Tim, Ted and a carful of young’uns had a wonderful day in Yellow Springs and “many adventures in the Glen.” They came back cheerful and rested. Tim was a lot of fun. He didn’t resist their attempts to help him climb over rough patches, apparently, and he didn’t deliberately choose the more risky “screw you” routes he would have if I’d been along. He didn’t demean the women present or tell the children filthy jokes.
Meanwhile, back at the motel with Jerry for two days, as happy as I was for them, it was physically excruciating not to be with them. It was my own choice but it was a terrible one, to come all this way to get to know Ted and my nieces and nephew better and then deprive myself of that opportunity because I was afraid of being abused and humiliated by Tim.
In town Tim even checked out senior living places, got paperwork to fill out. That was wonderful news. On their way home they dropped Tim off at Ted’s house so we could pick him up there on our way to the airport.
When I heard Tim was at Ted’s house I had my first breath of hope. What if we didn’t pick him up? What if he stayed with Ted until there was an opening in the town where he wants to live and die and could move right in? I would have complete confidence Tim was in good hands with Ted.
But when we called Ted to suggest it he said no.
Because of stories Tim has been telling them, they now believe I am the abusive one.
No one understands. By saying “I can’t do this anymore; I need someone else to take over–,” I am saying “–and care for him as if we have, provide the services he can no longer do for himself, enrich his life with conversation, laughter, games, movies he does not have living alone. Bless him and enjoy his company. I need to know he’s safe so I can have peace of mind.”
What everyone in the family is hearing is, “I want to control Tim’s life and I’m not willing to let him live on his own with independence and dignity.” Tim wants to go back to the roach motel in Long Beach (while he tries to apply for senior living in Yellow Springs 2,000 miles away! That’s not going to be possible.) He will be confused and dirty and “buzzy” again before long. In fact at the reunion he had already stopped taking all his pills (including those for confusion, paranoia and depression). He will be taking buses going the wrong direction. He will be getting lost in Dads R Us trying to find a friend’s house. He will be wandering around at night, picked up by strangers offering him a ride home.
And that is supposed to give me peace of mind. Knowing my brother is living alone, unable to take care of himself. Knowing he’s lonely and depressed. I am supposed to pretend he doesn’t exist.
Desperate, I called 911 the night before we left Michigan and told someone from Suicide Hotline that I was staring at the NO DIVING sign at the pool and considering diving. I was looking at my wrists and picturing them cut. In response they sent a cop to our motel room–a man! I’d specifically asked for a woman, but the only woman was busy–to help me consider options that would not put me over the edge. They sent Brad, a nice guy who told me I am an enabler and I need to stop it. I said, “I’m TRYING to stop! That’s why I called for help, to learn other options for my brother.” Brad said brothers and sisters aren’t supposed to take care of each other, that he himself has a sister with Krohns disease $86,000 worth of medical bills.
“I feel sorry for her,” he said, leaning casually against the door jamb. “But I don’t feel any obligation to help her. You can’t help him, either.”
I thought it was a bad analogy. I didn’t think helping a woman with a disease constituted “enabling,” but I held my tongue. I thought, That’s why I asked to talk with a woman and thanked him.
The cop and Jerry agreed that Jerry would interface with Tim, being firm, giving him his plane ticket today and if he makes it to the other end of the country with it, taking him to his apartment (because his key is at our house) and cutting him loose to fend for himself. That’s what Tim wants too–as little contact with us “meanies” as possible.
That’s not my idea of treating someone with the disease of forgetfulness, confusion and grandiose assumptions of his own capacity. I don’t want to cut him off. I want to hand him off–to someone like me (but not me) who can get him through until he gets appropriate housing where he wants to live. I’m not trying to punish him for having Alzheimers.
I know what will happen when he gets back to Long Beach. We’ll have to get his phone turned on again. We’ll have to get his newspapers re-routed again. We’ll have to change his address for him and notify his friends of it. We’ll be the ones on call for Life Alert when he falls and will have to provide transportation to AA and doctors’ visits and the pharmacy and the market because there isn’t anyone else. And we’ll be sucked right back into his full-time care.
I have made my needs known, as they taught me to do in the hospital so many years ago. I have stood up and said distinctly and audibly in every way I know how, “NO! NO MORE. THIS IS IT. THIS IS WHERE I DRAW THE LINE. I can’t do this. Someone else must. He can’t be allowed to fall through the cracks. It’s someone else’s turn. He’s taking me down with him! I’m drawing a line right here. We are not taking him home.”
I’m screaming “HELP!” and all anyone will advise is , “Just let him fall.”
I’m trying to put on my oxygen mask first and it’s not working. Jerry’s going to take a tough line with him (good luck bossing an angry man) and put him in his place and be done with him and I’ll live with a knot of regret and guilt the rest of my life.