“I know that there are other women here with children who are glad to see their parents go into assisted living, but my son was even harder on me,” Dorothea, a new resident said to me. “You were talking tonight at dinner about your daughter’s visit, and it made me remember what I’ve gone through with my son, Edward. I hope you don’t mind?”
Dorethea is a small woman with red-rimmed eyes. She is plainly unhappy. Her tears were close to the surface. She looked rather lost (this was her second day), and Marion and I had invited her to have dinner with us.
“Some of this is my own fault,” she said unexpectedly, when we were in my apartment. “I was always very close to my daughter, and Edward resented it.”
“I am so sorry.”
“He and my husband kind of banded together. They were both very interested in sports. They went to basketball, hockey, you name it, so they had each other until Julie died. Then Edward let loose on me. He said I never liked him, always called him Edward. ‘So formal!’ he mocked at me, ‘while it was always Andy, Andy, Andy for Andrea.’ I took her to Europe, bought her clothes, gave her a big wedding. You name it.”
“So you have her in your life at least”, I burst out, trying to find a saving element in this story.
“If only. She lives in London and won’t answer my letters. My son, though, is terrible to me in my own house. I’m only 79 and he practically signed me into this old folks home himself. ‘Andy didn’t want you in London, did she?’ he said to me. ‘Dad left money for assisted living for you. It’s more than you deserve. You were the kind of mother who never assisted my living and Dad saw it all. Now you better start packing.’”
“You’re husband left you homeless?”
“My husband left him the house, not me. I said to my son—my own son, my only son, ‘Can’t I stay in the maid’s room off the kitchen? I’ll use the back door, no trouble.’ ‘It’s over, Ma. Get that into your head.’ Maybe my sister Tillie. But it’s so hot and humid in Mississippi! ‘Forget it. You borrowed a chunk of money from her to buy Andy a fur coat years ago, remember? And never paid her back a penny. Tell me, when was the last time she called?’”
She paused a moment, cried a little, dried her eyes, and said, “All paths are blocked. They’re all in it together and I never suspected..”
“Dorothea,” I said. “You need a lawyer.”
“Oh, sure and where’s the money going to come from?
“Well, assisted living is not cheap, and here you are.”
“But that’s what my husband left for me. Money for assisted living. That’s it, period. My son got the house and cars, my daughter got cash. I got assisted living, and I better learn to live with it. It really is not so bad here. I can see that. It’s my family. How am I going to live with the way my family treats me, the way they think of me?”
“There’s a good psychologist here. Maybe she can help you.”
“My family’s locked me out. God knows I need help. I’ll try her.”