“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history”. Mahatma Gandhi
Before Betty came to live with us, after Puz died, Susan, Mel’s niece, Candee’s daughter, had fallen into her old habits and called us to ask for help.
When Susan was born, Candee, her mom, developed chicken pox. Betty took the child in order for Candee to recuperate. And of course to keep from giving them to her new baby.
You would think this early confusing bonding would have caused a tight relationship between grandmother and infant, but apparently it didn’t and I will explain that later in this piece. But the lack of bonding between Susan and her mother was irrevocably cut. I do not think mother and daughter ever cared for each other and this came out in the manner of heavy drug abuse.
Susan spent most of later teen years and adult years in all kinds of rehab until she joined the service. I am not certain what happened there, but I believe she served her entire stint. While in the army she met a young man and they married. The initial part of the marriage they had issues regarding fertility and Susan struggled. But she finally conceived and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.
The child was born with sickle cell anemia.
Susan and her husband are white with no African American history so you can imagine what we all thought. Candee denied any infidelities and Susan’s father was nowhere to be found. We never found an answer to that quandry, but this early determination to become pregnant then be blessed with a child, then having the infant be in danger, should have made Susan and her new child close beyond all outside issues. But that never happened and Susan started using. Her husband threatened to leave with child in tow, and Susan cleaned up. She then had another child, a boy. He was fine, the marriage was fine, all was fine.
Mel and I were invited to their house the Christmas of 2003. I had never met nor even spoke to Susan. It was a rather nice Christmas if not rude.
We brought some movies to watch with the children. I have a hearing issue, I am deaf in one ear. We use close captions. But the children complained. They didn’t like it. And Susan complained right along with them. I was very embarrassed for Mel. Until she turned to me and said "You know Dianne, they really are annoying."
Those little words streaming at the bottom of the TV were such a ridiculous issue. I recalled when I first met Candee and she stayed on the phone for the first half hour of our visit, with Mel's ex-girlfriend and realized the apple didn't fall far from the tree. These people had an entire set of rules that the rest of us would never understand, or abide ourselves. My mother would have slapped me senseless had I acted that way in her home.
I don’t know about you, but I was raised that when we had company we make them as comfortable as possible. She reminded me of Peter Griffin on the Family Guy, acting out like a spoiled brat instead of reining her children in.
But the next day, I started to understand. It was Christmas day, yet she claimed she had to work. She had never told any of use prior that this would happen otherwise we would not have gone for the visit.
It was obvious she was lying because she over explained everything down to the color of her patient’s socks (she was a visiting nurse). She came home a different person. Very energetic and acting like a hyperactive teenager.
Mel did her “I told you so” and we left. Mel was very young, around 6 or 7 when Susan was born and she did not take too kindly to the new infant in her home. This set Susan and Mel up for a lifetime of rivalry that Mel didn’t seem to even want to overcome.
I insisted that we accept the invitation to see Susan that Christmas.
After Puz died we got a call from Susan. She was in trouble. Her husband discovered she was using and said he would put her out, the marriage was over. Susan begged Mel, but Mel refused.
Mel wanted nothing to do with the girl. So Susan called me. I could not understand turning down your own family when they sincerely needed it. I insisted we go get the girl. And we did.
We drove in a dangerous blizzard 200 miles to Fall River Massachusetts to get her. Thank goodness for cell phones. Susan sent us on a wild goose chase through the city. We drove around Fall River for three hours. It was obvious she was purposefully giving us the wrong directions so she could score. Mel was beyond livid and I was getting there myself.
When we at long last made it to her home, she was badly hooked on crack. I helped her pack her things and left a note for her husband telling him where she was.
I suggested she come stay with us and we would put her in rehab at the VA in White River since she too had been a soldier.
It was a mistake. From the moment she came in the door, she set out to cause problems.
Initially things were okay. I did all the leg work making arrangements to get her into the VA, I also accompanied her to the hospital and stayed with her because she was so frightened.
Mel spent as little time with her as possible. If anything was done for the girl it was through me.
And of course there were the TV roundtable discussions. Susan told us of visiting her grandmother and mother in Alabama at Leroy’s house. She told us of how they made issue of Mel and me, making fun, if you will. I ignored all of that. Mel on the other hand used it as one more reason we didn’t need Susan around.
This seemed to make Susan more determined to win Mel over. She would take Mel aside and give her a list of things she felt I was doing wrong. Once a third party enters a relationship, it is all but doomed. No matter how strong you think it is, every little thing you do becomes an issue multiplied three times over. The harder you try, the more aggressive the outsider becomes.
Ignorantly or not…I stuck to my guns. I was going to help the girl, but it all went badly and eventually Susan moved out after getting clean.
My perfect happily ever after was starting to disintegrate. We moved to a part of the country we felt no one would impede on us and here it was, the first person to move into our territory was a relative of discontent. Worse she applied for and got a job at the V.A. where Mel worked. And soon she was back on drugs…for her back, she said. I guess it wasn’t the best decision to bring her to a state that is known for its quilters and crackheads. New Hampshire has the highest meth labs per capita than any other state.
Mel did everything she could to avoid her. Not because of me, but because Mel loathed the girl. I didn’t see Susan again until…
The VA has a program where home cared elderly can stay in the hospital for a week while the family goes on a respite. We took advantage and went to an anesthesia conference in a little town on the east coast. We kept in touch with the hospital, and some of the nurses who were personal friends of Mels had been keeping us abreast of how Betty was doing.
On the third day of the conference we got an alarming phone all. Betty was lethargic. Mel was not as concerned as I was and insisted we go to a casino before we leave.
One of the nurses said “Betty actually put on makeup today. Her cheeks were very rosy."
I am not a medical person, but I immediately knew this was trouble. Betty didn’t wear makeup. She was obviously traveling eternity road and that was obviously the death pallor patients get.
We rushed home and guess who was sitting bedside waiting. No you don’t know, don’t even try.
Susan AND Candee. This must be how Satan amuses himself.
We apparently got there just in time as they were trying to get Betty to sign some papers. Mel asked them to leave and Betty was very upset, crying.
“Dianne, Promise me that you will never let that woman in Mel’s life…PROMISE ME!” Betty begged “And that SUSAN! I promise you she is no good, I don’t want her near me or my family!”
I tried to argue that she was family, but I knew in my heart I felt the same. Mel was angrier than I. She had been not only the responsible party for her mom, but having to take care of all the bills. Her mom’s Social Security check was covering all the credit cards that Candee ran up. And now suddenly Candee is the attentive daughter. It was obvious Susan had contacted her mother. Probably in an effort to win her mother’s approval. But this just beat all.
I feel so sorry for Susan. This is all she knows of a mother. I too had always wanted my mother's approval, and there were times I got it...very strongly. Not often, but I had my father, and my grandparents. Susan has no one. Candee is never going to suddenly think of someone besides herself. Susan truly had no one. But now Betty was my responsibility.
I ended up sleeping at the hospital and when we finally got Betty well enough to go home, Candee was nowhere in sight, thankfully.
Candee and Betty never had a good relationship and I always blamed Betty for that. Not anymore. Some people are just born without empathy or guilt and Candee is one of them. And there was a time when I thought the world of Candee. When Mel and I first met, we had traveled to see her and we became fast friends in spite of the fact that she had Mel wrapped around her finger. I never thought she could be this way. But Betty had warned me long ago.
I was so happy to get Betty back home. It seems every moment she was in that hospital, she was a paranoid mess. The papers Candee was trying to get her to sign were insurance papers and some sort of will Candee contrived. God must have been guiding our hand to get us back to her in due course.
We got back to our usual routine. Mel working, coming home and spending no more than an hour with her mother. When I demanded more, Mel became angry saying she was the breadwinner… you know the drill. I regretted quitting my job, but at that point we had no options. Mel had wanted it that way all along.
I was still on a course of pain medications, but that never interfered with my job. I became friends with our pharmacist Patty Smith. She was wonderful, not like pharmacists today, but like the ones we had as kids. She worked at Walgreens. And when I couldn’t get to the pharmacy, she drove them over.
I was very concerned about the amount of drugs I was on, so she helped me get off the Fentanyl, the strongest and most addictive. I have never been so grateful. I will never forget her attention and interest in seeing me safely drug free.
When I met Mel, I was not on drugs and getting along very well.
The first day I met Patty was quite scary. Mel and I had just arrived in town. I had my prescriptions from Dr. Alo in Houston. It was a Saturday. I brought them to the pharmacy and Patty was the pharmacist on duty. She called me to that little consulting area. You know the one they try to assure you is private as all the other customers strain their neck to hear. She said in a very direct and disquieting fashion that those prescriptions were not the sort of thing a pharmacist would fill without talking to the doctor. She wouldn’t give them back to me! She told me to come in the following Monday. Which I did. On Monday she told me that she never expected me to show, and had I not done so, she would have called the police. A friendship built on love and trust….
But in the end, it truly was.
She would come by to visit Betty, bringing her medications. Now where can you find that anywhere else in the U.S.?
Betty did okay initially at home. I stayed up every night with her, sleeping when she slept. I was still expected to have dinner ready, the house cleaned and clothes washed. We didn’t have a washer and dryer, so Mel made me feel like it was a treat, a time away from taking care of “mother” to go to the laundry to do our clothes. I guess, in a way, it was. But truly, I was burning out.
Betty was very demanding. She had an electric wheelchair, and I would put her in that so she could get around the house. She would wheel around, redecorating as she went. I had a bowl of pheasant feather balls which she detested, so she stuck them on each side of her in the chair and hid them in her room. These were the kind of things she did. Such a joy.
Betty had a bedsore that didn’t heal, even though we did everything we could to stop its advance. It is a terrible thing to watch. No matter WHAT you do, it just gets worse. Then after one trip to the doctor, we were told she had cancer and that she had very little time. However, you couldn’t tell Betty that.
Eventually she was put into hospice at the V.A. This was after she had been with us around 5 months. Hospice is supposed to be the place where one goes when they are dying. It is supposed to be the LAST place. In most cases, it is the limbo where they linger.
It was a beautiful room with everything we needed as well as an adjacent low walled sleeping area for the care givers. Mel would come down after work and I would take that chance, every other day, to go home, get what I needed and come back. Mel never stayed at night. In retrospect, that doesn’t make sense since she worked there. But she wanted to go home and she depended on me to stay. I guess I couldn’t blame her. Her mother was a night owl. She wanted coffee all night, so I tried to give her decaf but she has an amazing set of taste buds - she knew. I did what I could to deter her, to no avail. She would stay up and talk ALL NIGHT. The minute she dozed off, I went to the sleeping area and did the same.
I woke to someone whispering. I snuck around the corner and I’ll be damned…it was Candee and Susan AGAIN!
Beginning of Book
Yes, this is absolutely positively true. If you lived this wouldn't you write about it? Some of the names of characters in this blog are fictitious. This is an account of actual events. Some of the events have been compiled together for the flow of the story. Even when I read my own work, I wonder how it could be so. But if you study your own life and compartmentalize it into less than 200 pages, you would be surprised how interesting it really is!
TRUTH HAS WITNESSES (Dianne Lindsey) This material is the copyright Dianne Schuch Lindsey and cannot be duplicated in any fashion without the express permission of the Author. All rights reserved ©