It's been a while, I know. It's taken me this long to start to get over the kick in the pants that was finding out my mother had changed her locks because of concerns about my integrity, and putting together bits and pieces that I'd been hearing prior to that that had not made sense at the time of hearing them but that after that blinding moment of clarity, suddenly made horrible sense.
Dad died September 3rd; his funeral was two weeks later. I saw Mom once in the interim, a visit that was decidedly peculiar but at the time, I couldn't figure out why. When I arrived at the house, Mom was sitting at the kitchen table, smiling determinedly at me but not saying anything. Given that her usual reaction was to come to the door to meet me for a hug and kiss, that was weird. Even weirder was that she wasn't talking, not until I said hello, and even then the topics were surface things, nothing to do with the fact that she was so newly widowed and how was she managing that transition from wife to widow. It was a strained visit, but at the time I hoped whatever had caused the peculiar atmosphere would clear over time.
Then came the night before the funeral, when I found out the locks had been changed, and the next day, when I had a good long conversation with one of my sisters. Several weeks after that was the long evening visit with my brother and another sister, where we talked about what was happening to our family.
***Our family is our brother, and then four sisters; I'm the second of the four. I get along with my brother and my younger sisters, but have never had good relations with my older sister.
After Dad's funeral, no contact from Mom, no phone calls, no emails, until I got two very stilted little emails, about a line each, one congratulating me on my impending grandmotherhood and the other referencing the changing of the locks, apologizing for not letting me know at the time that she had done that.
***That one made me wonder. What the hell did she mean? "I'm sorry I didn't tell you at the time that I was locking you out?"
I sent equally terse responses, because I couldn't figure out what was up with this person who used to be my chatty, loving, understanding mother.
A few days later, on the advice of my girls, I sent Mom a longer email, talking a bit about what was going on, and got a one-line response.
A couple of weeks ago, I again bit the bullet and send Mom an email, asking if she was not talking to me on orders from my father, or from my older sister (and brother-in-law, as they operate as a unit), or by her own choice. She responded with an email saying no orders from anyone, and writing a long, chatty email that was almost as if it were from her old self, if not for its resolute avoidance of anything beyond the superficial.
Since then, I get an email or two a week, very brief and very nonsubstantive, and that's it for Mom and me.
It's for all the world like the early part of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," where this child insists that his mother is not his mother, or the heroine insists that her uncle is not her uncle. Mom is my mother, but she's not my mother. She looks the same and writes the same, but the depth is gone, the feelings are gone, the connection is gone. I don't hear anything, don't know anything, about her emotional state or what she's doing in the house or how she's organizing her life with its new status.
As for me personally, this was heartbreaking and mindboggling and so completely bewildering that I couldn't get beyond it for the longest time. Every time I stopped moving, stopped thinking about something else, my brain would revert back to the endless iterations of "my mother locked me out; my mother divorced me; I don't get to visit/care for my mother; my mother's locked me out; my mother's divorced me," and on and on and on.
Recently, I read "The Annotated Christmas Carol" and came across a passage that mirrored what was going on in my head. Right after Jacob Marley's ghost appears to Scrooge, before the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future appear, is this paragraph:
Scrooge went to bed again, and thought, and thought, and thought it over and over and over, and could make nothing of it. The more he thought, the more perplexed he was; and the more he endeavoured not to think, the more he thought. Marley's Ghost bothered him exceedingly. Every time he resolved within himself, after mature inquiry, that it was all a dream, his mind flew back again, like a strong spring released, to its first position, and presented the same problem to be worked all through, "Was it a dream or not?"
My endless loop was just like that: Every time I would think I had the issue resolved, my mind would fly back again. Insomnia was a bear. I'd lie awake for hours, trying to fall asleep but unable to because of the spinning of my mind, then when I did get to sleep, if I woke during the night, the spinning would start back up again right where it left off.
It's gotten a bit better over the past couple of weeks, not completely, by any means, but at least to where I'm mostly able to get to sleep and then to stay asleep through the night. This new reality doesn't appear to be changing, so I'm working to adapt myself to it. This means protecting myself, inurring myself to the peculiar new relationship with my mother and rewriting completely my long-term plans for myself.
Up until all this imploded over the past months, the arrangement between my parents and me, and understood with my siblings, was that when Mom needed help, I would be the one to move in and care for her, that that would last until her death or until she could no longer remain safely in her home, even with my care. She wasn't going to need assisted living or the care of paid providers, she was going to have the tender loving care that I've given my parents after their various surgeries and illnesses. I had an easily transferable job, was single and not a homeowner, was a trained health care provider, and got along beautifully with Mom. This was going to be my thanks for all she and Dad had done for me and mine over the years, and her reward for living with a very difficult husband and surviving the loss of one son and the difficult lives of her other five offspring. She was going to be loved and pampered and cossetted like no elderly person was loved and pampered and cossetted before.
Now, though, that cannot be. If I'm as much of a risk to her as is believed/implied by her behavior and that of my older sister, then they don't dare let me near her. My sister apparently believes I staged that accident to my car back in August, so how could they believe I wouldn't stage an accident in the home and sue Mom for everything she has? They can't. And they changed the locks out of fear I would rob Mom, or that KidThree would rob Mom, or that KidThree would have a friend who would rob Mom, so they don't let me have access to Mom's house. My brother-in-law used the words "elder abuse" in relation to me, so they don't dare let me care for Mom out of fear that I would hurt her.
From my perspective, it's the same, only with the threat on the other side. I don't dare get near Mom. In August, a trucker backed up over the hood of my car, squashing it thoroughly. I'm accused of staging that deliberately. That means if someone bumped Mom's car in a parking lot, or hit it while I was driving it, I'd be blamed. Reality notwithstanding, witnesses notwithstanding, I'd be blamed. If Mom were to trip and fall at home, I'd be accused of neglect. And heaven forfend that Mom should die unexpectedly on my watch--the suspicions and accusations that would engender are ghastly.
So, Mom can't allow me near her, and I can't allow myself near her. The real tragedy of all of this is not what it's done to me, but what it will do to Mom's future. She's not going to get five or ten or twenty years of happiness in her home, happiness with a daughter who wanted nothing more than to give her the best life possible. Instead, she's going to get assisted living, or paid caregivers. There is no other family member temperamentally or logistically situated to care for her for any length of time, and given the excellent state of Mom's physical health, she will likely need care for a considerable length of time.
One person told me that this (from the hostile sister's perspective) is all about money, all about maximizing her cash-out after Mom's death. Huh. How funny, when having me care for her would be several times less costly than any other arrangement.
But, it is what it is and I'm working to get beyond it. My mother is a Pod Person, and this is the re-make of "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers," where the Pod People won. And after today, I won't mention it again--unless something changes; I'll just keep working to find happiness in my new reality.