A Shell of a Woman

The reversal of roles between parents and children is such an odd place to be, but required. Knowing full well that while I am still the parent to my children, years and hopefully many years from now, they will be caring for me and making good decisions on my behalf.

I try to remember this today for the tomorrow. The situation we are being faced with is of my in-laws. Watching the gradual decline over the years, which seems to have increased this past year, even the past two months. As with the world, we have all had to limit contact with others due to Covid19. Even though, through the pandemic, we had to limit our time, we have always had to limit our contact and basically make an appointment to visit through the years that I have been in this family.

It’s the oddest thing. My father-in-law is a stubborn, old man and is and has been controlling with his attitude as well as being verbally abusive, if not emotionally abusive to my mother-in-law. I have often asked her when we get a few minutes without him hovering over her if he is ever physically abusive, which is always no, thankfully. I just hope. Through it all, she covers for him, also lives in denial about a lot within the family and is an enabler to him. If he is giving her a hard time or is being a grouch, she will say it is not a good day to visit, when we call, but thanks for calling. Goodbye.

If we do get the green light to visit, we ring the door bell and wait for their surprised masked faces we came to visit. They are just fine, nothing is wrong and so happy to see us. I have learned that having Aspergers, which runs in their family, the mask can only be on for so long. With her tied to this man, she has also learned the traits and follows along to keep him calm.

Around Christmas, I visited, a surprise visit. I was at the grocery store near their house, calling to test the waters but to see if they needed anything. In her happy, jovial voice saying come on over, I knew it was a good day. As I am in the grocery store, my cell phone rings and it is her, as she did need some things. How about that. Almost ready to check out, she calls again, he wants peppermint candy. Now the visit, to spy out the land and knowing it should be a short, nice visit.

Something had surely changed. Things were not as clean and neither were they. As I helped her put away what groceries she requested with some added treats, I knew they enjoyed, I was somewhat taken aback by it all. This is not good, not good at all. Apparently, not bathing is normal with age, dementia or Alzheimer’s or whatever we are facing. There is no need to even mention a doctor’s visit or anything outside of their four walls, as he would not approve, so she suffers, too.

Recently, since we were expecting a bad snow storm this past week, their son (my husband) and I both made a surprise visit, if allowed, only giving them about forty-five minutes to clean up their act, appearance, etc., which not happen. In just two months, they both have deteriorated and while her hair looked cleaner, it was matted down. How can that be? He was looking like a mad man sitting there, now with long hair and a beard commenting he cannot see. I had never seen this man with a beard or looking so disheveled. The house was not clean but it was not nasty, yet. Things are slipping.

Again, no need to mention an eye appointment or a hair appointment, it’s not worth getting him all riled up and kicking us out, which has happened with the older son.

Their son, my husband, was just over there two nights before because they were not answering their phone. The mind can only think the worst in that situation. The phone was unplugged and neither had a clue how that happened. Plus, forgetting he was over.

Also, the toilet was clogged the day we both stopped in, so he fixes it while I am listening to both of them blame the other for that problem. In my mind, I’m thinking it had to be one of you, while quietly laughing to myself as this played out. You did it! No, you did it! At least through all the chaos around me while visiting, it was entertaining, even though so sad.

With the groceries and a hot pizza we brought, I again helped her put things away but then I stood back and watched her again. The lady was lost. Not even knowing what to do with paper towels or what to put the pizza on to serve him. I hesitated while watching her stand in the unknown of her mind and I said, a plate. Immediately, she looks at me and smiles with a wink and says, yes a paper plate. For a moment, with the smile and a wink, she returned, as that was my sweet mother-in-law. Gone again within minutes, staring at the pizza.

I mentioned her sister, the church, the pastor and various topics in our time together with nothing to follow, just a look. I really don’t think she remembers any of them. Repeating often of the weather and snow storm, as that was of interest to him. Many times, she would chime in with, “Are we going to get snow?” The repeating did not bother me, as I went through this with my own mom. It’s the fact of how far she had gone downhill, so quickly, in two months.

While I don’t do this out of disrespect but of record, as I did with my aunt while in the nursing home, I put my cellphone on silent and snap pics, in an indiscreet way, they never knew. I feel more than ever, it is time to keep track of their health and well-being. This year will be one of decisions for their three sons to make, although it will all fall upon my husband, their middle son, and myself. Knowing he will put it on me. I need to be ready to state my case when it comes to some immediate things, like taking the car keys away from her, hiding her keys or letting air out of a tire or disconnect the car battery. Yes, she still drives, but only to the grocery store, which is near. Still, that’s dangerous now, with the thought of seeing their photo on the local news as a missing couple.

The sons think they are fine, just getting older. True! They did years ago, when trying to convince them, we have a problem developing. I think the whole family lives in denial.

When leaving, I am holding my phone in a direction to snap a pic of her while talking about the snow storm again. Even in the freezing temperature, she walks out on the porch to say goodbye. She does that because she knows that task still. My pic of her when I got home and look at it, she is lost. There is nothing alert in her facial appearance standing before me, the eyes are dim, somewhat fixed, as nobody’s home. A total hopelessness over the years have taken her over. Now what do we do? How do I direct their son(s) in the next phase?

The lady in this pic has more life in her eyes than what I saw in my mother-in-law. The strong one caring for her husband is becoming non-existent. I could and can deal with her, I don’t know if I can deal with my father-in-law. Help me Jesus!

Sitting at the kitchen table, I see bills and their checkbook, wondering if she is even capable of continuing this task. Nothing has been set up for a son or sons to be in charge of such financial business for household or medical circumstances, unsure of benefits when they pass or what are we are up against. They are and have always been private, his control and being so stubborn. It was hopeful to ask her but now that is gone, we lost the window of opportunity. When the inevitable happens or even a medical emergency, we will be scrambling to locate paperwork. It is coming, too fast and too soon.

His mom is an empty shell. So sad, as the words she spoke to me just ten years ago, after her retirement; soon after being held as a prisoner in her own home by him, saying, “This was not what I was expecting.” She felt hopeless back then and in all of those years, now hopelessness is so visible, she has given up as she is just a shell of a woman.

Parenting Your Aging Parents When They Don’t Want Help

https://khn.org/news/parenting-your-aging-parents-when-they-dont-want-help/embed/#?secret=SJzqRkegVh

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/how-to-handle-an-elderly-parents-bad-behavior-138673.htm

Why Won’t Your Alzheimers or Dementia Parent Take Showers

https://artsyfartsylife.com/why-wont-your-alzheimers-or-dementia-parent-take-showers/embed/#?secret=PtizhOFio0

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.seniorlink.com/blog/tips-for-dealing-with-stubborn-elderly-parents-with-dementia-50-expert-tips-for-communicating-gaining-cooperation-understanding-behavior-and-more%3Fhs_amp%3Dtrue

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/taking-over-parents-finances-what-you-need-to-know-143865.htm

Thanks for reading. Any input is welcome if you have experience in a situation, as such. ML

Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. … Instead, we have to trust in God. But the point is clear: as parents got older and are no longer able to provide or care for themselves, the responsibility is passed to the children.

Forgive? Forget?

When years have passed and a lot of bitter waters flowed within a family, there comes a time to block a relationship and go the other way. One of the best moves I have ever done and actually the first time, to block a member of my own family from the hatred messages received. There was peace. To block one is very powerful and freeing. Why didn’t I do that sooner? I allowed a lot of unnecessary stress and tears before hitting the option, to block or not to block. Block.

It was their choice to cut family ties years before and pretend I was dead, actually they wished I was, no doubt. After going through years of this, I welcomed this divide.

To my surprise, I had a message awaiting me, which surprised me as I blocked her. Apparently, a new profile requesting friendship on Facebook allows this to happen but all I could say or think was, “I’m Good.” I am. I have enjoyed the peace and quiet. Whatever is said or done, that is on them. I will not allow myself to be harassed or stressed anymore. A decision to be a ‘friend’ on Facebook and then to send a message of, “Let Bygones Be Bygones” still, “I’m Good” with no reply. It’s best to leave well enough alone.

So epiphany came to mind.

Epiphany is an “Aha!” moment. As a literary device, epiphany (pronounced ih-pif–uh-nee) is the moment when a character is suddenly struck with a life-changing realization which changes the rest of the story. Often, an epiphany begins with a small, everyday occurrence or experience.

The movie, "Monster-In-Law" of a daughter-in-law (Charlie) to-be speaks to an upcoming mother-in-law on the wedding day after being so manipulative and jealous of the couple's relationship and trying to stop the wedding in however way she could. Finally saying the marriage could go forward. Charlie says, "What, am I supposed to believe that you've had some epiphany? That all of the sudden everything is going to be different?" 

Actually, a “Come to Jesus’ moment is another way to think of this epiphany when it happens after years of being gossiped and lied about for years to those I know. Hopefully, those listening to the non-stop lies and gossip, they realized just what the one speaking really is and sees them for that. I cannot concern myself with what was or is said or believed. I did for a long time, but I had to let it go.

As much as it deeply hurt, I wanted to go behind them to fight my case, as there are always two sides to a story. I could also smear their reputation just as well but it is not worth my time or energy. In time, all I could and can do is to wait and let God fight my battles. In time, those that heard all the talk will understand, as they definitely felt the need to be heard in order to feel bigger and better. Some need that drama. I don’t have to say a word or defend my position.

My place was to remain in peace within myself, process the hurt and pain as I could but in the end, to forgive. Forgiveness is for me.

You Can Forgive Someone, But That Doesn’t Mean They Need To Stay In Your Life. But forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to keep that person in your life.

In a word – absolutely! Forgiveness is the foundation that must be laid in order to journey toward healing. When we forgive someone, instant healing doesn’t come (especially when the hurt causes deep emotional wounds).

I am sure we have all dealt with situations in life that we needed forgiveness for ourselves or for others. The same holds true with unforgiveness, we may hold toward others or they may hold toward us. Not an easy situation most times but we are faced with it in life. At times, we have to even forgive ourselves and that is even hard. Sometimes we have to forgive by faith.

Do we forgive? Can we forget?

Do we not forgive? Do we not forget?

Do we forget? Do we not forgive?

Forgiveness may not happen overnight, as there will probably be a lot of emotional baggage and let’s not forget anger.

This past week, I have had to re-examine this situation in our family. There has been a lot of water under the bridge over the years. As requested, let’s let bygones be bygones. I’m good with that and we continue to go our separate ways.

I’m good and I do wish them well.

Missing Hugs

In this past year of social distancing, the huggers have had withdrawals of not being able to be themselves. They want to reach out and hug but are reminded not to hug by the face mask the other wears and of their own. No hugs! This causes a void in their daily life whether it be in social settings as in church or just running into a friend or family member.

I know of one lady that is in a public business, a funeral home, and this is her nature. In her personality, which is very caring in this role of a funeral director, the hugs given to those in mourning are an added benefit. After all the funeral plans and committal service, these people know that the hug will come from her in the days ahead. Her hugs felt safe and precious in a time of the darkest hours with a death in a family of our area. If you mention her name, they automatically smile and remember the hugs given and so desperately needed.

I have no doubt this caused a mild depression in her of not offering that hug to those needing one. Back in 1996 when my mother died, she became a rock for me, as I was lost in my grief. I have had family members pass away and friends but this was my mother. My role as a daughter had changed, I am now a caretaker of my father more so, after the funeral and financial ends were finalized. For a long while, I did not know how to process this. I was grieving but had to be strong for my dad, my children. Emotions were always hidden in our family growing up, you don’t cry, for whatever reason. Perhaps I was made to feel that way since I was seven years later and the older ones called me a cry baby. I learned early on to keep my emotions to myself, as a young child. So, I somewhat died along with her but became a robot of day to day living. Maybe they were all robots. During this time, my marriage was dying but even before, to cry on his shoulder or to be held, was also out of the question. Alone in my grief.

Two years later when my father died at home with my sister and I by his side, I was more prepared but still, it is like a rug was pulled out from me. Now I felt like an orphan. Another new role to take upon myself, as I dealt with the estate and a few greedy family members. That’s a whole other writing in itself. The morning my dad passed, I called the funeral home and it was not long until she was with me in my living room, knowing she filled a role in my life that kept me steady on a thin, raveling rope. Those hugs she offered and I accepted was a glue that I needed. Besides my boys, there were no hugs.

So that is her, a hugger of many and filled in a mother role that I needed. She allowed me to cry, she hugged me tight and stayed in touch with me, she knew of my marriage and family issues. Again, she was my rock, when I needed a boulder.

Many years have passed now and a lot has happened since. I was able to not need her as much in this role, as I have grown and adapted to my loss as in time we do, but she will always be special to me. We always have those hugs. Still and many times, gifts to and from one another are related to hugs, even now, texts will relate to hugs. I needed those hugs and I knew her two arms would tightly wrap around me, keeping me together.

So here we are almost a year since this pandemic started and the social distancing, limits all around and it is like a don’t touch sign on each person. It is sad. I decided to reach out to her a few weeks ago as I/we still do for each other. I know she is there but I don’t rely on her as much. Unselfishly, which was not always easy, others need her, too. In my text, I asked her how she was doing and how she was handling this pandemic and the rules. Again, everyone knows she hugs, that is just her. When she responded, she was happy to be asked and felt she could elaborate but had to get back with me. It was several days later and I did not think anything about it, as life happens.

Finally, a text but a different tone in her writing to me, as I started to read, which was unusual from her. I continued to read and was apologizing to me because she thought this would be easy to write about but found it was not. This lady is and has been a strong pillar in our community with the funeral home business but this stirred emotions in her.

Believe it or not, I have been thinking of you a lot after receiving the above request. SORRY to be so long in responding.

When I read your message, I really thought I’d get an answer back to you before the end of the day. As you already know, that wasn’t what happened.

You were requesting me to write you my thoughts, on how things have been going, and how I felt about not being able to socialize, or HUG during this crazy unfamiliar time we’re all living right now.

I didn’t think at first it would be so difficult to write, but I’ve been in solitary (like a lot of other people) for months now, NO hugging, touching, having anyone visit (I understand they are all trying to protect me, but I’m sorry to tell you at this time, I can’t help you.

I’ve also lost so many friends, and several family members since last March, it makes me sad to even think about it. Please forgive me. Maybe at a later time I’ll be able to help you, but right now I don’t want to talk about my feelings. I do Love you and hope and pray you’ll understand. ❤❤❤🙏🙏🙏”

I did understand. Honestly, I bet a majority of people, even you, feel the same. Our lives have been disrupted, a ‘Do Not Cross’ sign on our forehead of no touching, no hugging, no socializing basically. We are pulled from those that give us hope and laughter as a tight hug brings laughter and tears fill our eyes with joy. Now tears of sadness if we give much thought of those times together.

I have had to wonder how I would respond if I would run into her. Automatic hug or replaced with fear to hug, as we both struggle with none. I have wondered about this happening with another, my former counselor if we would run into one another. Upon leaving her practice, she said we could hug if we saw one another and I do expect it. I do know that had it not been for her and I to discuss why hugs meant so much to me and why I yearned for hugs from others, in those years together as counselor/client, among other things we discussed, I don’t doubt I would be experiencing severe depression during this pandemic. If and when I would run into her, how would the emotional side of me react, I wonder. Would it bring further grief, as I miss her? There are some people in my life and I am sure in yours that you want and expect those hugs. I do. I want. We all need them. I have been so blessed with many in my life, just like the two I mentioned.

In this pandemic, there were a few visits with my son of no hugs. My heart was broken as I went back to my room and cried. The grieving of what we have lost in just the touch or a hug, being with others, my own child(ren). The seclusion can do a number on our mental health. Even though, we are resilient.

We are made and we yearn for touch and love. This pandemic puts a wall and the masks further isolate each of us from seeing the smile of those we care for in our lives or just in passing others in day to day life. The joy has diminished from faces and in life. Hopefully, not fully from their hearts. On the surface, we are adapting but we long for those hugs and the closeness in visiting.

Yes, we will get through this season of seclusion but knowing, too we have lost friends or family members with this evil virus. Perhaps this is a wake up call to know and be reminded we are not promised tomorrow, or our next breath. Express your love and appreciation for those we come in contact however done, either in person, phone or text, as it might be the last time.

“Touch is a legitimate physical and emotional need. It’s part of the human experience, and losing that and not knowing when you will get it back is hard.”

https://www.tmc.edu/news/2020/05/touch-starvation/

https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200615/how-to-cope-when-covid-steals-loving-touch-hugs

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

https://faithcounts.com/bible-verses-about-coronavirus-20-scriptures-to-help-those-feeling-isolated-and-discouraged/

https://tenor.com/view/running-hug-embrace-imiss-you-good-to-see-you-again-gif-15965620

OPEN and enjoy as many times as you need. ❤️ ML