trust.

The hardest realization is that I’ll never trust him alone with his grandchild. I once believed he would protect me at all costs and have now learned that we’re not even worth $15,000. I was his own child, his only daughter, his sole support, and he’s abused my good will and manipulated me under the umbrella of good intentions for years.

He’s rationalized it all as his way of helping me. He was working hard to make sure that I didn’t have to pay more than I already do to subsidize my sibling. So it naturally makes sense that he would take the money intended for my child’s care, daycare that is necessary for my health and for my income which he relies on, as seed money, then cover up his actions with lies.

That was his “better course of action.” Not: communicating clearly with me about his needs or his plans. Not asking if he could use it as capital.  Just taking it and lying til the cows came home.

Well, the cow has come home and guess what? Asking forgiveness MIGHT be easier than asking for permission but what they don’t tell you is that you may never get forgiveness.

Knowing that he’d already easily rationalized the very wrong and harmful act of stealing from me and then lying to me about it until caught, what else can he rationalize? This wasn’t the first lie, but it has to be the last before the price is too high and too painful to be counted in dollars.

I’d been quietly resentful before that he hasn’t once lifted a finger to engage with his only grandchild. On arranged visits, he’s a drop-in. He’s a visitor to the proceedings, he’s played with zir maybe twice and that’s because PiC has been even more persistent than I in making sure ze gets Grandpa time.

After all this?

There’s simply no way I could ever trust zir in his care. I suppose it’s a good thing he never offered to help with zir, not even to watch zir for five minutes so I could scarf down a meal, so we haven’t developed the habit of relying on him. In my family, non-parents always lend a hand to the parents of little ones, grandparents above all. I have personally done it for more years than I can count, for everyone’s kids. He’s done it countless times for other relatives but I see that the most special consideration I get is that he’ll show up. Good thing, I guess.

He was an icon, in my eyes. A figure of storied proportions. His sacrifices to make a better life, his hard work, his ethics. I imbibed those with my mother’s home-cooked meals and tutelage. And now he’s made himself all but a stranger.

I’ve wept.

There are still some tears in the days to come, when a fond memory feels shattered, when I can’t remember the word for “meatball” in our native language and I can’t bring myself to dial his number.

I’m still angry with him. I may forgive someday but today is not that day. Tomorrow isn’t either. Even if it ever happens, I still won’t forget.

I don’t doubt he was sorry to be telling me the truth when he was forced to, but how much was regret over being caught and how much for the wrongdoing? History suggests mostly the former, less of the latter.

Years ago, a blogger aptly named Grace said she heard the voice of a hurt daughter wondering why she wasn’t good enough. It seems Grace read me more correctly than I knew.

I know now that I didn’t want it to be true. I wanted to believe in his good intentions. But his good intentions always came with a price and I was always the only one to who paid them. So here I am admitting: I am hurt. I do wonder why my father doesn’t love me enough, never loved me enough, to work with me or to put me and my well-being even equal to that of my Sibling’s when he was still clearly capable but unwilling to take care of himself.

Six years ago, I couldn’t conceive of the notion that my parent could value me so little. That he could see me as nothing more than a way to pay the bills. Today, I’m seeing that it’s not only possible, it’s been the truth for a long time.

I regret the loss of faith. I regret the loss of history. I regret that ze won’t be able to learn our family oral history the way I did from the man who remembers so much of it because he can’t spend an hour in our company. I hate that ze won’t have a living loving grandfather worth knowing.

I hate that when people joke that they still lean on their fathers like JuggerBaby now flops against zir father with complete faith, I feel a pang of envy. I hate that when a dear friend got married and his bride introduced me to her beaming, over the moon father, I felt loss.

Where was my father for all that? For the joy, the support, the fatherly bond? I worshiped him. I still remember before so clearly. At five years old, I was brewing his morning coffee and sitting with him while he drank it before he left for work. I brewed his nightly pot of tea, offering the first pour to our ancestors with lighted incense as is our custom, every night. I carefully washed it and the tea cups afterward, setting them out to dry for the next day. He combed my hair for me, just like his!, before school every morning of first grade. When Mom and I clashed, I could always turn to him for support over books, over clothes, over anything.

When did he stop loving me?

I won’t ask why. I don’t want to know. Maybe I don’t want to know when it happened, either.

A story of acceptance

I refuse to let this diminish me. I refuse to let this make me feel like I’m less than worthy. With or without him I am a person, whole and complete, and I will not be made less because my father forgot I have value.

Just as I learned from his mistakes in money, I’ll learn from his mistakes as a person and as a parent. I know now that not having money can do terrible things to a person, no matter who they were before, and while I cannot save my father from himself, perhaps I can save my chosen family from making the same mistakes.

For better or worse, I am my father’s daughter and inherited many of his traits. But I am not him, just like I’m not my mother, either. I have a choice and can choose to do things differently for my future.

I think it’s clear that I have done that, in finding a way to fulfill what I see to be my responsibilities and still preserve and protect my own family’s future. It’s not as easy as it would be if I were unfettered but I make it work.

More than one friend has asked me: would you ever cut him off?

The reality is he’s 70 years old, he’s unlikely to get hired anywhere, and he has minimal Social Security. He can afford his food and his gas, but clearly not more than one utility bill at a time. It would be inhumane to cut him off when I do have the means to support him, but I will be looking at ways to reduce the burden on our finances by pushing him to move to senior housing. This has been a challenge because he won’t throw out my sibling, the Parasitic Trainwreck (mixing my metaphors to give a clearer picture of his character), and I’m not sure what senior housing would allow for the presence of a person like him.

But for now, it’s enough that I’m able to face this squarely.

Then I’ll fix it. Like I always do.

January 11, 2016

When you hold the line

I’m not my brother’s keeper, I’m not my brother’s keeper, I’m not my brother’s keeper. 

Except when I am.

On the heels of That Conversation with Dad, it comes out that everyone has tried to pry Sibling loose from the current living situation, clinging to Dad despite bearing no love or respect for him.

He refuses to leave. He refuses to get help. He refuses to admit that anything is wrong even though he hasn’t held down a job in over 6 years, he hasn’t earned a living wage in 7, and he’s doing nothing day to day but eating, sleeping, bathing, and wandering.

Friends ask after him. Old teachers and mentors have asked what they can do to help unstick him. He’s only intent on telling them his latest big ideas, what they should do for a big splash and instant success.

My older aunt has tried to help. She offered to pay his way through a trade school, tried to talk to him (rebuffed).

My younger aunt has tried to help. She sends food, clothes, offers (spurned) advice.

My dad has tried to push. He’d gotten so far as getting Sibling to the doctor for evaluation, and they determined that he isn’t mentally capable of functioning independently anymore. They scheduled an appointment for him to return and complete paperwork, to apply for assistance, to apply for housing. Sibling decided, even before that first appointment, that he’s fine and doesn’t need help. He doesn’t need housing. He refused to go. Dad tried to force him, and Sibling just disappeared on the day of the appointment.

He respects no one.

He listens to no one.

Except me.

Only the few rules I set in stone remain. Only I can get him to, even a little bit, listen, or comply when I tell him to clear the yard, pick up after his pets. He doesn’t listen to everything I say but he listens to nothing anyone else will say. I’m the last one who can make anything happen.

It comes down to this: if I want to free Dad of the living nightmare he’s in living with the shambling mess of Sibling, if I want to see anything change with how that part of the family does not function, I have to personally wade back into the fray to physically make Sibling go to the doctor, make him do his paperwork, and make him move out. With no guarantee that any of my time or words will be well spent.

I’ll have to arrange childcare for LB, I’d take hir with but I don’t want him anywhere near hir. I don’t trust him to turn my back on him for a minute. Not because the mentally ill are universally violent as the media and politicians would have you believe but because he specifically has a history of being unpredictable and we used to spar together. I don’t believe for a second that he’s incapable of slipping into a delusion, or even the appearance of the delusion, that we’re 20 years younger and instigating an altercation. Especially when I’m frogmarching him (metaphorically, I hope) to the doctor and whatever else.

PiC insists that I won’t do this alone but my defenses are up, my instincts are pushing him away to protect my family from my family. I have never had help managing my sibling, I’ve always gone it alone – he can behave like a caged beast and it’s safer when it’s only my back that needs watching. I can be as firm as I need without worrying he’d lash out at bystanders. And if anything goes wrong, only I will be hurt.

It sucks but this is how I prepare for a Sibling battle after years of bloody experience. Protect your family, keep them out of the line of fire. Armor yourself. Sort your affairs.

Boy does this ever sound like a hootenanny.

June 1, 2014

The terrible cost of being your sibling’s keeper

We stood in the driveway, watching him “craft”. Once able to pick up a pencil, pen, paintbrush or lump of clay, and fashion realistic or fantastical pieces of art with no training, he’s now creating smaller lumps of wood from larger lumps of wood. Inside, a bit of me shudders, watching the hatchet in his hand.

There’s a limited range of things one can say to him, now, without setting off fireworks. Defensiveness, rage, imagined boundaries, bristling. Only his sister can cross those lines, he snarls, and even she doesn’t!  PiC backs off. He’d only asked, “so what are you up to these days?”

I haven’t talked about my sibling for a long time. I haven’t talked to him, for some while.

It doesn’t meant that I don’t think about him, constantly. Or that my subconscious doesn’t dwell on the exhausting morass that our lives have become.

***

In August 2011, my dad asked me, did I think Sibling was on drugs?  There was something really wrong there, and he didn’t know what it was.  At that point, Sibling had been driving me batty with his machinations and manipulations going on fifteen years; we were at loggerheads over every last thing and the struggle to force him to grow up had become steadily more useless. He hadn’t done a single productive thing to lift himself out of the mire his life had become and over the years, he’d become more nasty and more violently opposed to cooperating with Mom or Dad.

My resolve hardened; he’d spent far too long on the dole as it was, he was actively hurtful and hateful to my parents and it was too much. He had to go and I had to be the one to make the separation.

I went to talk to him and there were clear signs that something was not right. His behavior wasn’t completely the usual manipulative and egocentric, it became literally delusional.

He explained to me very carefully in the same breath that while everyone was concerned about him, he was “linear” now, and he had taught his pets to speak the English language. They could now understand every word we were all saying.

He went on and on about his beliefs about his role in the family, that of “protection” and of misplaced need to be “security”. I backed away slowly, realizing that he fervently believed every word he was saying and that he was simmering with the paranoid need to prove himself which would and could manifest in violence against any one of us should he experience a break and perceive a threat.

Dad was unconvinced that Sibling posed him any danger but it was, and still is, hard to believe him. I don’t believe that all mentally ill individuals, or even most, pose a threat to the people around them. Many of them don’t. But we have a family history of mental illness, and a trend of delusions and violence, that I cannot ignore. A cousin who sounds scarily like Sibling in his ramblings has attacked and injured more than one person. Sibling’s misplaced white knight convictions sound like the beginning of justifications of something awful and twisted.

And amidst it all, Mom’s spiraling condition, much of the anxiety centered on her son, prevented me from taking the necessary steps of getting Sibling away from them.
***

Leaving home, and him, in 2010, purchased a slice of respite for me, but in its place simmered my own anxiety. My nightmares got worse. I still fought with him: over the phone, during visits, in my imagination, epic battles raged over his transgressions now only inconsistently policed from afar.  PiC and Doggle were no longer startled by my waking up screaming at dream Sibling, going yet another round in endless rounds of desperate attempts to get through to him.

It wasn’t working. It probably never was.

***

Somehow, it’s still unclear who I was and am fighting with. Is this my brother the master manipulator or some teenage version of him? In some ways, he’s getting what he wants: free housing, “doesn’t have to” work. It’s hard to imagine that this is how he wants to live but he’s rejected every overture of help, every attempt to support his efforts at anything productive. Aunts have come out of the woodwork, offering to sponsor his education, trade or higher ed, if he wanted; nothing came of any of it.

He’s ended up on the doorsteps of childhood friends, acting as though he had rewound life back to high school. If you can ignore that displacement, when he’s speaking to you, it almost sounds like nothing is amiss. He’s adamant that nothing’s wrong but his disproportionate outrage at being asked what he’s doing or what he’s planning to do indicates otherwise; his obsessions and refusal to do anything to live at more than a subsistence level and his insistence that the dog is as responsible for understanding his needs as a human, it’s all disturbing.

He spent weeks obsessively doing laundry, running the machine over and over, day and night, until he broke the machine. He was washing and rewashing the same clothes (in defiance of Dad?) for no discernible reason. Dad can’t afford to fix the machine because it’s a large unbudgeted expense for both of us, and isn’t willing to get it fixed because the amount of water and energy spent was astronomical. Dad has to choose to do his laundry at a laundromat, taking hours out of his already tough schedule, because Sibling can’t be trusted not to do the same thing again in the middle of a drought and wasting hundreds of dollars.

Sibling wanders in and out, leaving doors and windows open, turning on faucets and leaving them running, leaving the stove burning til everything’s scorched beyond recognition.

I banned Sibling from using my car years ago, unable to afford the constant repairs of having a careless driver ding it up, and most unwilling to risk his having a serious accident and heaven forfend, injuring or killing someone. He snuck the keys anyway, and I only found out about it when I received parking tickets because he couldn’t even be bothered to put quarters in the meter when he stole my car.

Dad’s a prisoner, unable to leave the house for more than a few hours at a time lest he come home to a flooded or burnt down house, a stolen or wrecked car. In more than four years, he’s never been able to even say that he would like to visit me because it wasn’t possible.

Sibling requires some kind of medical care but you can’t force an adult to get evaluated and you can’t commit an adult against their will until they pose a clear threat to themselves or others. This makes sense: mentally ill individuals don’t always have people advocating for their best interests and they do have rights. But the fact that we have to wait, amid the slow soul-crushing erosion of our lives around the shambling wreck that is his, until someone is hurt or killed to get any help at all belies the idea that anyone’s best interests are being served.

***

His dog is as much a prisoner as Dad, or worse. He’s utterly pitiful and needs more healthcare than Dad can afford. The breedist community we live in doesn’t allow Sibling’s dog’s breed, even though he is the sweetest, smartest, most compliant dog we’ve ever met. I’m still trying to disguise him in some way so he can come live with us; but I know that adding the burden of a second 90+ lb dog to the household is going to be a strain on our budget and tax both our severely limited energies.

I can’t just leave him there, but so many things have to change. We need to at least double the dog allowance budget and that has to come from somewhere. Dad would never kick Sibling out, and won’t allow me to do it so long as he’s clearly incapable or unwilling to find alternative housing, so I have to find some other housing for him. Finding housing for someone who can’t or won’t to help himself is a challenge; more so because I can’t convince him to get a diagnosis, unless maybe I go and drive him myself to a doctor. I’m not even sure he’d cooperate then, he didn’t when Dad took him.

Impossible as it feels, I have to do something to change things. This steadily degenerating stalemate is untenable. So, from somewhere, I have to make the time and dredge up the energy to “fix” this as best I can. I’m awfully tired but there’s really not much of a choice, is there?

A similar NYTimes story that struck very close to home for me

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