A Broken Heart and a Wilted Rosebyandtheend©
A loving son helps his mother through a bad time with an incestuous relationship.
It's been three long years since my Dad died on of all days Valentine's Day. Coming home from work, he had a flat tire and when he leaned down to jack up the car, a drunk driver in a pickup truck hit him head on doing more than 80 mph. The police said there were no skid marks. The driver never hit his brakes, probably never saw my Dad until impact, until it was too late to swerve.
They found his trunk in a ditch nearly a mile down the road. My Dad never knew what hit him. Thankfully, he died instantly. He was in too many pieces to have an open casket viewing at the wake.
It's surreally tragic that he survived his double tour of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan to die by the hand of our version of a suicide bomber, a drunk driver. The driver of the trunk was knocked unconscious and was bloodied and bruised, but alive, otherwise he would have left the scene of the accident, no doubt. It would have been just another hit and run and the police, probably, never would have found him.
He served only a year in jail for dui vehicle manslaughter. The outraged community, with the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, petitioned the legislature to tighten the drunk driving laws in our state because of him. Named after my Mom, they called it Rose's Law, since the tragedy happened on Valentine's Day and because my Mom's name is Rose.
Already free to continue living his life, he served his time, but my Mom and I still suffer through the aftermath of his crime. Our lives have never been the same without Dad here. A comforting solace to us, the good die young was never any truer than with the loss of my Dad. A loving husband, a cherished father, and a good friend, he's missed by all who knew him.
I never had the chance to tell my Dad that I loved him. Away at war, he wasn't there to watch me play baseball or to see me graduate high school. Now, without a Dad to go to when I have a question about girls or to watch a ballgame with, I'm lost. I'm angry that he was taken from me so soon. I miss him. I really miss him. I thought once he came home from overseas, once he had returned to the normal routine of his life, that would be the last time that he wouldn't be there for me and now he's gone for good. It's not fair. It's just not fair.
My Mom hasn't left the house since my Dad died that fateful day. His death emotionally paralyzed her. She's a basket case. Fortunately, he didn't leave her destitute. He left her some life insurance, enough to pay off the mortgage on the house, get rid of the credit cards, and pay off her car. After what she gave to her lawyer to prosecute the case, she also received a six figure wrongful death settlement when she sued the man in civil court.
Yet, money is not what makes her happy. She'd return all the money, if it would bring back my Dad. She misses my Dad, her husband and her best friend of nearly 20 years. At only 37-years-old when he died, she was too young to be a widow.
She's been in a deep depression since my Dad died. I took her to see her doctor and he prescribed some pills, only the pills he prescribed made her sleepy and nauseous. I took her to see a psychiatrist and he prescribed more pills, only the pills he prescribed made her too happy. Then, she crashed and tried to kill herself by taking all the pills.
When I found her unconscious, I called for an ambulance. The doctor at the emergency room pumped out her stomach and then signed the papers to put her in the psyche ward for 30 days observation, standard for a suicide attempt. When they classified her as catatonic, they wanted me to sign the papers for them to keep her, but I refused and brought her home instead.
First my Dad and then my Mom. Maybe that was selfish of me, but I didn't want to be alone. Now, she doesn't take any pills. She just sits and stares out the window, as if watching and waiting for my Dad to come home. I wonder, can she die of a broken heart?
It's bad enough I lost my Dad, I can deal with that over time, especially since he's no longer here. It gets a little easier as the years go by, but I have my bad days, too. Only, losing my Mom is different and more difficult. She's here, but she's not. For some reason, maybe it's a sound, a smell, or just a familiar thought that she has, but she's more lucid and responsive some times more than she is others.
Most times, she's non-responsive, catatonic nearly. Looking right through me, she looks at me without seeing me, and doesn't answer when I talk to her, most times. I know she's in there, somewhere, but every day that passes, I can't help but feel that she disappears a little but more.
I talk to her, even though she doesn't answer me. I take care of her, even though she doesn't know all that I do for her. I continue to love her, even though she no longer tells me that she loves me. I don't know what else to do but to continue doing what I've been doing hoping one day she'll snap out of it and return to me from where she is.
The doctor asked me to sign the papers to commit her, again, but I've seen the inside of that place. I went there to visit her and to pick her up and take her home, after she was confined there for 30 days. It's a horrible place and I can't help but feel that she's better off at home. I've read stories and seen investigative reports on television to know how, too often, they don't care for the people who stay there. They care more about the money than they do about the person.
How could I do that to her? How could I leave her in a place like that? If I was the one catatonic, if I was the one who had been in an accident and paralyzed or non-responsive in the way she is, she wouldn't do that to me. My Mom would care for me at home, just as I care for my Mom.
I'm her only hope of improving and of getting better. Maybe she'll never improve. Maybe she'll never get better. Maybe this is as good as it gets, while she slowly gets worse, until she fades away and dies one day, which is why I ask, can someone die of a broken heart?
Only, what kind of son would I be if I didn't even try to help her? How can I just give up on my Mom? She's my Mom. I only have the one.
Now, three years after the death of my Dad, my Mom is only 40-years-old. She's still young and pretty. She'd be a target for sexual abuse by both patients and employees of the institution that housed her. I shudder to think of her being raped and/or sexually abused after what she's already been through with the death of my Dad. Besides, most of the people in those institutions are old, ugly, and ready to die. My Mom is just depressed is all. Surely, it's just a temporary condition and she'll snap out of it, I hope. Won't she?
Even though the doctor tells me different, I can't help but feel that she's better off here with me and with someone who loves her. She's my Mom. I can care for her. I'm willing to do whatever it takes for her to get better. Only, it's hard, sometimes, most times. I no longer have a life because of my Mom.
To be dealt this hand at my age, losing my Dad and now hanging on to my Mom unwilling to let her fade away and disappear into herself, is hard for me to endure. It's just as selfish of her to do that to me, to withdraw, as it is for me to want to keep her here with me. Hoping to help her, the doctors tell me differently. They told me that she needs round the clock medical care in an environment that specializes in such emotional conditions. Yet maybe I'm wrong or naive but leaving her locked in her room or keeping her around a bunch of screaming crazy people is not what I call round the clock medical care.
Fortunately, she's able to wash, dress, feed, and go to the toilet herself. I'm glad I'm spared all of that. I'd have to commit her, if I had to totally care for her, as if she was an invalid or a baby. Able to find a job where I work from home, at least, I don't have to leave her alone for extended periods of time. I'm here for her.
Only, I don't have a life. My life is now consumed by my Mom. Yet, I have needs, too. I'm young. I'm lonely. I'm horny. All that will have to wait, until my Mom gets better.
I replay that day, as if it happened yesterday and it's always worse when it's the anniversary, in the way that it is now again. Valentine's Day is supposed to be about love and life not sadness and death. My Dad had called my Mom to tell her he'd be late, that he had a flat tire. He told her he loved her and that he had a surprise for her. They had talked on the phone only a few minutes before he died.
He bought her roses, her favorite flower. She loves roses, maybe because her name is Rose. He had a heart shaped box of chocolate candy, too, with a romantic card. My Dad was thoughtful like that. He never missed her birthday or anniversary and always bought her good stuff at Christmas. Valentine's Day was special to them. The Sheriff delivered them all to my Mom after they gathered the evidence they needed, collected my Dad from the highway, and towed away his car.
Valentine's Day was the day they met at a Valentine's Day dance for singles and Valentine's Day was the day they married, just a year later. Now the day forever marked by their wedding anniversary, Valentine's Day, once a special day to them, is now a horrible reminder of my Dad's death to me. Somehow, if you had to weigh the checks and balances of life, it was somehow befittingly tragic that the good Lord took my Dad on Valentine's Day, too, after so much of their life happened on that day.
Maybe there's some sort of divine reason that you're only allowed so much happiness in life before the other shoe falls and crushes you because they were happy. My Dad and my Mom were really happy. They laughed a lot. She was just so happy to finally have him home safe and in one piece from the war and he was happy to be finally home with her and with me again.
Only, I don't need for God to take my Mom, too. I don't want to be left alone, even though I feel so alone when I'm with my Mom now in the unresponsive way she is. The quiet is the thing that drives me crazy, which is why I always have the television on night and day. I'm hoping something on TV will jar my Mom back from where she is.
Hope is the thing that keeps me going and the reason why I care for my Mom in the way that I do with the personal sacrifices that I make. I hope she'll get better. I hope there's an internal switch that clicks on, just as it clicked off, when she fell into her silent funk.
I'd commit her, I would, if the doctors could tell me what was wrong with her and how to fix her. Only, they tell me that they don't know enough about her condition and about the brain to really know how to restart her and how to bring her back. I can't help but feel they'd do more harm than good by keeping her in that crazy place. She's not crazy. She's just sad is all.
As it is now without my Dad, my life would be worse without my Mom in it. Even with my Mom in a nearly vegetative state, it's still better than not having her here at all. Even if she doesn't answer me, I can still talk to her. Much in the way that a loved one can talk to a coma patient, I know she can hear me. If you ask the relative of a coma patient, they'd tell you they'd rather them there than dead. They'd rather have hope than not. That's how I feel. I feel just like that about my Mom.
Maybe that's selfish of me. Maybe she'd blossom in an institution where she'd receive round the clock care, only we don't have that kind of money to get the kind of round the clock care that she needs. The places that we can afford, more along the idea of a nursing home over a mental care facility, would only drain what little money we have, until the money was gone and she was pushed out in the street to fend for herself.
I even bought her a dog, hoping that the dog would cheer her up and he did, somewhat. She reaches down to pat him, gives him food and water, and lets him out back to do his business in the woods. Caring for the dog has helped her care for herself. She smiles at him in the way she used to smile at me.
He's just a mutt I got from the pound, but he's a good dog. He's half Golden Retriever and half German Shepherd. She's smiles and looks at him, every time she pats him, so I know that the dog has helped heal her, if only a little bit. Dogs are good like that in helping people.
She named the dog Danny for the son she never had, but always wanted, she said. Only, I'm Danny. I'm her son. I'm the son she had.
Did she forget that she has a son? Doesn't she remember me? Doesn't she know who I am? So, we call the dog Danny. It's a bit disconcerting when she calls the dog because I always think and hope she's calling me.
"Danny! Come boy. That's a good dog."
Maybe it's a sign that she's getting better, but at least she's talking more now. A recent phenomena, my Mom now calls me John. I suspect she thinks that I'm Dad, her husband now. I don't know if that's good or bad. Yet, when you've been sunk down so deep in the mud, you look at any change as a good sign.
I'm afraid to take her to the doctor for fear that he'll want to commit her. She's all that I have, besides the dog. What would I do without her? I'd be sick with worry not seeing her every day.
Except for her thinking that I'm Dad, she seems better. She's more animated. She smiles more, laughs, even. She's been talking to me more and her appetite has improved. She even goes out back with the dog, something she'd never do, go outside, before. I'm starting to see signs of how she used to be.
Maybe it's selfishly unrealistic to feel that I can help my Mom. Maybe I'm the crazy one to think that I can care for someone who is so mentally ill but, to me, it's better that I have her here with me in the flesh than not at all. Even though it's been three years, I'm still mourning, too, over the loss of my Dad. My Mom, even in her unresponsive state, helps me with my grief. At least, I can pretend that we still have a relationship and there's always that chance with my love and help that she'll get better. I pray to God she will.
So, now, for me to have some sort of normal relationship with my Mom, I pretend that I'm my Dad. Where she didn't hardly speak to me before, at least she's talking to me now. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I take that as a healthy sign. Even if she's in denial over her reality by not accepting my Dad's death and thinking that I'm him, it's still better than how she was before.
Only, I don't know what year she thinks this is. I took down the calendar and, fortunately, she always hated watching the news. She found the news monotonously depressing. We don't have a computer living out here in the sticks, so she can't go on that. She doesn't watch much television, expect for movies. She likes movies, old movies. I suspect she's living in the past, maybe a time before I was born.
When my Mom went in for her nap, I left her alone to go to the store. I was only gone for a few minutes. Her naps last about three hours, so I had plenty of time. I stopped at the florist, the card store, and the candy shop and bought her the things that Dad would have bought her on Valentine's Dad, roses, a heart shaped box of chocolates, and a Valentine's Day card. I've been doing that every year, since he died, even though she never notices.
Maybe it's wrong to pretend that I'm him, but isn't it better than watching her slip more away? Isn't it better than visiting her on weekends at the mental hospital? Isn't it better that I'm here to help her when she's unable to help herself?
I put them all on the table, the flowers, the candy, and the card, waiting for her to awaken and when she saw them, she was so excited. Finally, she noticed. She brought a tear to my eye. She was just like my old Mom.
Only, it was then that I realized she was gone. It was as if she was someone else and I was a bystander watching her life continue without me there in my normal role as her son. I couldn't help but feel that I was an actor playing a role, the role of my Dad, instead of feeling the love that I needed to feel from my mother, as her son. I imagine this is how the relative of an Alzheimer's patient must feel.
"Oh, how nice," she said. "Thank you, John, for the flowers, the candy, and the card. Happy Valentine's Day, dear," she said leaning in to me and giving me a kiss on the lips.
Her kiss startled me and I was so excited that I hugged her. My Mom just kissed me on the lips. She hasn't done that since I was a kid. Oh, shit, I thought and it was then that I really started to worry.
She thinks I'm Dad. She really thinks I'm Dad. I mean, I never really thought about the consequences of her thinking that I was my Dad. I was just so happy that she was talking to me again. I really didn't consider the intimacy or the sexual role of having to pretend that I was her husband.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Rose," I said continuing the ruse by trying to act more like Dad.
Hoping that by acting like Dad, she'd realize that I wasn't her husband and that would snap her out of it, I decided to continue the role playing. Using the only psychological training that I had taken from sitcoms and reality TV, it sounded good to me. Only warning signs and sirens were flashing in my head.
If you're not a trained professional in psychiatry, don't try this at home. Maybe by pretending to be my Dad, I was making her disconnection worse. Maybe by forcing her not to confront my Dad's death, I was removing her further from reality.
Fortunately or unfortunately, whichever the case may be, but a weird phenomena happens when you suffer a tragic loss, such as a death in the family. All the friends and relatives, who wouldn't go home after the funeral and who brought you food and hung around offering their help and support, are all gone. There for you then, now no one calls and no one comes to visit us, anymore. In this case, however, that was a good thing because how would I explain my reasoning to them that I pretended to be my Dad?
I felt a bit ridiculous pretending to be my Dad. What did I know about being married? Yeah, sure, I knew my Dad and my Mom, but only as my Dad and my Mom and not as a husband knows his wife. At twenty-one years old, I was still wet behind the ears. I didn't even have a girlfriend. I hate to admit it, but I'm still a virgin. What sexual life I should have had ended, once my Dad died, when I was 18-years-old and saddled me with my Mom.
The only time I've had sex is with myself, by my own hand, and late at night when I have a wet dream. The only women I've seen naked are the ones in Playboy and Penthouse. I'm pathetic. All my friends are in relationships, living with a woman or married even, and here I am still living at home with my Mom.
My Mom has taken up my life. My life is no longer my own, but an extension of my Mom's life, as her caregiver. First my life was taken up with my Dad, worrying about him when he was in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then grieving for him after he was killed by a drunk driver that consumed my life, and now it's all about my Mom. Helping her and caring for her, while hoping and praying she'll get better, takes up most of my day. I look forward to the day when my life will be about me.
I'm not complaining, well, maybe I am complaining. Only, I don't know if the help that I'm giving her is helping her or hurting her. It's so frustrating not to know. No one knows. No one can tell me definitively.
Maybe I should have her committed. Maybe she'd be better off around other people who have the same problem. Maybe she needs a support group, one that has group therapy, something that I can't give her.
"I'm going to make you your favorite dinner," she said. "Shepherd's pie and for dessert, chocolate pudding with real whipped cream and a cherry on top."