(This was started several months ago, maybe June. I couldn’t post it then – I was still too close to it. I’ve added more today, on the occasion of a second called meeting. I’m sitting this one out.)
We are going to a called meeting. I’m writing this in the car on the way to a meeting that my parents in law have requested. My husband’s mother is dying slowly of pancreatic cancer. She is in her 70’s. She’s already lived longer with this disease than the doctors expected. She has already lived longer than my Mom, who died at 53.
I feel like we are going to a discussion about putting down the family pet.
It has been months since the last family meeting. There hasn’t been a lot of communication since Christmas, when we found out. That Christmas was more strained and fake than normal. We all pretended like everything was fine. It reminded me a lot of how my birth family acted at every holiday.
Pancreatic cancer takes a toll on you. It is debilitating. It has an over 90% death rate, mostly because it isn’t caught until it is very advanced. We don’t know. Perhaps there was a healing. Or perhaps they have finally woken up to the reality of the situation and realized they need to go into assisted living.
At Easter, my mother in law did all the cooking. My father in law sat. He directed traffic. This is a role reversal from when I met them ten years ago. She had to take on more of the chores since he got Parkinson’s. He seems to see getting Parkinson’s as an excuse to sit all the time. Sure, Parkinson’s is a degenerative nerve disease. But if you don’t exercise, Parkinson’s or no, you’ll deteriorate.
None of us have the time or patience or time off at work to go over there all the time and cook and clean and bathe them. Nor do we want to.
I sure wish I knew about all the mental and physical abuse that happened in this family before I suggested they move up here. I wouldn’t have suggested that they move closer. It seemed logical at the time. They were getting older. They kept taking turns needing help, what with cancer twice for him and a hip replacement for her. She freaked out when the water heater broke when her husband was out of town. One son had to drive 5 hours one way to deal with it. This is not the hallmark of adult behavior on her part.
They need help, certainly, but we aren’t the ones to give it. We don’t have the resources – mental, physical, emotional.
I didn’t know them before. Perhaps they have gotten more feeble with age. Perhaps they have always been dependent. Perhaps they have always been needy. Perhaps they have always been weak.
I want this to go well. I don’t know what to do. I want to be helpful. I want to be compassionate.
But I also want to say “I told you so.” I want to say “if only you had listened to me and gotten an apartment instead of a house, rented rather than bought, this would be easier.” I’m angry that they want our help but they don’t want to listen to what we are willing and able to provide. They want our help but they want it their way.
I want to say if you’d been nicer to your children, they wouldn’t be reluctant to help you. You reap what you sow.
This isn’t Christ-like at all. I don’t pretend it is. It is very human. Is it compassionate to enable someone in their stupidity?
This could go well. It could go terribly. Bracing for it usually makes it go worse. I’m trying to plan ahead and be realistic. I’m trying to be honest with myself.
Nothing digs up old family wounds like new family trauma. It is so easy to forget there is a problem until it comes back up again. Yep. That bone is still broken. Time to get it looked at by a professional, or amputate that limb. Time to get professional counseling or decide to walk away from it all.
Just because I married the son doesn’t mean I have to take care of his parents. There is nothing in the wedding vows about them. I’m not legally bound to them.
I’m angry at them because of all the damage they did to him. Sure, they were probably abused themselves. Dysfunctional is the new normal after all. Does this get them off the hook? Does this mean I have to take time off from work to take care of them? I spend enough time as it is picking up the pieces of their son’s shattered self esteem.
I’m angry that my father in law still thinks it is OK to talk badly about his son. He has never apologized for abusing his family. He has never changed, really. He’s just sneakier about his abuse.
I’m angry that my mother in law is dying and the only thing she wants to do is decorate her house. Scraping wallpaper, painting, and remodeling is the order of the day. From what I understand this is how she has always done things. Knowing she is terminally ill has not changed her, has not focused her. She has not done anything for her community or the world. I cannot imagine wasting life so wantonly. I’m frustrated that she has had more life than my Mom and still hasn’t done anything with it.
I’m angry that both of them have lived this long and they are still not grown up.
I’m not a counselor. I’m not a therapist. I’m not a minister. I know I can’t fix other people’s problems. I can only work on myself. I know that looking away from problems doesn’t make them go away. I know also that it is the better part of valor to know when you can’t do anything. Sometimes you have to admit defeat. I’ve tried to help them and they are still stuck, so I’m not what they need. They think I am, but the evidence proves otherwise.
I have chosen to walk away from this insanity. I can’t let someone else’s madness pull me into the water where I’ll drown. Codependency is deadly.
I’ve walked away for the same reason I no longer read the news. I’ve walked away from same reason I no longer watch television or eat junk food or drink sodas. I can’t allow this poison into me. I know what it does.
Now, a mark of a Christian is that they are supposed to be able to be bitten by a snake and not get sick. To me, it makes more sense to not even pick up that snake to start off with.