The Great Manipulator

by Cris
(Central Florida, USA)

I am estranged from my mother. As I grew and as the years went by, she became more and more persistent in her insistence that I see things her way. I'm a "agnostic liberal city slicker." She's a Christian conservative who lives in rural America. She wouldn't agree to disagree or allow me to change the subject. Communication was a challenge to say the least.

I learned when I inherited my grandmother's couch that she and her siblings weren't allowed to sit down without being given more chores. The couch has little wear at 50 years old.

My mother was a stay at home mom but instead of greeting us with milk and cookies, she was taking a nap. We'd do our homework and have dinner ready by the time Dad got home from work. Then we were responsible to clean up after dinner as well. We 5 kids did most of the household chores. Mom did laundry and we helped her with canning fruits and vegetables in the fall. Mom was pretty well taken care of, not a lot of responsibility for having 5 kids.

My mother started exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's about the time my dad retired. Seems to me that's a great way to get out of having to take care of him since she didn't have any kids left to do the cooking and cleaning. Chore by chore, my dad began to take over household responsibilities while her health deteriorated with various issues, digestive issues, heart trouble, motor deterioration. She's in a nursing home now and Dad's in a (different) retirement home. Dad can drive to visit her every day.

Didn't she choose a very effective method to NOT have to care for anyone and have others continue to care for her? I don't know her childhood but I suspect that having someone care for her was about getting the love she thought she was missing.

She was also diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia along with the Alzheimer's diagnosis. I suspected she had that all along because she did some crazy embarrassing things when I was growing up. It was confusing because it was presented as normal to me and it just didn't seem right at all. I was slapped for calling her on those things. I was "snotty." How life would be different for so many if mental health issues weren't denied but addressed and treated.

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Dec 07, 2016
Benefits of Illness?
by: Eloisa

Thank you for sharing your story. My mother grew up in the 1920's in a small rural town. She also told me a story about how her mother would dump a pail of corn kernels on the ground for her kids to pick up when they had no chores to do. This was to keep all her children busy doing something, because she believed that idle hands did the work of the devil or something like that. In other words, keeping them busy was safety from them getting into mischief.

I also remember when she could still talk and socialize she made a comment to my sister because she saw me sitting down at the dining room table. She said, "Look at Eloisa. Just sitting there watching the flies on the ceiling."

Of course I laughed; both my mother and sister were also sitting at the table. But I understood she was expressing disapproval, saying that I had nothing better to do but to just sit there and waste my time doing nothing.

At age 15 my mother was sent by her mother to live with her grandmother to take care of grandma. My mother cooked and cleaned and did all of grandma's errands. That was acceptable to the adults back then and what kids were for --cheap labor basically.

But I see your point and from your story about the couch, I agree that if we misinterpret having others do chores, care for us physically, as love, my mother and your mother did not get much of that "love" past age 3 or 4 perhaps.

I can see how some children made the association between betting sick and being taken care of/loved. In this case, illness could be interpreted as bringing benefits and love.

I have often described my mother's Alzheimer's as "going out the way she came in" as a baby, perhaps going back to the only time she felt "taken care of".

My mother is in the late stages of Alzheimer's.
My brother is the primary caregiver, but when I help, I basically do what I would do for a 8 month old baby who is bedridden and needs to be strapped in to be able to sit and be fed with a spoon.

I have made peace with this situation and gladly help to take care of her when my brother asks. But I definitely would not consciously choose that path for myself.

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