Friday, February 17, 2006

What if this is as good as it gets?

Six years ago I moved to Florida to start a new life. I thought I would come here and start a new career, meet someone special, and live happily ever after. It hasn't worked out that way.

Six months after I moved here my mother needed heart surgery. She was here in Florida when she started having pains and was rushed to the hospital. The doctors not only said she needed emergency surgery, but that she had to be brought to yet another hospital to get this surgery. I remember driving down 95 following the ambulance that was she was being transported in. I remember standing in the hallway outside ICU and just crumpling to the floor after they wheeled her by. I remember thinking that she was going to die. That same day my brother called from Jersey. My father - who had been put into a home for the elderly several months before (my parents divorced when I was 12) - had "fallen" out of his bed and broken his hip. He was in the ICU in Atlantic City, and things did not look good. My mother made it through surgery and was fine. My father passed away while my mother was recovering in the ICU. It fell to me to write his obituary, to arrange his funeral, and to work out where everyone was going to stay when we flew up for the service. It was not a good time in my life.

The next year, my stepfather - who financially and emotionally supported me in my effort to go back to college and get my education degree - was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He was given six months to live. With healthy living and lots of love, he lived over a year. My mother relied heavily on me for emotional support throughout his ordeal, and I was always there for the both of them. He passed away before I finished college. He didn't get to see me graduate.

Because I'm the only daughter, and I'm still single, much of the responsibility falls on me when it comes to my mother. When I am in Jersey, or she is here in Florida - I pretty much do everything. I do the shopping, run the errands, take care of the bills. We are very close, and it makes me happy to be there for her. She is in her mid-70's, and it's harder for her to do the everyday things she used to do. I dealt with selling her place in Florida, putting her place together again in Jersey, dealing with her knee replacement surgery last year. And now it seems she needs to have back surgery next month.

I honestly don't know how much more I can take. I am completely wiped out. I just want to crawl into bed for days and hide. For the last six years it's been all about my mother, my stepfather, my father. My brothers' lives have gone on without a hitch, they have had children and gotten new jobs and bought new homes. But my life just seems to sit stagnant while I deal with one family crisis after another. I have barely been able to begin a relationship since I moved here because my time is never about me. The few relationships I have had have fallen by the wayside due to lack of time and energy. People ask me why I'm not involved with someone. Well now you know. Because I'm too fucking exhausted to sustain a relationship - plus the fact that I'm totally fucked up.

Getting the news this week about her upcoming surgery just broke me. I don't know if I can handle yet another health scare with her. I can't stand the idea of spending every day in the hospital again. I can't stand the idea that she may not make it through surgery. I can't stand the idea that when she makes it through, my whole life will be on hold again to look after her. And I can't stand the idea that I'll be going through all this alone - yet again - without a significant other to rely on for support.

Even if my brothers do pitch in more, she still looks to me as her main source of comfort and aid. And I just don't know if I have it in me right now. I'm a fucking mess. I've told no one about this because I feel like such a piece of shit for even thinking these things. But really, when is it going to be about me? Will I ever get that happily ever after? Or am I just meant to look after others and be there for everyone else? Is this my life? And if it is...what do I have to look forward to? What if this is as good as it gets?

I'm so tired.

49 comments:

Spirit Of Owl said...

On the other hand:
My brothers lives
Better:
My brothers' lives

See? Haha. Everything is punctuation. No, perspective. Ok, everything is punctuation and perspective. Everything.

And love. (hugs)

MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

This is not as good as it gets. Sometimes it'll get worse, and sometimes it'll get better. But your brothers really need to pitch in. Even if your mom relies on you, they still can take some other parts of the burden off your shoulders. Post their email addresses. We'll get them to contribute.

Brookelina said...

See how fucked up I am? You know I am all about the punctuation. Thank God for editing. The missing apostrophe has been found.

Love you Owl.

Knitty Kitty said...

We are going through the same situation in my family with my Nona. The only ones my Nona can stand are my mum and her youngest sister, who has the youngest children and her own business and my mum who is 3000 miles away.

It's perfectly normal to feel like you should have a life and the time to enjoy it. From the experience we are having with my family I can tell you that if you don't say something to your brothers they will just let the status quo remain.

I'm sorry you are going through a rough time... If you were here there would be TimTams and Gin...

ginonymous said...

you're not fucked up at all, you're human. i don't think there's anything i can say that will make you instantly laugh or feel better, there's far more clever people than i on the 'net..but i understand. i understand the tired, the wanting to hide in bed...so i'll send you all the love and hugs and good karma this weekend.

and to add to monkeygurl's suggestion, rather than their email addresses, post their physical addresses. we'll find out what can constitute "motivation" to support one's sister, dammit.

grr.

Bill said...

Brooke ... you make me want to be a better man.

Well, the post was crying out for that to be a comment.

Actually, although this is kinda phoney baloney comfort, as I recall that movie everyone was fucked up and it was around the point Jack says, "What if this is as good as it gets?" that things started shifting and getting better.

Granted, life ain't no Hollywood movie. I'm not sure what the answer is. But I can't believe it won't improve.

miss kendra said...

it will get better! you will make it!

all of this is to help you on your way there- eventually it will all make sense. that's what i keep telling my self anyway.

i'm a little surprised that they would suggest a major surgery for someone of your mother's age... but maybe The One will be her handsome nurse?

Egan said...

I really feel for you Brooke. Family is so complex. There's absolutely nothing wrong with you wanting your own life. You have taken on a ton of responsibility. I have a feeling I will be in your shoes with my mom in about 5-10 years.

Be strong Brooke and don't be afraid to confront your brothers, they need to know how this impacts your life (on all levels)

I'm strangely a believer that things happen for a reason though. You will get through this and be able to look back some day and have good thoughts. You, Brooke, are an amazing individual. Your time will come.

babyjewels said...

Brooke, you are an amazing person. I mean that truly. You've definitely been through a lot and deserve to have time to yourself. I don't have any worthwhile advice. I can tell you that I'm an only child whose parents are not in great health and I see a tough road ahead for me too. The other night I had to go over and unplug 10 plugs because neither of them could bend down and do it. My mother always tells me please do not put me in a home. Okay, I'm turning this into me, as usual. Sorry. Love you.

Sandi said...

(((Brooke))) I am sorry that you are feeling so overwhelmed. It is an awful feeling, I know.
Talk to your brothers. Let them know how this is affecting you. Maybe they will help.

edee said...

You seem like a very strong person and you will get thru this. Even though you are taking care of everyone else - you have to take care of yourself.

Brookelina said...

Knitty - someday we will have those Tim Tams and G&T's. Not together of course. That's just gross.

Ginny - we are having a family meeting tomorrow. Looks like they are stepping up to the plate. But Ginny, I really am fucked up. Trust me.

Bill - thank you. I mean that sincerely. That meant a lot. Maybe it will get better now.

Kendra - my mom said the doctor is my age and very cocky. I'm very much looking forward to meeting him.

Egan - thank you too. I am starting to feel slightly less shitty and self-absorbed.

BabyJ - I know about the plug thing. I have to tie my mom's shoes when we go out now cause she can't reach. It's funny and heartbreaking all at once.

You are all so wonderful. Thank you so much for your kind words. I love you guys!

Brookelina said...

Sandi - we all talk tomorrow. I'll keep you posted. By the way, have I told you how much I love that picture?

Edee - you are so right. Even if I do the brunt of the work, I have to remember to take care of me too. Don't we all have to remember that?

sunshine said...

This post really touched me and I really feel your pain.

First, I'm sorry to hear about your mother's condition. As far as the caretaking issue goes, I was in a somewhat similar situation about 13 years ago when my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I had to go on an immediate leave from work, and the responsibilites mostly fell on my shoulders because my only sibling was young and irresponsible and having trouble accepting what was about to happen.

My mom died 8 months later; and those 8 months were the most grueling experience of my life...
At the time, professional therapy was my lifeline. Perhaps it would work for you, too, if you're open to that sort of thing.

But mostly my greatest hope is that you will find a way to somehow convince your brothers that they need to step up to the plate. Unfortunately these family duties traditionally fall to the girls. But there's no time like the present to break those old stereotypes.

These things are kind of insidious. Over a period of years it's true that you could end up sacrificing more and more in order to make sure your mother has the care and attention she deserves from her family. It's a huge responsibility and your brothers NEED to help you so that you can have a life too.... I wish there were something I could say or do to help influence them.

Having said that, I would also add that caretaking is a deeply bonding experience, and as much as I sacrificed for my mother during her final months, I still feel privileged to have been there for her. But then, I didn't have much of a choice.

With everything that's been on your mind in recent months (at least what you've posted about here, I mean).... I just feel strongly that you are absolutely right to be concerned about this, and its implications on the direction your life will take in the next few years. It's your turn. You deserve to have room and time and space in your life to focus on new priorities. If you were an only child and there were literally no one to help you, it might be one thing. But your brothers need to step up to the plate and give you a break. Make some noise and rock the boat. Ruffle some feathers. Good luck!!

Sysm said...

Brooke

We're sitting here with my 82-year-old Mother-in-law. Totally love her. More than my own Mom. Long story.

You may think you're fucked up, but I think you're fabulous.

And I have faith that the happy will come.

Brookelina said...

Monkeygurrrl - how did I miss you! Thank you so much for your kind words. I will personally send you their email addresses if they don't step up.

Sunny - I remember you writing about your mom. What a horrible ordeal to go through. It's true as our parents get older, we become the caretakers. I had dinner with mom tonight and she is in so much pain that I really am grateful that there is a surgery that can help her. I'm just so fucking scared for her.

Sysm - someday I'd like to hear that story. And the feeling is mutual - you are far more fabulous than I could ever hope to be. May the happy come.

The real me said...

One of life's cruelest twists is that we become parents to our parents. I'm not yet where you are, but I know it's coming... someday, and I dread it like the plague.

Dana said...

First, I am so sorry you've been going through all of this.

Second, these thoughts are completely normal. You are not a piece of shit, as you say, for having them.

Third, it will get better.

MoDigli said...

Brooke ~ Probably one of the best and most honest posts you've written. Thanks for sharing some of your burdon with all of us in the blogworld.

I think all your feelings are totally normal. Please don't beat yourself up over feeling the way you do! You DESERVE to have it be "about you" sometime very soon. It's one of the most stressful things to deal with the death of two fathers, and then the chronic health issues of your mom at the same time! THAT IS SO HUGE!

I don't think this is all you have to look forward to. And I don't think you've expereinced "as good as it gets" yet.
Your time will come. You've earned it and you deserve it.

hang in there! We're all here with you! :)

Egan said...

For some reason I keep reading this post and the comments over and over. You have some great bloggy friends Brooke. We're here for you. I hope you're enjoying your weekend.

none - ya said...

Brooke, I've sat here for the last 5 minutes trying to figure out what the fuck to say. There's nothing anyone can say. Nothing. All we can do is listen. That is all.

As an aside I wanted to let you know something. I remember the day I came across your blog. I was bored at work and kept hitting the "next blog" button until I found something a) in English and b) good. For some reason I came across you. For what it's worth I'm glad I did. You brighten my day. You are an inspiration. You are a breath of fresh air. You are not alone. Ever.

jiggs said...

feel better, yo!

yay?

yournamehere said...

Brooke,
wow, thanks for writing this. I saw this phenomenon several years ago when my grandmother had a massive stroke: the daughter (my mom) naturally assumes the role of caregiver. Even when my grandmother eventually had to go to a nursing home, I know my mom went there ten times for every one visit from my uncle. And I think my grandmother prefered it that way, really. That doesn't make it right, or fair, or any less of a burden on the daughter.
I'm so so sorry this has fallen squarely on your shoulders. No, one person shouldn't have to carry the entire load. I know up until this point we've mostly just read each other's blogs and traded comments, but you have my email address: if you ever need to talk, please reach out to me and I'll be there. I'll try to make you laugh, if that's what you need; if not I'll listen and keep quiet. Bless you, Brooke.

Brookelina said...

TRM - it's a cruel twist indeed. Life is full of them.

Lynn - thank you so much.

MoMo - I'm almost ashamed to have posted this. It's not like I'm completely alone in dealing with my mom, it just feels like that. Thank you!

Egan - I do indeed.

Mack - that was fantastic thing to say. I'm not really sure why people would stop and actually read my blog. It's clearly not for my good looks.

Jiggs - yay!

Todd - you are such a good guy. I do have brothers and they seem to be stepping up, there is just a different level of expectation for me being the only girl...and being single with no life. Sucks for me - on many levels.

Übermilf said...

Brooke, you're bearing all the stress and work right now.

But it's better than being emotionally empty, immature, or weak. When the troubled time passes, and it will, you will look back on your actions with pride and a sense of accomplishment.

Other people can't say the same.

WhiteBoyBob said...

I'm not great at saying super encouraging things, but I agree with Ubie. What you've done for your family is incredible, and in the years to come you'll be able to look back and know that you have nothing to feel bad about. I've had similar issues to deal with, but on a different scale to you, so I can empathise with you on how emotionally draining it can all be. You're doing the right thing, and any half decent man should be able to understand and accomodate your other priorities in life. It's all about compromise.

I hope our support is of some comfort.

Love,

WBB.

Bill said...

The universe operates in odd ways ... I watched the movie "Proof" last night and immediately thought of you and your post since it's about a woman who has spent the last five years of her life taking care of her father.

I quite liked the movie. I'm not sure it's the movie you would want to see right now, but if and when you do you may find it resonates a bit.

(And thanks for your thanks. I'm never sure if my comments come across the way they're intended.)

Neil said...

I feel for you so much Brooke -- I can't even say how much. Please talk to your brothers to tell them to give you more help. You can make things better for yourself. And someone as cool as you deserves it. Even if your brothers are too self-absorbed to give their time, it sounds like they can contribute financially. While no one can substitute for a daughter's love, why don't you have someone helping out with the errands and shopping for you mother? You're not moving to New Jersey to become in-house nurse. It's clear that you love your mother and want to care for her, but you are not doing a very good job at taking care of yourself.

You say your mother looks to you for comfort and aid. So, be honest with yourself. You're going to give it to her. Things will be hard with her. But you're doing no one a favor if you're not happy and burnt out. Maybe you need to talk to someone about a better way to juggle the tremendous love and responsibility you feel for others and your own needs.

GrandPooOfAwesome said...

I don't think I could say anything that hasn't been said by your other fabulously supportive blog-friends.

I hope things are going well today. My mom isn't sick (yet), but I do know the feeling of being the one responsible. I have 2 older biological sibling, who you would think would have more responisibility when it comes to the family, and 1 adopted sister who is the same age, and 2 younger adopted sisters. I'm still looked to for everything. I'm not looking forward to if/when my mom gets sick. Maybe it is selfish, but it's totally normal. Especially when everything unfairly rests on one child.

Brian said...

I think I have the philosophy that life may not get better, but the chance is what we live for.

Dave said...

Brooke, I'm surrounded by people who spend their whole lives trying to make people laugh, and often rarely do. I now check your site everyday for a smile or a laugh, so trust me, you're doing something right. And if this is as good as it gets, well you better get it while the gettin' is good.

(Wow, I sorta impressed myself with that one.)

Princess LadyBug said...

Brooke, I know how you feel. My Grammy had her first stroke when I was 5 and I watched the burden of her care fall on my Mom (the only daughter) and then slowly shift partially to me (the only daughter's only daughter). My Mom couldn't quit her job each time my Grammy had a stroke and needed help, but I could. So I did. I didn't always have to quit, but I did often enough. Even after she passed away I felt like my life was still on hold.

You'll get your life back. You're too tenacious not to. And when you do, "Lookout, World!" :)

Sizzle said...

i am so sorry brooke. i can imagine how drained you are. you have every right to these feelings. wondering where YOUR life is shows you still have that fire in you. it isn't selfish.

i hope your mom's surgery goes well and that soon, you are able to live your life for you. you deserve that.

xo
sizz

Anonymous said...

I hope things get better for you, I will say a prayer.
Jennie

perchance said...

Hi Brooke,

I, too, found you by hitting “Next Blog” and am now a regular lurker. You bring a smile to my face and I wish you all the best.

I’ve been through what you’re going through and I can tell you it does get better. When I was 28, I moved back home “temporarily” into my parents’ basement suite to help out. I ended up staying there 13 years! Talk about putting your life on hold. But during that time, I fell in love and so, in 2004, I moved out of my mom’s and in with my amazing partner. And last year my mom went on her first cruise and this year she is going on a train trip across Canada. Initially, I felt guilty about leaving but dammit, I was entitled to my own life, too. My 3 brothers were all happily living their lives, why shouldn’t I? Mom was happy for me because I was happy and I knew she’d be ok. She is. Life is funny sometimes though, because last October a friend of mine needed some help and the perfect solution was for her to move into my mom’s basement suite. So she did. Now she has a safe place and mom has someone in her house again. And me? I’m getting married in August!

It can get better, Brooke. Stay strong.

Melliferous Pants said...

I can relate to so much of this post I was crying by the time I got to the comments.

I have a similiar family dynamic. My sisters and father will often do less when I'm around because I'm too responsible for my own good. In the past I've shouldered a tremendous amount of stress through illness experienced by both of my parents. It has gotten a bit better, but it's still there.

I hope the family meeting with your brothers helped. Big hugs, Pants

Danielle said...

you are in my thoughts and prayers. i had a similar situaltion when my dad was sick. you are truly an amazing woman. wishing you only good things.

your anti-hero said...

I've been trying to figure out what to say here. The only thing I can come up with is, I understand. I play that same role in my family, especially when things get really tough.

For what it's worth...we all think you're a great and wonderful woman. Things will get better.

sleepydog said...

Brooke, I came across your blog randomly and I have to say, I love your energy and quirkiness, I love your honesty and you seem like a complex, interesting lady, one hell of a cool person to boot.
You obviously bring smiles to other's faces, and many of us out here would like to do the same for you, so I will do all I can do by sending good vibes your way and telling you the world needs more people like you in it.

Tumbleweed said...

Well sweetie, I wish I could say some stupid smart ass thing and make you smile. I know you can handle this, you are a very strong woman! Lean on your brothers more and be straight forward with them. This will not last forever, you are good people and good things are going to come your way!! *HUGS*

Marel Lecone said...

Hey, Brooke. I know that I'm late getting here. I'm sorry that you are going through so much. Of course, your line from As Good As It Gets . . . I really love that movie . . . my mind can't help going back to that movie. I know that this is real life and not a movie. Most of the people in that movie really went through some things before they found real love and happiness. I know it's hard to give of yourself again and again. But, know that it all counts for something. Whether it's karma or anything else that you believe in . . . good will come from the good that you give out. I will pray that your mother recovers quickly and for you, for much strength. Take care.

Lo Lo Lova said...

I'm so very sorry for all of the pain you have gone through and are going through. I hope that everything goes well with your mom. I'm sure she appreciates you and loves you more than you will ever know!

King of Cake said...

Just imagine a giant bed of satin cake the next time you try to take a nap. Pillowy and comforting. I'll get the development team cracking on the construction and fine-tuning, meanwhile.

If I could only wave a magic cake spatula, it would be done for you!

piu piu said...

hey

i feel so bad for you reading this post. i know the worry....i'm there too right now with my parents....but i don't know that level of responsibility and i feel for you....x

kick your brother's asses. please.

and i hope it works out

captain_howdy_girl said...

i'm sorrry

Trish said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Trish said...

I just found your blog through JJ's blog, Purgatorian. It sounds to me like you are doing a great job handling everything. Wishing you all the best.

Trish said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Thérèse said...

Might be late here but still.

(hug)