I said to my Mother “When you’re ready to accept my help, let me know. Until then….” I trailed off. She replied, “Until then, I’m dead to you, is that it? Well, so be it.”
Those were the last words we shared before she hung up on me. And I can’t help but wonder if those are the last words I’ll ever hear from her.
It started off innocently enough. The regular Sunday night phone call to catch up on the week had grown increasingly shallow over the past few years. Mom, on her cell phone, would undoubtedly be browsing in a store somewhere, and I’d get to hear commentary about other shoppers she observed, or comparisons on various household products. Tonight was about coloured toilet paper. I asked for updates on doctors appointments, but specialist appointments are always “some time next month” and “no, I haven’t heard back on test results.”
Eventually, conversation turned to her house. “Wouldn’t you know it, ANOTHER bird got into the house! It woke me up this morning fluttering around my room. And there were 2 raccoons in the wall behind my headboard fighting. You wouldn’t believe the racket!” If you’re new to reading Not Just Clutter, let me assure you my Mom is not an animated princess who can command woodland animals. Nope. She simply lives in a rapidly deteriorating house where raccoons and other wildlife find refuge. This is where things start to go south.
Since Dad died 8 years ago, she hasn’t been able to keep up maintenance. She needs to move out and sell the property (and really, it’s the property that has value, not the house). It’s not safe or healthy. The whole place is falling apart and is packed to the rafters with her hoard. Clearly, somewhere has crumbled enough that all sorts of critters are finding their way in. She’s had trouble with raccoons for years. And that bird? That’s the third on in as many weeks.
I’ve been trying to encourage her to make more actionable plans to move out of this house. She really resents this though, and any time I gently mention it, she finds a way to turn things around. Like, mentioning the doctor thinks she has a heart problem. Or she suspects her cancer is back.
Or she’ll try to deflect and say she’s working on things slowly in her own way. “I’m not going to worry about it, and it’ll all work out in the end” is a common refrain. But I worry. Knowing all her ailments, including a frozen shoulder, shortness of breath, and limited mobility, I’ve offered to go help her. I told her “Let me be your muscle.” I know she can’t carry much, if anything, up and down stairs, so I’d be happy to be the pack mule if she points out what to move. But she refuses any help and has her priorities all skewed.
If I lived in a house overrun by wildlife, I’d fill a suitcase and get out. Instead, she insists she has to organize her craft supplies first. I can’t possibly help her with that either because I “don’t know the difference between worsted weight, cotton, polyester, or wool” yarns. I reminded her the birds are probably pooping on it, and the ‘coons are nesting in it. She was pretty indignant after that.
I’ve tried my hardest to be patient. I’m the one who always tries to be diplomatic. I just couldn’t hold it in any more tonight. I kept calm and rational, but I laid it out honestly with her. I called her out for making excuses and procrastinating. I told her I can’t understand why she won’t accept my help, when all I want is for her to be in a safe, comfortable home. She insists she wants to do it independently because if she accepts help then she’s a failure.
I said imagine if you came across a person fallen to the ground, and you put your hand out to help. If that person reaches up to accept your help off the ground, are they a failure? Do you judge them? I’m just reaching out my hand.
She accused me of making her more depressed. Then she accused me of conspiring with my sister to make her miserable. And THEN she said maybe it was best if we just cut ties all together.
That’s when I told her to think about my offer and get back to me when she’s ready to accept the help. I don’t know what the next step is. I’m so torn. She’s so stubborn she might let her pride lead her, and she won’t call me again. If I call, then what? Go back to the same vacuous relationship where we talk about coloured toilet paper? Do I pretend everything is ok? Do I ignore my nightmares of her dying in her house because she couldn’t find her way through her hoard in a fire? Do I keep pressing her? If I don’t call, she’s alone. No family left. That’s not the kind of daughter I want to be, but at some point, I have my own mental health to think of.
Either way, hearing my own mother say “I’m dead to you” is a harsh way to end a phone call.