I was 13 when I got kicked out of my house. Not the house I ended up sharing with my mom in an abusive tangle of sickness and addiction. I didn’t get kicked out of that house until I was 17. Or 18. It depends on who you ask, and which of the many times you count.
But when I was 13, my grandma packed up all my stuff, gave it to my mom and made it really clear to me that I was no longer welcome in her home. It ripped my heart out. I had no idea why. I wasn’t a good kid, that’s for sure, but by that time I was significantly better than I’d ever been before (thanks 12 steps!)
It’s just that all of a sudden, I wasn’t allowed to come home.
As an adult, I learned that this was because my grandfather, a man who had physically abused and emotionally terrorized me my entire childhood also had a habit of raping female relatives on or around their 13th year. My grandmother did the only thing she thought she could to keep me safe. I remain grateful she at least felt there was a line in terms of what abuse she allowed and what she did not, and I’m glad that he at least did not get to take that from me too.
Aside from desperate pit stops when I was between (or lacking) permanent housing, I have never again spent a night in that house. Even when I did, I preferred to sleep outside in a leaky camper we used mostly for storage.
So when my uncle called me and asked me to spend 5 days there, I balked. Grandma is getting to the point where she is in danger of falling. She needs someone to help her around the house, mostly in the mornings when she wakes up and at night when she’s on her way to bed. My uncle moved in with her from his home in Wisconsin, and has basically given up the last year of his life to be with her and help fix her house so we can sell it and have the income support her. I’ve been trying to step back and let my mom and uncle take care of her, as she is their mom and not really mine, although I have offered whatever help I can when I can. This would be the first time that neither of them can be there with here.
Now that I have my own business, my schedule is more flexible, and I can do things like be present during the day to help her. The problem is that time is not really free. Every hour I spend not working is one hour’s worth of work that I don’t get through, one hour I’m farther from being solvent, and one hour I can’t get back. That may sound kind of drama, but I’m not fucking around here. I need to get this thing into the black as fast as humanly possible. On the other hand, there are a lot more years for business building on my plate than there are for grandma having. So some perspective is necessary.
I’m worried that 5 days will turn into two weeks, will turn into a month, and all of a sudden I’ve become my parents. Chronically unemployed but with lots and lots of absolutely unpaid care-taking to do. Sinking into the general inactivity of my family is basically my worst nightmare. It’s one of the reasons I work like a damn fool every day. It’s also why I am really very unwilling to listen to people’s hard luck stories. I was raised on hard luck stories. I’ve been made sour on the whole genre.
Last night I had a nightmare that I was taking care of my grandma and heard my mom and uncle conspiring to get me to stay longer. In the dream (and in real life) I was terrified that if they found me, they’d make me stay there forever. Then the rest of that particular dream was me running away from them in a horror version of my already pretty scary childhood home. I’m sure my dream was basically the evil version of a conversation they’ve probably actually had. It’s difficult to juggle a house remodel and elder care along with everything else that’s going on in their respective real lives. A person is entitled to want some help. But as entitled as they are to want help, I am also entitled to stay in my comfort level and decide what’s best for me, even if it’s not best for everybody around me.
I’ve agreed to stay with grandma for 5 days, and Ben is coming with me, at least that’s good. I’ve already talked to my uncle about what I’m going to need equipment-wise in order to operate my business from grandma’s house, and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than hiring a baby-sitter. I’m nervous about being back in the house again. I know my grandfather is dead, but it’s still not somewhere I like to be, especially over-night. There’s a lot of feels involved in this, and it’s making me apprehensive. But I know that there are a lot of other options if worse comes to worst.