“Well-Meaning” Relatives – Puh-lease!

11 Aug

My family is a real trip, sometimes – right into the twilight zone.

About six weeks ago, my Grandmother’s sister, I call her Aunt Donna (everyone does, for some reason) and her daughter, Marie, who live in California, visited my Grandmother at her home in Cedar City, Utah. The next thing my poor Grandmother knows, Marie decides that Grandma really shouldn’t be living on her own anymore and has arranged for her to move into an assisted living facility 50 miles south in St. George, Utah.

And in less than a week’s time, they accomplish this amazing feat!

They call in my cousin, Denise, from California, and my mother and her husband from Oregon, and advertise a yard sale. A yard sale. As in singular. One yard sale to dispose of all of my Grandmother’s 80+ year’s worth of possessions. Even Denise was shocked; it had taken her nine yard sales to pare down her possessions to the point where she and her husband could move into their current RV.

Then Marie (with Donna’s nominal assistance) moves my Grandmother and a few of her possessions down to St. George, notifies the local charities to come and clean out whatever is left of my Grandmother’s unsold possessions, and leaves Denise with the aftermath. My mother and her husband are of less than nominal assistance (more some other day about them, if I can bear it (and if I think you can bear it)).

Of course, hardly anything sells during the “yard sale,” and what sells is sold for pittance. Many things that Grandma needs with her end up missing, like her address book and her phone. But Marie ends up with a few things (more about that later).

About a week after all of this happens, Denise calls me to let me know Grandma’s new phone number and, of course, has to tell me what happened. She doesn’t want to spill all the beans, but I don’t stand for that. “I shouldn’t really say” is like waiving a red flag in front of me; I’ll rip it out of you if you make me! So I eventually find out that Grandma confided to Denise that she felt that Marie had railroaded her into this move and was feeling resentful. Denise was also worried that Grandma was mad at her.

Now, my Grandmother and I have a very unique relationship. We’re like best girl friends and my Grandmother will tell me things that she would never tell anyone else. We talk to each other very frankly and openly. About everything. Dying. Sex. Finances. Religion. You name, we’ve discussed it. So I call Grandma to get the scoop. And she’s resigned herself to the situation; it’s over and done with. But I know she can’t really afford to live there, because this is something we’ve already discussed, unknown to the rest of the family. And I’m right; it’s costing her $600 more than her pension each month and although she has a decent amount of savings, she’ll probably outlive it. I let her know (again) that she is welcome to come live with me and I write down the names of all the people whose phones and addresses I’ll need to reconstruct for her.

Okay, now we’re up to date with all the “well-intentioned” interference that Marie has been wrecking on my Grandmother’s life.

This past Wednesday, my mother calls me and asks me, would I talk to her mother? Because Grandma has decided to move back home and everyone thinks this is a bad idea. Since I am the only one she will listen to, will I call her?

Well! I am delighted that my Grandmother’s spine has regrown, but I don’t tell my mother this. I simply agree to give her a call and find out what is going on. I talked to my Grandmother for a whole hour. She is perfectly capable of living on her own. Okay, she gets depressed; don’t we all? But she’s finally acquiesced to taking an anti-depressant and agrees that she is all the better for it. She and I have had discussions about suicide after her stroke and we’ve made a pact not to skip out on each other and she gave my Grandfather’s pistol to her friend, Bill. So I have no worries there; of course, the rest of the family is not privy to this info, but they can just go hang; it’s none of their business.

Her left arm is completely paralyzed and it makes it difficult to do some things and others are impossible, but she makes do. She needs a little help with bathing and such, but she has a whole lot more resources than the rest of the family knows about. There are families in her neighborhood and their children are very attentive and helpful; she has wonderful friends who visit and run her errands; and people are always coming in from out of town for a visit. In fact, she feels she has too many people around sometimes (like Grand Central station) and just wants to be alone – a trait we have in common, our need for space and time to ourselves.

And where was my Grandmother’s spine when Marie was acting like Grandma had all the money in the world and Marie was her guardian angel? I had a good idea about that and I asked Grandma, was she feeling like, hell, she was going to die anyway, what did it matter where she was when she did? And she said, Wow, that was it exactly! But she wasn’t going to let them know that. She couldn’t talk to them about her real feelings. So she said nothing and let them walk all over her. But she wasn’t going to let them keep doing it. When Marie called her because she wanted to “get that realtor hopping on getting your home sold,” Grandma told her to stop talking to her realtor and keep out of her business (!) and if she didn’t like it, well, tuff noogies! Way to go, Grandma! Those anti-depressants were really kicking in. But I think the change in environment really had helped put things in perspective and she realizes now that she’s not doing as badly as she thought she was (and she agrees). See, we talk about everything. We’ve got brains and mouths and we’re not afraid to use ’em!

So I’m confident that she will be okay, but I’m feeling pretty damn mad, right about now. Because my Grandmother will be moving back to a home that has literally been stripped to the bone. She has her daybed, her arm chair and love seat, a TV, minimal kitchenware (dishes and such), a few linens and her clothes, her personal items (and not all of those), and that’s it. She’ll need a new microwave oven, draperies, garbage cans, vacuum cleaner, I mean, shit, she’s got to start a whole household over again because Marie gave it all away!

It just broke my heart when my Grandmother said to me “It was like I was dead and didn’t know it. They were just dividing up my things and taking them for themselves like I wasn’t even there. They didn’t even offer to buy them or anything, so it was like I was dead.” Damn! And that’s when I found out that Marie had made off with Grandma’s cedar chest that Grandpa had given her as a wedding present. Marie claims that she had been promised Great Grandma Love’s cedar chest when she died, but that my Uncle Randy’s wife, Sherrie, had somehow ended up with it; so Marie felt that this entitled her to take Grandma’s chest. That bitch better hope that she never finds herself in the same room as me, because I will snatch her head bald!

Ain’t family wonderful?

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