Tag Archives: adult children of addict

Mother – prisoner to drugs and alcohol

 

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“Hello,” he said as he answered the phone. “Collect call from…………….(it was a recording of her stating her name), will you accept?” He reluctantly accepted the call and heard Mother’s voice.  She was drunk and her speech was slurred, “Scott, can I talk to Kandy?” He was frustrated and he was tired of me being hurt. It was late at night and I was already in bed, “no, she’s asleep” he stated. “Will you wake her up? I need her to come bail me out of jail,” she replied. Scott said “I’m not waking her up. She has to work tomorrow.” Mother asked “Will you come bail me out?” Scott replied “No.” That made her mad and she turned on her mean voice, “Now you listen here Scotty.” When she was mad at him, she called him Scotty and drug out the “s” so it sounded like….sssssssccoty. It was kind of funny the way she would say it. Sometimes out of the blue, Scott would say “Now you listen here ssssssscccoty” just to make me laugh.

Scott was frustrated. This had been going on for such a long time and he knew I was emotionally at my limit. I couldn’t handle it anymore. She was completely out of control. She drank. She got mean. She fought. Someone would call the police and she would get arrested. Hospital. Jail. Phone calls. It was emotionally exhausting. It was excruciating. I could see her path and her final destination but there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. It was like witnessing a devastating train wreck that was happening in very slow motion.

I cried myself to sleep many nights because of these scenarios. I couldn’t go get her. What would I do with her? I couldn’t bring her to my house. I wasn’t going to subject my boys to that craziness.  I couldn’t take her home. She would just be back at it. Jail was a safer place. At least she didn’t have access to the bottle or the drugs. That is such a terrible feeling and thought….jail is safer….jail is better. But it was true. At least I knew where she was and they would feed her.

Mother was a prisoner to alcohol and drugs. I know this wasn’t really my mother. My mother was buried deep down inside this crazy woman. I wanted my mother to be released. I wanted her free from the evil that controlled her and stole her from me.   She wanted that too. She really did. But for reasons I don’t understand and can’t explain she wasn’t able to break free. I never walked in her shoes. I was thankful for that and so was Mother. She used to tell me so.

When you are in the middle of crazy…

Remember, you can’t fix them. Don’t rub their noses in every little thing they have done. They probably won’t remember all the things they did while they were messed up anyway. Besides what’s the point? To make them feel bad and more miserable?  They feel worse than you could possibly ever imagine. Sometimes it’s easier for them to stay messed up and numb the pain than to get sober or clean and deal with all of the hurt….their hurt and everyone else’s too. The things they do to hurt others are usually only a symptom of the real problem…the addiction.  They will only be more drawn to the bottle or drugs. 

You can love them and help them the best you can with what you’ve got but you have to set boundaries to save yourself. When they get to the point they want help…help them. Love them unconditionally. You can love them unconditionally and still set boundaries. You can say things like…”Mother, I love you no matter what but I can’t be around you when you are drunk. It makes me sad and it makes me cry a lot. Please don’t call me when you are drunk. But when you are sober and you want to talk, call me. I love you.” To many times we make them feel worthless, unloved and judged. But the truth is…we are hurt, disappointed, scared and angry…just like them. We don’t know what to do so we lash out and try anything and everything. We start behaving in crazy ways too.

Love unconditionally. Each and every time they get clean…give them a do over. Yes they may fail and yes they may disappoint you. But what if they succeed? What if they fly? How many times have we failed or disappointed someone? Love unconditionally.

Finding the sweet side of crazy!

Kandy

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Bittersweet

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I love this picture! It’s Toni, James and I in Scotland. They were my cousins but became my brother and sister. Derrelyn isn’t in the picture but she’s my sister too. That’s sweetness. I have no biological siblings but in the ugliness – I got siblings. Sweetness!

Such bittersweet memories. But that’s how life is, right? Bitter and sweet. Sweet for the love of my family who took me in and loved me when I was in a bad way and too young to care for myself. Fun memories, love, laughs and lots of sweetness. But there was a ton of pain too. Lots of hurt and bitterness. And I ALWAYS worried about my mother.

I was just a little girl…maybe in the fourth grade. Something happened and I unexpectedly traveled many hours across the ocean to live with my aunt (my mother’s sister) and her family in Scotland. My uncle (my aunt’s husband) worked in the oilfield and they had just moved there.

My memory frequently fails me which I have always seen as a blessing instead of a curse. There are some things you just shouldn’t remember. I have never seen much need in digging around in my buried memories. The way I see it, they are buried for a reason. I have enough junk to work through without digging around for more. I don’t so much remember details of events or memories. Instead, I remember feelings I felt when I was with people. Like sweet feelings or scary feelings. With mother, I usually felt scared. And worried. I worried she wouldn’t make good decisions and we would end up in a scary place or situation which was frequently the case.

From what I understand, Mother had progressed from just using pills and alcohol to heavier drugs and using needles. I had missed several days of school and the school couldn’t get in touch with Mother to make sure I was okay. They called my aunt who at that time lived in the same town. She drove out to check on me. She found me doctoring mother’s wounds from injection sites. Mother was married to her third husband at the time and had lived with them for a short time. But I think he must have seen the “crazy” and got out. Who could blame him? Thankfully, I don’t remember much of this. Mother’s position was always that I was stolen from her and that there was always some sort of a cover up from some illegal activity. Either way, I was still just a little girl. This wasn’t normal. When I looked at other girls my age, they didn’t look like they knew of the things I saw or worried about.

I guess Mother probably didn’t see her drug use as being a big problem like others did. But that’s what happens, things get minimized. Just like me – did you notice what I did? I made a profound statement – She found me doctoring mother’s wounds from injection sites. I minimized and skipped over it quickly…like I was rattling off what I had eaten for breakfast. That’s what I’ve always done. But there is a lot of emotion buried in that statement. Bitterness, fear and pain. No sweetness in that statement. I minimized…just like mother. Mother had multiple sores from injecting heroin. I missed school because of my mother’s drug problem. That’s a lot to deal with at any age but certainly for a little girl in the fourth grade. While other little girls were worried about what Sally Sue said about her or whether Billy Bob thought she was cute, I was worried about mother and her drugs. I hated when she sat in a chair and her head would just slowly fall over as she was mumbling.  She “nodded off” frequently and it always made me so mad. I worried…would we have enough to eat? Would we load up in the car and make another drug run? I knew where most of the local drug houses were. She took me with her sometimes. It wasn’t like what you’d think. The houses didn’t have a big sign that said “Drug House.” No, they looked like a normal everyday house. Some even had kids who lived there. We would pull up like we were visiting a friend of Mother’s. Mother would knock on the door. They’d let us in and talk like they were friends. There would be a quick exchange of something. We would leave and then soon…Mother would “nod” off or be out of commission for quite some time. At first, I didnt know it was drug houses or drug dealers we were visiting. I thought we were just going to visit her friends. We just didn’t stay long and soon after we left those houses, things would get scary.

I always saw Mother as weak and loving her drugs more than she loved me…her only daughter. But that’s not the truth. The truth is…those drugs have so much power that they truly control some people. It isn’t about being weak or strong. Some people are powerless and controlled by the substance. It takes a lot to overcome the power of drugs and have a successful recovery, which is a lifelong process.

For all of you in recovery – good for you! You can do this. Celebrate and keep working! I’m proud of you!

For those of you who are dealing with an addict – I get it. I know it sucks and it’s tough. It’s more than tough – it’s heart wrenching to sit by and watch the destruction and know that you are just as powerless as they are. Take care of yourself. Set healthy boundaries, you may need to love from afar. You can’t change or fix them. They have to want to do the work…and its hard work. But you can extend love and show support for their recovery. Every single time they relapse and start recovery again – support them. Don’t judge or fuss and make them feel bad. You’re wasting your breath and energy. Believe me I know. I speak from experience. Besides, there is no need. They feel worse than you could ever possibly imagine. There is no need in trying to make them feel worse. That isn’t productive. The most important thing to remember is that it’s not about you. It has nothing to do with lack of love or any of that junk so don’t even let it in your head. They love you but they have a hard time loving themselves.

For those of you caring for or in contact with an addict’s child through raising, teaching, coaching, family or as a friend – love them. Help them. Set an example of love by showing them and loving them. Look past the obvious. If they are struggling or having behavioral problems – dig deep. It may be something unimaginable. You could be the one to help save that child and get them on a different path. History repeats itself and addiction is a chronic disease with a genetic predisposition. That child will always worry about their addict. They will always try and protect them. You’ll probably never understand it so don’t even try.

If love were enough – there would be no more addicts or alcoholics. But love isn’t enough to cure them but extending unconditional love will help heal you.

I can’t speak for Mother. I never walked in her shoes. I know she was in so much emotional pain and suffered so much.  It makes my heart hurt.  Sure, I have things to work through and deal with because of the choices she made when I was little and dependent on her. But it wasn’t my job to judge her. It was my job to love her. To show her love. We are all sinners. We all fail sometimes. None of us are perfect. It’s easy to show love to those who show you sweetness. But that’s not a challenge. Anyone can do that. How do you treat the ones who are hard to love? God loves us though our sins and mistakes. He cries and weeps for us but when we ask for forgiveness and repent…he loves us and forgives us. How can we expect to receive that kind of love from God when we aren’t willing to extend it to our brothers and sisters? Something I learned a long time ago – It was never between Mother and I – it was between her and God. It wasn’t my job to judge her. It was my job to love her…like God loves me.

Don’t forget to focus on the sweetness. Because there are many blessings you will overlook if you just focus on the ugliness.

Sometimes, you have to love from a distance and you have to remove yourself from a toxic relationship. You have to set healthy boundaries but you should always extend love. How you react and treat people is a reflection of who you really are – it has very little to do with them.

Life is bittersweet!

Finding the sweet side of crazy!

Kandy

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Same kind of different

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Sometimes you can spend your whole life trying to be so different from someone else – only to circle back around and realize – you’re the same kind of different!

I’ve spent my entire life trying to be different from my mother. Different is not always better. Sometimes different is just as bad…but it’s different. Which is what I was going for. I didn’t want to be the same as my mother. I didn’t want to be judged by her actions or be categorized with her. So I’ve always focused on the differences…

She was a rule breaker. I am a rule follower. Sometimes, you should break a few dumb rules.

She was married 5 times for short amounts of time. I have been married 24 years to the same man.

She had very little involvement in my life. I am an active mom in my boy’s lives. One of my favorite things in the world is spending time with my boys…laughing…having deep, real, meaningful conversations… playing board games…watching their sports…just being with them.

When she was messed up she did crazy, awful things and had all kinds of drama. I am the opposite… boring and predictable. Sometimes, you need crazy – crazy fun!

Mother went to the penitentiary. I try to walk the straight and narrow. Sometimes, you need to get off the straight and narrow.

Mother was out of control. I have control issues but they are so much better. Oh, now this can be bad!

She drank a lot. Aside from craziness I did in high school, after having my first baby I hardly drank anything. I was a little freakish about it. I was always afraid I would be just like her. Neurotic!

She got mean and told people ugly things. I tried to be nice and put myself in someone else’s shoes. Sometimes you need to tell people off!

The other night, after a family member’s wedding I posted a couple of pictures of me and my boys. One picture of myself caught my eye. I kept looking at it because it reminded me of my favorite picture of my mother. I only have about 20 pictures of my mother so it’s not like I have a lot to choose from. But this one picture has always been my favorite. It was before she lost herself and before I completely lost her to drugs and alcohol. The more I looked at the picture of me – the more I saw my mother. I had never seen my mother in myself before. I always saw us as total opposites. But as I looked at the picture – I saw the similarities. I used Instagram and put the two pictures side by side. My favorite of her and the one of myself. Wow! Oh my goodness! I could see the resemblance! It was amazing to me how much I looked like her. As I looked at the pictures side by side, I saw the similarities…

Not just our physical features but the important stuff…

I have hopes and dreams – she did too.

I have fears and disappointments – she did too.

I had a strained relationship with my mother – she did too.

I am a nurse – she was too.

I’m not an addict or an alcoholic (I am a sugar addict) – she didn’t want to be either.

I love my boys more than I could ever explain – she loved me too.

I want to be the best mom I could possibly be – she did too.

I want to be a good wife – she did too.

I want to do good things – she did too.

I love nice things – she did too.

I love a clean house – she did too.

I love my family – she did too.

I am an introvert – she was too.

I have a little anxiety at times – she had a lot most all of the time.

I love nature and animals…especially dogs – she did too.

I’m pretty resourceful – she was the most resourceful person I know.

I have a tender heart – she did too.

I hate things that are unjust – she did too.

I hate meanness – she did too.

When Mother was alive, I looked at her and just saw the differences. If people said I looked like her, I didn’t really like it because I saw the ugliness from her behavior because of the drugs and alcohol. I viewed her with a negative filter of what she’d put me through, the disappointments and the hurt.  Which was not the most flattering view to look from. But in the last several months, I have looked at my favorite picture of her and seen something different – the sweetness, the beauty, her dreams, her goals and all the beautiful things about her. Like many others, when I look at myself – I see my flaws and see myself in a negative light. But when I looked at the picture of us – side by side, I saw the beauty. I saw all that she wanted to be and I saw all the sweetness she inadvertently taught me. At that moment, I was able to look at her picture in a whole new light. I saw the beautiful similarities. I saw something different in myself. I saw the beauty in all I had been given.

Somewhere along the way – Mother lost her way. Her hopes and dreams were shattered and she was never really able to pick up the pieces. All of my life, I had looked at her as the total opposite of me. I finally saw it – she was the same kind of different as me. It is always so amazing and such a gift when God reveals something to me in his timing – something in a completely different light. Something that has always been right under my nose but I was to busy focusing on something else that I never actually saw it.

What sweetness are you missing because you are so busy focusing on something different?

Finding the sweet side of Crazy!

Kandy

 

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A Reflection of Us

We had just recieved the news, my mother had been found dead on her couch by her neighbor and a maintenance man. I had been trying to prepare myself for her death for twenty years but somehow I still felt blindsided by the news. Still in shock and processing the information, we had just received, Scott and I started tossing around questions…what do we do with her things? She wanted to be donated to science. How do we do that? What do we do about a memorial service? Where do we have it? When do we have it? Who will come?

“Wait! Where is her body?”  I asked.

Scott didn’t know the answer to this question. He called the Police Department in the city she lived in and asked them. They didn’t know and said they would find out and call him back.

It was about 11:00 p.m. when Scott came into the bedroom where I was curled up in my bed. He laid down beside me and told me they had found my mother’s body. He told me the name of the funeral home. It felt weird. Not knowing where your mother’s body was and then being told they had found her and then thinking about her body  in a freezer at a funeral home. I knew it wasn’t her. I knew it was just a shell her soul had lived in. I knew she was in Heaven with family who had gone before her. I knew she had been saved years ago and we had talked about some of those things.  Even though she had done bad things, I believed she was in Heaven. When she wasn’t drinking or using she was kind, meek, quiet, thankful, pleasant, funny, anxious, embarrassed and full of guilt. When she was drinking or using she was mean, ugly, hateful, entitled, spewing nastiness, always looking for a fight, confrontational, and aggressive. She was the total opposite of her sober self. And lately, she had been more of the ugly side than kind side.

It reminded me of one of my favorite Native American Proverbs…

A Native American grandfather talking to his young grandson tells the boy he has two wolves inside of him struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other wolf is fear, greed and hatred. Which wolf will win, grandfather? Asks the young boy. Whichever one I feed, is the reply.

Mother had been feeding the wrong wolf for a lot of years. I knew she was happier now than she had ever been. I knew she was at peace and that she had a brand new beautiful body. And the truth was, I was also at peace for the first time in a long time. As she became more and more out of control, her behavior escalated. The more she escalated the more my world became disrupted and uneasy. And the more I had to try to keep my sanity and positive outlook.

I would get phone calls multiple times a week from hospitals, neighbors, case managers, life line and police. Sometimes I could get multiple calls in the middle of the night. Then the calls would stop for a week or so. I could always tell when she was on a binge. She was out of control and they didn’t know what to do with her and neither did I. She was of sound mind and could make her own choices. It was everyone else who had to deal with the fall out. When they called I had to tell them, no I can’t come and get her. I had to tell them I lived almost 2 hours away and have 2 boys and a full time job. What am I supposed to do with her? It would make me feel terrible and guilty and sad. But I knew I couldn’t race down there every time I got a call. We had already tried moving her closer and that had been a disaster. I wasn’t going to put my boys, family or myself through that again.

Now, all that had stopped. She was at peace and so was I. I was sad and I cried a lot. My heart ached for what could have been and the sweet stuff she missed out on. I cried for the sweet stuff I missed out on too. But I also knew for the first time in her life she was completely free of all the cravings that had controlled her for most of her life. But it was still weird and sad. My mother’s body had been lost and now it was found at a funeral home I had never heard of.

I went to sleep. I tossed and turned, dreamed and cried.

When I’m going through something tough, I like to be alone. I have to submerge myself in the junk – the ugly and the hard stuff. I have to process, think and try to make sense of things.   I don’t stay there very long because I don’t want to get stuck in the junk. After I have dealt with some of the junk, I dig really deep for the sweet because it’s always there. Sometimes it takes getting out the shovel and digging deep and hard but it’s there. It’s like a diamond in the rough. I can’t get in the junk and do what I need to do with people around me. I have to be alone with no distractions. After a little time by myself, I’m in a much better place. Scott knows this. So he let me have the next day alone to take care of myself and process.

When I woke up the next morning, after Scott and Mason had gone to work and I had taken Madden to school, I started picking up my house before I called the funeral home. I did some laundry, dishes, swept, vacuumed, made the beds, and such. I’m weird like that. It’s a control thing. I know I truly have very little control in this old world so I control the things I can. It makes me feel better for my house to be clean. For me, it’s like having a solid foundation to pour the junk on so I can sort, trash and file away. I know. It’s crazy.

After I was done picking up, I sat down on the couch and looked at the name and the number of the funeral home Scott had left for me. I dialed the number. Someone answered. What a weird feeling. I explained that I believed my mother’s body was there. The guy asked what her name was and said he would check. I thought to myself…”Really? You’re kidding me! Don’t you have a list by the phone so you are prepared and can sound more empathetic?” Instead – I felt like I’d called Wal-Mart to find out if they had a certain item in stock. He got back on the phone, “Yes, she’s here.” I told him I needed some information about donating a body to science. I explained that is what she had wanted. He told me I would have to speak with someone else and they would have to call me back. We hung up.

I waited. The man I needed to speak with returned my call. It sounded like an unenthusiastic uncaring sales call to me and when I explained she wanted to donate her body to science and asked if he could give me any resources or phone numbers, all care when out the door. I also asked about state aid for cremation just in case that’s what I decided to do. Mother had nothing. No money. Nothing. He said there was no money to help with her body. He said if she would have been homeless and didn’t have any family – the county would pay a very small amount of money to dispose of the body but that it actually cost so much more so they lost money. He told me what my cost would be.

It kind of irritated me the way he said it. I asked how my mother’s body had ended up there any way. He didn’t really know but from our conversation I got the impression the Medical Examiner or someone had made the decision to send her to that particular funeral home because they had their own crematory and would be paid the very small amount of money from the county. I got it. I understood their thinking. She was well known in the town with the police and hospitals. I’m sure they thought after my many “no’s” over the last couple of years that no one would claim her body. I made it clear we weren’t doing anything at the funeral home besides cremation if that is what we decided to do – no services, none of that stuff. We would handle that on a much more personal and less formal level.

I spent my time trying to find a place that would accept her body for science like she had wanted. I was unable to find anything. No one would accept the body because she had an infectious disease. Someone managed to tell me about “The Body Farm.” I was mortified by the name and googled it. I was just as mortified after finding out exactly what it was. I know there is a need for it but I certainly wasn’t making that decision.

When Scott got home, I told him I needed to see the body. It isn’t real to me if I don’t. He called the funeral home to arrange it. The guy said he wouldn’t recommend a viewing. Her body was decomposing. That really irritated me. Who was he to tell me what was or wasn’t appropriate for me. I’m sure he wouldn’t recommend a lot of the things I had been through and seen in my life!

I wasn’t sure when she had actually died. The guy at the funeral home said Friday night or Saturday. Which meant she would have died sometime soon after I had last seen her. That was a long time – almost a week now. I started second guessing myself. I know this is super creepy but I asked Scott to see if the funeral home man would send me a picture. That might help. I could view her body by phone and not have to deal with a lot of junk.

We felt really creepy asking such a question. The man said – it really wasn’t as uncommon as you might think. He said he would send one. I was grateful. They hung up.

Scott had my phone. I couldn’t bear to hold it knowing the text notification would be a picture of my mother’s dead body. I knew someone had to look at it before I did. I wasn’t that strong. Madden was standing next to Scott. The text notification came through. I was anxious. They both looked at it and looked concerned. I asked – “Is it bad?” They both nodded yes. I grabbed at the phone and said let me see it. I looked at the picture of my poor mother’s body. She had blood all down the side of her face. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? You can’t even wipe her freaking face! What the hell?? You send a daughter a picture of her dead mother and you can’t even wipe the blood from her face. What is wrong with you? You need a new freaking profession! That’s what I was screaming on the inside. I held it together. Fake it till you make it. I had learned how to do that as a child. Don’t ever let anyone know what you’re really feeling otherwise you might really let your crazy out. Besides, I hate being reactive. It’s another control thing. As the child of an addict, you learn at an early age how powerless you are so you control the things you can. I collected my emotions. I was thankful the man had sent her picture even if they hadn’t wiped the blood. I’m tough. I’m a nurse and I’ve seen numerous dead bodies over my career. I just wished they had treated her body or me with a little more respect. In healthcare, when someone dies. We take care to clean up the body and make it more presentable for the family. But this was different. And I understood.

The guy at the funeral home had told Scott to let him know after he saw the picture if I still wanted to see the body. He repeated that he wouldn’t recommend it. I was irritated after seeing the picture. I told Scott – “You tell that man when I make up my mind we’ll let him know.”

The next morning we (some family members and I) got up and drove the hour and 45 minutes to her apartment to gather the very few personal items she had. A man from the leasing company met us over at the apartment and let us in.

I asked him a few questions. Like – were you the one who found her? He said yes. I asked where he found her. He said on the couch. I asked when and he said Wednesday. He said he was sorry. I appreciated his condolences.

Mother’s place was a mess but that had become the norm. There wasn’t a death smell. There was lots of dried blood. Lots of blood. But that had become the norm as well. She knew she would eventually bleed to death. She would binge drink on vodka. She would bleed heavily for days after. She had told me Friday when we last saw her that she was bleeding. It made my heart heavy but I knew there wasn’t anything I could do. She had been to the hospital many times for this and it was a vicious cycle. She had to quit drinking and she knew it. It wasn’t as easily said as done. She was completely powerless and controlled by this demonic substance. It had a death grip on her. I understood my mother made the choice to drink but I also understood she never chose to be an addict. She never chose to be controlled and powerless. Who would choose a lifestyle like this? No she was a complete slave to those substances. The only way I could have saved her was to lock her in a cage and control where she went and who came to see her. And I’m pretty sure I would have gone to prison.

We gathered papers, wallet, pictures and anything that was personal. Her neighbor and friend came over. She was crying and telling us how much mother meant to her and how much she will miss her. She told me the last time she saw her was on Tuesday afternoon. It was nice to see this lady had truly cared about mother and would miss her. She had been able to see the sweet side of mother. Mother would tell me how her friend would bring her big stuffed baked potatoes and how good they were. I appreciated this lady for showing love to mother.

We found two large bottles of vodka. One was empty the other was almost empty. I poured the remaining vodka down the drain. I knew it was pointless but somehow in my crazy mind it made sense.

We found her stacks and stacks of Library books. We gathered them up and loaded up in the vehicles to return them. Mother always felt the lady at the library was always so kind to her. I appreciated that too. I wanted to make sure the books got returned.

We left her clothes, her toiletries, food and everything behind. We only took her papers, pictures and personal items. Normally I would have cleaned the apartment and not left a mess. But I wasn’t happy with the people she rented from. They didn’t require a background check so people like mother who had been kicked out of numerous places could live there. She had roaches. Her bathtub still hadn’t been fixed from Friday when I had called them. She wouldn’t let me look at it on Friday. I know she was embarrassed and didn’t want Scott and the boys to see it. She just told me it was covered in mold and please call the landlord. So I did. I wished I would have gone in there even though she had asked me not to. I wish I would have cleaned that bathtub myself. But we had been short on time, we were headed to a funeral that day. Everything in her apartment including the furniture which came with the apartment needed to be taken to the dump and burned. No, I didn’t feel too bad leaving all that stuff behind. Scum lords is what I called those type of people. I understood she was difficult and nasty to them, she tore up things, cussed them out. They did rent her a place to live. I wasn’t responsible for mother.  I needed to get out of that scary nasty place. I felt bad but I couldn’t deal with it. Maybe in some crazy way it was payback for them leaving her with an unusable molded shower and roaches.  They were receiving government money and had standards that weren’t meeting. But people like mother were caught between a rock and a hard place and everyone knew it – most of all people like mother.

Scott had already called the funeral home that morning and left a message that we would be stopping by to view the body and pay for the cremation.

When we got there we were taken to his office. The man asked if I was ready and said only one of us could view the body. Seriously? Have you been in this business too long? You are going to send a daughter in to view her mother’s body by herself? “No sir” I said. We are all three going in. My mother’s sister (who took me in as her own), one of my sister cousins (she was my biological cousin but we were raised as sisters) and myself. He tried to argue with me. I went on to tell him – “as far as the body decomposing – that’s not true. I know she didn’t die until sometime between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon. Today is Friday.” He knew I wasn’t giving up. He led us to her body. We walked through a dark room full of caskets and when we got to the other side of the room he switched on the light. He took us through a door to a large room that looked like a shop or something. Then we walked over to a metal container. He explained it was the freezer and she was the only one in it. As he put on his rubber gloves, he said I need your word that none of you will sue us for emotional distress because of what you are about to see. Seriously? We all nodded our heads. We walked in – her niece, me and her sister and the funeral home man followed us. There she was. My mother. Lying on a shelf in a cold freezer. The blood was still on the side of her face. Seriously? What is wrong with this funeral home? What is wrong with man? Did it cost extra to get blood wiped off? I wasn’t wanting them to dress the body but show a little compassion and respect. I tried not to be upset. It was only a shell. She wasn’t in that old body anyway. She was at peace, she was with family and had a whole new body.

The man told me not to touch her. I kept staring. After a few seconds, I looked at him and said – “Sorry, but I’m touching her. ” I touched her hand. It was cold. That was my mother. My poor troubled hurt mother was now free. I touched her forehead. We turned to walk out and he instructed me where the bathroom was and suggested I wash my hands. I did. I was disgusted by his behavior. My stomach hurt from the interaction with this man.

I’ve thought about this a lot, the way she lived and the way most people treated her in life and in death. Most treated her in life the same way this man was treating her in death.  But there were also some who were really good to her. They saw her as a person and they treated her with kindness just like they treated everyone else, like she was no less important. She was God’s creation just like everyone else. Sure she had free will and had made poor choices but every day of her life she lived with the consequences of those poor choices. We had to set limits with her – healthy boundaries and say no a lot. There were times I certainly said no a lot more than I said yes. It was exhausting and excruciating to watch and be a part of. She made me mad, cry and disappointed me. But the truth is she was hurting so much more. I tried to keep my sanity but still show love. I failed a lot. I know that’s true. You do as well as you can with what you have.

Addicts are hard and burn a lot of bridges but we should always remember – the ones who are the hardest to love need it the most. Anyone can love the loveable. It’s when we can love and show love to the unlovable that we are doing something special. I’m thankful for kind people like the meals on wheels man, the lady at the library, her case managers, a personal care assistant and people who were there for her when I wasn’t. There will be a special place in heaven for those kinds of people. They treated her with love even though she was sometimes mean and hateful and had nothing to give them. They did it because it was the right thing to do.

Some people haven’t learned that yet. While they may have seen mother as a poor woman who didn’t have much family and not worthy of being treated with care, love, respect and dignity – I saw the funeral home and that man as poor ignorant people  who didn’t have much sense.

The way we treat the difficult people says a lot about our character. The way we treat people is a direct reflection of us not them – another life lesson my mother inadvertently taught me.

Finding the sweet in the crazy!

Kandy

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