For 58 years, my mother was married to an alcoholic. I suppose in the last five years of his life, he didn’t do much drinking. Because of the dementia. He died in October 2012. Complications from dementia. My mother’s oldest son was an alcoholic. He died in April 2012 of cirrhosis and hepatitis. My mother’s youngest son, also an alcoholic, entered rehab after Christmas. I set up an intervention. He seems to be doing well.
My mother no longer has anyone take care of. To enable. My oldest brother is gone. My father is gone. And my remaining brother is in treatment.
My mother spent decades managing the fallout from my father’s binges. The fallout from his rages. And then caring for his every need when the dementia got bad. She spent decades helping my brothers sort out their messes. She kept them both employed at my father’s business. She made sure they could pay their mortgages. Their car payments. She made sure they got to the doctor when things got bad and they needed treatment. She at times took them to appointments. These were grown men. My brother died at the age of 56. My other brother is 52.
My mother has been a raging codependent cubed (to the third power) for decades. And now she has no one to fawn over and control. What can she focus her attention on? Who will fill the void?
It seems I am her new recruit. But she’s going at it differently. She’s now become the needy dependent one. She insists on talking to me on the phone every day. Every single damn day. And if I go out after work, she’ll call me over and over until I get home and call her back. She’ll leave three and four messages in an evening. I try to throw up a boundary.
“Mom, I can’t talk to you every day. I’ve got other things going on some days.”
“You can find five minutes.”
“Mom, some days I just want to come home and relax. I don’t want to talk to anyone.”
“Well, all I want is five minutes, and then you can relax. I raised you and took care of you for years. Now it’s your turn to take care of me.”
Recently, I tried to encourage her to stop calling me over and over.
“Mom, calling me multiple times and leaving multiple messages is not going to make me able to call you back any sooner.”
“I don’t care. I want to talk to you and it makes me feel better to keep calling.”
The last time I spoke with her, on Wednesday, I managed to get a call in to her before she called me.
“Oh, you didn’t forget about me tonight.”
She then went on to tell me how upset my brother is, how discouraged he is. He has canker sores in his mouth and the doctor isn’t taking care of it right.
“You need to call your brother and talk to him. He’s upset. But I can’t say anything to him about it because you told me not to. So you need to call him.”
“Mom, have you been to an Al-Anon meeting?”
“I gave you the schedule. You could go during the day. At lunch time. You could use the support.”
“I’m not doing anything else. I’m not doing any more than I’m already doing.”
“Mom, I can’t talk to you until you go to a meeting. You need to start going. I can’t be your counselor. And I’m not Steve’s counselor.”
“Well I’m not going. I don’t need to. I don’t need that.”
“Mom, call me when you’ve gone to a meeting.”
“Well if that’s what you want to do, fine.”
And she hung up on me. She hasn’t called me since. My mother is punishing me for trying to set boundaries.
I’d forgotten how truly nutty my family is. I knew from a distance they were running the same old scripts, over and over and over. But I hadn’t been in the middle of it for many years. For years I’d kept my distance. And no one bothered me. No one tried to suck me back in. My mother was too busy focusing on my father and two brothers. But now I’ve got no cover. I’m an open target.
Because I’m resistant to filling the open role, my 76 year-old mother is giving me the silent treatment. But I’ve worked too hard for too many years to allow her to suck me back in. I’m standing my ground.
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. (unconfirmedbachelorette.com)