Should our parents, the people who gave us life, feel free to walk in and out of our lives? That’s a question my wife has been struggling with concerning her mother recently. Before you make up your mind, let me tell you about my history and hers separately.
I grew up in Carlisle, Pa. I had friends, but I wasn’t what you would consider popular. I wasn’t into sports like my older brothers, though I did like to play dodgeball. This proved my undoing when a ball hit my head, and my head hit the brick wall.
The only immediate damage that anyone saw was that my left pupil was dilated.
For years after this, however, I would develop headaches, spike a fever, and several hours later vomit. My family doctor kept my parents it was migraines, but that they were imagining the fever.
Several years later, my dad was working in California temporarily, so we went with him. My parents and I were in a cramped apartment on Fort Ord, so the quarters were a lot closer than the house back in Carlisle.
I don’t remember who it was, but one of my parents asked me if I was cold because I was shaking. I told them no. Then they noticed it was only on one side.
When we got back to Carlisle, my parents sent me to Hershey Medical Center for a battery of tests. I don’t remember them all, but the one that changed my life occurred on Wednesday 11 January 1995, when I was just 13. That was the day I had my first MRI.
We weren’t expecting to hear back from the doctor for a week, but he insisted that we meet with the head of the Pediatric Neurosurgery center immediately.
Two days later, I had a shunt placed.
My dad took the day off from work to be there. While I was in the OR, he received a call that we were moving to Rome, NY. It didn’t matter at the moment because his son was in surgery.
After I was out, he slept in the room with me. Mom had rented a hotel room. The next morning, mom came to relieve him so he could go take a shower. He came back quickly.
Two years later, when were in Rome, New York, my shunt failed. I slipped into a coma and nearly died because of the incompetent doctors at the Rome Hospital assuming a 15 year old in a coma meant an OD. Once they finally got my Neurosurgeon from Syracuse on the phone, I was rushed by ambulance to the Upstate Medical Center an hour away.
Instead of placing a new shunt, my parents gave the doctor permission to perform what is called a Third Ventricularostimy. I don’t know the details, but it has allowed me to live without fear of having to go under the knife.
While in recovery, my older brother took leave from the Army to come see me. My oldest brother skipped his college graduation, even though he was Valedictorian. Both of my grandmothers came up to see me, as did one of my aunts and her husband. Other family members sent get well cards.
That’s the type of family I knew.
Now for my wife’s story:
She grew up in a small town in southern Indiana. Her parents divorced when she was young. Her dad won custody of her and her sister.
Immediately after the divorce, my mother-in-law moved in with an a man who later turned into an abusive alcoholic. She had a child by him, and stayed with him for several years. Even when he put a gun to my wife’s head, the woman still would not leave.
When she finally did leave that man, it was into the arms of an emotionally controlling man that she is currently married to. She admits she doesn’t love him.
When my wife was in High School, around 16, she moved in with her mom. She did this because, for all of her faults, the woman is her mother. But once my wife moved in, it was automatically assumed she would act as maid and nanny.
My wife had to cook, clean, make sure her brother and step-sister had their homework done, all the while she did her own school work. When my wife’s sister came over to visit, she received no respite. She still had her normal duties.
Then senior year, my wife became sick. It turned out to be her her gall bladder. Her mom and stepfather, even while she was recuperating, wanted her to cook, clean, and take care of her siblings. How nice is that, huh?
My wife moved out on her own as soon as she could. The apartment wasn’t more than a quarter mile away. Her mom instantly stopped talking to her.
A few months went by, and her mom called out of the blue. She made small talk, and then invited my wife to come over. Sure, why not. The next thing my wife knew, she’s watching the kids for the night.
She met a guy named Julius, who happened to be black. As far as her mom and stepfather were concerned, he was just a “nigger.” It didn’t matter how my wife felt about him.
After they broke up, she found me. A good white boy. They were excited. Yee haw. Let’s have a good ol’ Cross burnin’. Even better, my last name was Kennedy, so I was going to be RICH! Well, I’m not from those Kennedy’s. And I’m Jewish (sorry, we don’t really have horns), so that really through a wrench in works.
My wife and I moved to Indianapolis, nearly an hour north. We purchased a phone card so her mom could call us. She never did. It was two years before my wife heard from her mom, even when she called her or wrote her.
The first news we received was that she had given birth to a baby girl. We knew she had been pregnant, but, as usual, even when my wife called, she received no response. My wife told her she was getting married, and said she was welcome to come since her dad was. My mother-in-law told her it would be too much of a hassle. She did show up at the reception for cake, though.
Three years went by before we saw her again, and that was Christmas. Even then, we had to drive down to see her. Not once in seven years has she made the effort to see us, until now.
My wife has a surgery coming up. It’s a minor surgery. She feels that since her mom has always flitted in and out of her life, her mom has no right to insist upon being there. But she doesn’t want to act like a bad daughter. She is stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
I want to help her, but I don’t know how without poisoning her mother, and I have been told I’m not allowed to do that. Damnit.