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Monday, August 8, 2011

Family Matters

Oh, how I love an email war.

Last Saturday, my birthday, Mom woke me up to let me know my Aunt and Uncle and their friend, her Northwestern Mutual insurance agent, were here. She had let me know the day before that they might be coming over, but never got back to me with specific details about when this shit was going down, so I thought maybe they'd chosen to meet another time. I'm my mothers's power of attorney because she's functionally illiterate, so it was important that I be there for the meeting. She couldn't write a check without me. I thought maybe they'd meet on Monday or something since, after all, it was my birthday.

The night before, I went to sleep on a pain pill and, a heavy dose of antihistimines (earlier that night I'd volunteered to clean cages at a no-kill cat shelter) and forgetting I'd taken both of those, I rang in my birthday with a shitty mixed drink of Jarrito's and gin. Because the day before my uncle had come over and finished off my shitty bottle of Aldi wine that I'd open and was saving for my birthday toast, because that's what in my budget. I had one glass when a network TV show I'd interned for aired the night before that, and figured I'd have the rest on Saturday. I didn't mind, I know Mom was being gracious and hospitable when he saw it and wanted it, and besides it was the cheap shit and told me through her that he promised to replace it.

So Saturday, after all the feduciary matters were settled, my uncle brings out a bag that obviously contains a bottle - of course, I figure it is for me. I figure wrong. He starts in with a teary preface about how one of the people there is going above and beyond to make sure my mom's affairs are in order. Turns out he's thanking his friend the insurance agent!

Later, my uncle goes home and sees that I've posted to facebook (to my private network of friends) that my mom is making investments, and posts a lengthy reply chewing me out for sharing my mom's financial business, which he then refers to as "family" business, with the bums and idiots and strangers he judges my circle of friends to be. I don't want to make an issue of it, so I take the higher ground, sending him a reply that simply states, "grievance noted", and blocking him from seeing my facebook account.

He puts words in my mouth that I won't repeat for how he "knows" I'm talking about him on there now. I assure him that I have my mom's best interest in mind, point out that as my mother's legal representative for financial matters I should have been kept in the loop about what was going on, point out that she herself had asked me to get comparisons for which we had outstanding appointments, and nevertheless concede that in the end it was her decision what to do so even though I personally felt that she was being pressured into making a decision based on his trust for somebody we don't know (when even the insurance agent himself recommended we shop around to make sure we're confident we're getting the best deal) I stood by her. Obviously. I wrote out the check.

I blocked my uncle from seeing me on facebook. That was my solution. He then replied with backhanded apologies that evolved into immature, degrading, hurtful, vehement assessments about me, my character, my choices in life, etc. I think in regard to this he was confusing me with my brother, which I'll discuss more later.

This uncle has never been a close part of my life, though he and my aunt spent time with my parents a lot more before I was born. I have one fuzzy memory of my aunt and uncles' wedding, then of a steak dinner at their house with his mother when I was maybe in third grade. After that, my aunt called me once when I was in my early 20's just to check in with me, a very nice gesture that unfortunately didn't pan out, and another time she called and talked with my mom while I was there because my uncle was put into a mental hospital and she didn't know at the time if he'd ever be coming out. That is my entire experience with this uncle who feels it's his right to put me into place. He had also pointed out that I should (without really knowing him at all, I guess) respect his point of view because he's had his share of misery that I won't go into.

Now about my brother. He's ten years older than me, so my uncle knew him better from way back when. Before I was born my dad's health was better in two ways: For one, he didn't suffer the lung issues he developed when I was a child. The other thing is that after I was born he and my mom worked hard to save money and live a better life, which included his becoming a sometimes abusive alcoholic. My brother dropped out of high school, got into drugs, worked menial jobs for a couple years or so at the most, and lived with my parents until it was, I'll just say "mutually agreed upon" that he finally move out and get on with his life at the age of 35. I was not the problem child.

I graduated a semester early with highest honors. Still 17 years old at the time, I took a year off after that to work and pursue freelance writing before starting college, which I excelled at but later put off when I got married and started a family. I'm back in school now on grants after I got divorced and moved back in with my parents, with the agreement that they would take us in now so I could pick up where I left off, to make something better of myself and take care of my mom when she needed me. My dad was already very sick at the time, and my promise to him was that I would take care of my mom. He died last April.

After being laid off from my job in December, which was perfect timing since I was open to ushering him through the last days of his life, he paid me a small stipend before he died because he wanted me to be able to not have to worry about working right away so I would be able to take care of everything that had to be put into order for my mom. My dad had always run the business of the home. In that regard, he did everything for her not only because as the man he felt it was his place do to so, but because she is functionally illiterate. She can't even read her own mail. So he gave me a little money to live on for the summer so I could get school supplies for my daughter, etc. and do whatever I had to to stay sane. Then he passed away too soon and left me the challenge of figuring out how to run the business of his household as my legacy. I have and am stepping up to the plate doing everything I can to watch out for Mom and keep her comfortable.

This is the first time I've been a stay at home mom or care giver or whatever the proper job title would be, and I'm itching to work outside the home but know my mom needs me to be available to her on a chaotic basis still. Besides that, with my daughter on summer vacation it wouldn't have made sense for me to start temping or something just to bring in a couple hundred dollars a month. Even if I were lucky enough to find a good job in this economy, I wouldn't be able to take it because if I make over a certain amount, I would risk losing my grants and give up my chance on a better future.

My dad had a decent of money hidden away in a separate account in only his name, because near the end of his life, while he was home-bound, he had started to work towards escape fantasies that included leaving my mother so he wouldn't have to put up with "all that crap". He designated me his power of attorney right before he died so that I could cash him out and help set her up for living the rest of her life without him. I took my small stipend  and not a penny more, though realistically a broke-ass advantageous welfare scum like my uncle takes me to be could just as easily have pocketed the lump sum at that point. I have way more integrity than that. When a check card came in my name, I charged a pack of gum to it to activate it and bought her something to cover the balance, that's how tight a ship I run.

I don't think I'm at all out of line to look into other options for my mom, or to speak up when I think she's being rushed into doing things, Yet the verdict from the Buttinsky clan is that I'm a disgrace for not jumping up in down waving my hands in excitement while they're stepping on my feet and nudging my mom towards making monumental financial discussions without me. And for not bowing down, butt up in the air to kiss their feet in appreciation of coming to her grand salvation. (I should say, my uncle is reacting this way. My aunt has yet to speak for herself, but my guess is that this is a result of his mental illness and she's politely trying to not get involved, though he backhandedly claims these hurtful emails he sends me are a joint decision.)

In light of what I know of him, I'm writing this off as an episode of manic rage, but of course it hurts me to be accused of being a disrespectful freeloader while I'm making dedicated, heart-felt decisions for how I can best take care of my branch of this family. and it causes severe, irreparable damage to the larger circle of our "family" with whom I would otherwise have been glad to foster connections even though they have not been a part of my life for over three decades.

What the hell? Don't a get a chance to grieve? Or breathe? I've always thought it was a shame that I didn't have stronger ties to my dad's side of the family, or my mom's for that matter, who are all in Japan, none of whom I've ever met. But this sort of thing makes me glad I've kept a peaceful distance.