Okay- lets see if I can wrap this thing up at long last. (And long
is the word, as this post goes.) It may take two posts, to finish this whole thing up, though.
I've already filled you in on a lot of things about life with the Xs in Parts 1 & 2. I alluded to the trouble starting when I was "allowed" to start driving around town by myself, which afforded me my much valued independence. I also mentioned that I felt like a teenaged kid who had to worry about getting in trouble with mom and dad. Really, XX was more responsible for creating this feeling than XY was.
The first major incident came about 2 weeks after we arrived. I had cooked dinner for us all (Xs included) the night before and Rachel wanted to help me by peeling garlic, which I said would be fine, but she had to make sure she cleaned any mess up from the floor and counter when she finished. I thought she did, but apparently she missed two little pieces of the papery skin from the garlic cloves. They'd fallen behind the garbage can and I hadn't seen them either. The following morning, I got Rachel off to school around 7:30 AM and returned to my room in the wing. XX got up a while later and apparently moved the garbage can and saw the two little pieces of peeling. Rather than just picking them up and throwing them away, she left a post-it note on the counter instructing me to do so. Right after XX did this, one of XY's friends, Debbie, came over to drop off some donated clothes for me and saw the note. Debbie must have thought this was a rather petty request because she threw them and the note away.
I saw XX in the kitchen later that afternoon and was shocked when she approached me in a confrontational matter and recounted to me the story of Debbie seeing the note and
"having to throw the peelings away" for me, like it was my fault that Debbie had to do this
. I apologized and told her that I'd asked Rachel to make sure that she'd picked up her mess and that I thought she had. I was sorry that I missed it and if I had seen the peelings or the note, surely I would have taken care of it. But she was not content to accept that. She harped on and on about it in this harsh maternal tone and told me that I didn't have my priorities straight. I was confused about what she meant and asked her to clarify. She just went on saying the same sort of things like, "you're not focused." but nothing specific. I was getting very frustrated with no clarity on what she meant, and I didn't understand why she was speaking to me with such a harsh tone, especially over 2 little pieces of garlic peeling. It was just too much. I was already feeling stressed out and frustrated by the lack of access to communication media (...my dead computer, difficult and scarce internet access and the inability to watch cable news to see what was going on at home while XY watched sports and soap operas all day TV), and I was stressed by this constant parental thing I had been experiencing. It was just too much. I burst into tears, apologized again for whatever it was I had or hadn't done, and left the room. Rachel was present for this whole episode and came to console me. I asked her to get Alex and the three of us went for a walk to have a family meeting. Alex's had a lot to say about what he felt was their attitude toward him and said he felt a lot of the kind of vibe I did. As a grown woman and parent of two, I wasn't willing to play the child role to this childless woman. I thought perhaps we needed to look for another place to live.
Now, one thing that I have not told you is that I come from the poster family for ADHD. My parents, me, my siblings and all the grandchildren but one has it. I'd talked about this to XX a long time ago and she knew I took meds for it. But I'd been off the meds since the storm, since I didn't need them under the circumstances and they are more effective if you take a break from them for a while. She knew this. It should be noted that my priorities were to take care of the things I needed to attend to in the aftermath of the storm, as they related to me and my children and my extended family. And I was taking care of these things. This had nothing to do with picking up after ourselves and helping out around the house, which we routinely did anyway. But it did require me to make and take phone calls, visit social services offices and my kids' new schools, and things like that. And I didn't need ADHD meds to do these things. I only need them if I have to do things like sit and deal with paperwork or planning classes, grading papers, and other tasks that require me to sit still and focus on one thing for a long time.
The next day, XX dropped another one on me. She informed me that she'd made an emergency appointment for me to see a therapist at noon that day. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I asked why? She said I needed to take my ADD meds and she made the appointment so that the therapist could tell me that I had to take them. I asked what she knew about the meds and about ADD in general. She admitted that she knew basically nothing, but she knew I needed to take them so I could get my priorities straight. Again.
In the absence of any reasonable and concrete thing to hang on me as a grievance, she was using the knowledge of my ADHD and " medication holiday" as a basis for a non-specific grievance. I informed her that she wouldn't be able to tell the difference between me on
the meds or off
, as they affect nothing but my ability to sit still and focus on tasks that require my attention for long periods of time. And currently, there were no such tasks in my life that required this. Other than that, I feel no different on or off them on any given day. By the way, I've been on Adderral for many years and long before the diagnosis of adult ADD became so fashionable.
When I tell this story to others, they are generally appalled by the idea of XX "sending me to see a therapist." Again, this is what a parent would do with a child, but not an adult with another independent adult. I was shocked as well, but I figured I'd humor her and go, for two reasons. First, I knew that no self-respecting therapist would tell me I had to take my meds just because another one of their patients asked him to, particularly in the absence of any evidence in support of it. Second, I had become so uncomfortable with the whole parental thing going on with XX that I said, what the hell. It might be helpful to hear what the therapist has to say about dealing with this. Turns out the therapist was just as shocked as everyone else. After I told him about what transpired, he agreed that, perhaps, we should find another place to live. But in any event, he said he thought XX needed to come in and the three of us should talk.
That was on a Friday. I immediately got to work making calls and that same day was offered a place to stay with 6 months of free rent from a local hurricane relief agency sponsored by the United Way. I signed the rental agreement and had keys in hand, but told the representative that the decision wouldn't be final until I could take the kids to see the place and get their input. I didn't tell XX, but I took the kids to see it that evening and they were fine with the move. Because it was Friday evening, I wouldn't be able to let the rep know of our final decision until Monday.
On Monday, three days later, she and I returned to the therapist's office together. I'd did very little talking during this visit. Immediately, XX started harping about priorities again. I asked her to please be specific. This time, she was armed with a list of grievances:
Grievance #1: The garlic peelings. She said I should have picked them up that morning and not Debbie. I asked her how I could have when I didn't know they were there that morning? I should have read the note, she said. I asked how I could have if Debbie threw it and the peels away before I ever saw it? Silence.
Grievance #2: As relates to #1: She and XY didn't think I should make Rachel responsible for things like that. Before I could open my mouth, the therapist explained that one of my duties as a parent was to teach Rachel to be responsible. I nodded and silently thanked him.
Grievance #3: Rachel left the lights on upstairs in the wing one
night and XX thinks that this is evidence that we won't take care of the house when she and XY are in Florida for the winter. True. Rachel did do that, but only once. And I noted that after XX told me about it, I made sure to check them every night and it never happened again.
The therapist asked if this was true and XX confirmed it. I didn't understand why that would even be on the list. Do we get credit for correcting mistakes that happen only once, I asked? The therapist questioned why it was being brought up and XX couldn't really answer. Again, I silently thanked him.
Grievance #4: I'm on the phone all the time. Therapist asks if I'm tying up their phone line with my calls. XX answers, in the tone of an angry spoiled child, "No, she's on her cellphone!
" as of this is even worse. Therapist asks why this matters to her? How does this adversely affect her? XX has no answer. Therapist notes that one would expect me to be on the phone a lot, given the circumstances.
Grievance #5: XX said that I had to keep the same hours as she did. I had to be up when she was up and go to sleep when she did. I've been a chronic night-owl since graduate school and have managed to live my life just fine as such, since my UNO classes were in the afternoons and evenings. Therapist asks if my staying up late at night disturbs them, and XX says no, we're in a separate part of the house from them. He asks why it matters and again, XX can't offer any reasonable explanation for this grievance.
Feeling shot down, I guess, XX pulls out the big guns.
Grievance #6: "We feel that they're exploiting us." I'm shocked by this. I asked how so? We're buying our own food and whatever else we need, (in fact, the children were instructed not to eat or drink any of the Xs stuff, despite having been told to help ourselves to anything they had, because I didn't want the Xs to ever go looking for something they wanted to eat or drink and find that it was not there because we'd consumed it), I'm cooking our own meals and cooking meals for them whenever XX agrees to it, we're doing our own laundry and cleaning up after ourselves (I even declined to have the housekeeper clean the wing when offered and I did it myself), I'm taking care of the garden and we're helping with any and everything else we can think of, and asking constantly what else we can help with. We're not asking them for ANYTHING. They offered us a place to stay and said we could use XY's minivan. We accepted. XY gave me some cash for my wallet when we first arrived and I bought 12" TVs (about $100 each) for the kids' rooms, which XY subsequently insisted on paying for as an early Christmas gift for them. (TV alone was of little use to them with only local broadcasts and no cable/satellite, but they had built in CD/DVD players, which were much valued.) Never, ever, did we ask for anything or take anything we weren't offered. When this was pointed out, she had no argument.
The therapist asked XX if he could be direct with her, and she agreed. He pointed out that I was going through an unprecedented kind of life-upheaval and was doing what I needed to do to take care of my and my children's needs. Maybe things like me having to be on the phone or keeping my own hours were aggravating
to her (since they didn't disrupt her lifestyle in any way), but they were just things that I needed to do to take care of us and to have familiar and comforting things in the midst of the upheaval. He pointed out to her that she had me backed into a damned-if-you-do, damed-if-you-don't corner and that she was treating me in all the ways she complained that her mother treated her. (She had few kind things to say about her mother.) He said he thought that she would want to preserve the friendship and that maybe us moving out would be the best thing toward that end.
I guess XX wasn't feeling too happy and maybe she even felt pretty foolish at that point. I would have felt that way. But rather than concede that she was off base, she stood up, walked over to where I was sitting, literally got into my face and started shrieking- and I mean shrieking
, "XY MIGHT DIE!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT???? XY MIGHT DIE!!!!!! AND ALL YOU CARE ABOUT IS WHAT'S GOING ON WITH YOU AND YOUR LIFE!!!!!!
She stormed out of the office and slammed every door from there to the parking lot. The therapist and I just sat there, looking at each other, dumbfounded. All I could manage to say was, "what do I do with that
Finally, he spoke. He said he knew XY had been hospitalized and was home recovering from a bruised kidney. He asked if there had been some new development with that, and I told him there hadn't. XY was home and recovering well, according to the doctors. XX had shared all of the info on XY's condition with me, and also expressed concern that it was really more than what it seemed to be and that maybe XY really had cancer. I tried to console her about that because, although he didn't remember at first, XY knew exactly when and what he'd done to bruise the kidney. Initially, the cause was a mystery, leaving room for speculation on why he had the bleeding, but that had been resolved. I also let the therapist know that all three of us had been very attentive to XY in his convalescence. We always asked how he was feeling and if we could get him anything or do anything for him, and we did whatever he needed.
The therapist looked at me and said, "you guys need to get out of there."
I had a place and told him about it and mentioned that I may also need a ride back to the house, since XX's exit made it probable that she took off after leaving the building. But when I went outside, she was still there.
Silently, we went to the car and got in. And as soon as we did, she burst into tears and sobbed heavily while apologizing profusely through her tears. I leaned over and hugged her and she cried and cried, and repeated over and over, "I'm so, so sorry." Then, as she continued to sob, she began repeating, "I'm scared. I'm so scared XY might die," over and over through the tears. (Maybe there's a an unkind pre-nup?) I tried to remind her that he was recovering well and that there was no reason for her to worry about that any more. She cried for a long time and I just held her until she began to regain her composure. Sheasked me repeatedly if I forgave her. Of course I did, I said. She said she was all jumbled up in her head and that she had been repressing her fears about XY's health and they came out all jumbled and confused and directed towards me. She repeatedly apologized and then asked that I please not tell XY about what happened that day. She said she was just going to tell him that everything had been worked out.
I still had a few nagging questions, particularly about #6 and the fact that she attributed the feelings to not just herself, but to XY as well. But I thought it would be best not to bring this or the fact that I'd found another place for us to live up at this time, since she was just regaining her composure. So I waited until later that evening and told her I was a little unsettled by the exploitation comment and the fact that she said that XY felt the same as she did.
First, she assured me that she really didn't feel that they were being exploited and repeated the thing about being all jumbled up inside. She said that none of the feelings she attributed to XY were his, and that he just went along with whatever she said. It became clear later on that he does whatever necessary to keep her happy when she's undone about something that's unrelated to himself. According to her, that's not the case when she has a grievance with him, though. But to his credit, I saw that situation, too, and I think he showed tremendous restraint. Maybe that's because we were there.
Next, I told her that we had another place to live. She said that she understood it if we wanted to move out, but she really wished we wouldn't and she would feel so, so sad
if we did. So, so sad.
Now she's looking dejected, as if she's losing her only friend, so I explained to her that I would still be in town and offered the possibility that Rachel could still ride the bus to her house every day and I'd pick her up from there, so she'd still see us regularly. Oh, but she was still so glum.
Oh boy. Now guilt is circling overhead, threatening to land. If we move, I will have rejected my friends generosity and caused her great sadness. I told her I'd reconsider it.
Later that evening, the decision was made for me when the agency rep called for our final decision. She said that she had a Katrina couple who were expecting a baby soon and they needed the place if we weren't taking it. I didn't feel right taking housing away from someone else who needed it when we had a place to stay. XX had repeatedly assured me that everything was fine. And then XX wouldn't have to be so, so sad
. I tore up the agreement and returned the keys the next day.
Pay attention to grievance #4 and #5, because these are clues to what I think the real issue was with XX.
The real craziness comes next. Sorry for the eye-strain, but Thanks for sticking with this long narrative!