My mother and father married and moved into a one-bedroom in Flatbush. Eight years, two children, and a job in NJ later, they moved into a four-bedroom quarter acre split level in the middle of a red-necked, blue-collar suburb of NJ. Two decades later and another job later, the empty nesters downsized into a two-bedroom luxury apartment in a Virginia exurb in close nexus to DC. Almost three decades later, widowed, my mother relocated into a 400 square feet assisted living unit in NJ. A year later, she has been placed into a 100 square foot single room in a NJ rehab, where she is clearly pining for a tomb, not a womb.
Neither of her relocations in NJ is convenient to me. As anybody who has ever had anything to do with NJ knows--they're all about the car. (No, I'm not talking Jersey City or Hoboken here). It is impossible to get anywhere from the train station. The taxis, if they are there, are dirty, torn, odiferous. The drivers--one can only hope. Don't speak of UBER--they're no better. They're not even professional drivers. Plus, as someone who works as a medical expert for the Social Security Administration, I can attest to the fact that many of my claimant's who assert that they can't control themselves in the presence of others, who have substance abuse problems, are UBER drivers. My brother, who placed her in each institution, told me he would see that I had transport from the train stations. Clearly that was just a shine job. Now he references her as "his mother." Fine. My mother left when my father died. I'm not sure how to feel about the zombie being who goes by her name.
I know how I feel now. Devastated.
She repeatedly tells me not to come. If I visit, she reproaches me for coming. She was never a social person. Now I wonder if she was ever a happy person. Looking through photographs, I see no smiling snaps. Even on her honeymoon. Not with her children. She looks bored on a good day.
She has not joined any clubs or social groups since she left the NJ town I used to call Unfunky Scummedrine. So she didn't really make any friends outside of work during the decades in Virginia.
She never went away to college, so she doesn't know that assisted living is like a dorm. You have to participate in their worthless activities. Bingo doesn't sound any worse than Dorm Wars, where the object was to be the last to vomit from excessive beer consumption.
She defies any attempt to force her to be social. She won't even take her meals in the common room. She won't participate in any of their games. She doesn't like bingo--she complains that everyone there is deaf and it goes too slow-- because every time the caller sounds a place, five people go, "What did she say?" I told her, "Guess what. That happens every class." (I teach college). Recently, the rehab informed me that they were going to have a gala family dinner this coming Wednesday. I told her I was coming. Today, she saw her wound doctor and claims that the wound vac caused secondary damage to the surrounding skin so she can't wear the vac this week. She claims he told her to avoid sitting. Hence--she can't go to the gala dinner--I shouldn't come. My sister-in-law, who accompanied her, doesn't remember this exchange, but she wasn't in the room throughout.
In any event, the only control she has is no. No, don't come. No, I won't go to the common room. No, I won't participate in rehab social activities. She also won't read or do puzzles (she claims her vision is fine, although I'm a bit dubious, as she hasn't seen any doctor these three years). I can just hear the earworm of my last psychologist hissing, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." And that guy did his dissertation on empathy. Clearly, research was not mesearch in his case. How does he think that little gem would be helpful. Yes, Dr. Littletree, I know I'm difficult. Your predecessor made that clear in spades. I don't go around chewing on your little turd pearls of wisdom. I don't tell you how wonderful you are.
Gosh, didn't any of these Dr. Wunderbar's ever work in a hospital based clinic? I don't remember any patient ever hanging on my words--mostly, I was trying to avert them hanging on clothes, OD'ing on their Klonipin, or just OD'ing on OTC Tylenol. Two or three times a shift, I went to the bathroom and swished with Listerine, as I felt like an unflushed toilet. (Full disclosure, sometimes I swigged down the stuff--I called it a happy meal--ETOH and fresh breath too. I guess I don't have to worry about the good folks of Listerine using this blog as an advert).
And no one will ever use this blog as an advert for psychotherapy either.
Full disclosure--I'm a psychologist. And except for some dribs and drabs in my first psychotherapy (with the excavating behaviorist), all I ever learned in psychotherapy was my capacity for paying to suffer. And never date a fellow psychologist. And stay away from psychiatrists.