Saturday, May 05, 2007

Why I Stay....

A few have asked why I stay in this living situation. This isn't exactly a re-creation of the post I deleted but hopefully it will explain some of my thinking on the matter.

I met D when I first arrived in northern California from Tucson. I was staying in the Budget Inn at I-80, just me and my carload of "stuff". There's no doubt that I was a bit of a stray cat at that time, not quite certain what I would do here.. or even if I would like it.

There were lots of rental ads in the paper but one caught my attention in particular. It was under "Temporary Rentals". "Small cottage for rent. Furnished."

It was that short. Really. But the word "cottage" set my fantasies running and it lived up to all of them. I called the number and said, "I just got here from Tucson. I'm looking for a place to rent. I can't afford deposits and have no credit to speak of. Given that, are you willing to let me see it."

D was on the other end of the phone. She said, in her thick Texas accent, "I don't need a deposit and as long as you pay the rent, I couldn't care less about your credit."

There was something about her blunt reaction to my blunt statement that set me into laughter.

I saw the cottage the next day and immediately fell in love with it. It was in her back yard, a guest house really. It was surrounded by cherry trees, nectarine trees, canopies of wisteria, a grape vine, honeysuckle and roses. It was stunning. Really. It was.

Four or five years later, due to V's spending, she had to sell that house. She asked me to move in here. I wasn't really too excited about the idea but it was cheap and we get along pretty well so I decided to give it a chance.

Without stating it openly, we established a certain set of standards by which we interact with each other. We've always been kind. She helped me out with things. I helped her out with things. When she got really sick a few years ago, I am the one who nursed her back to health. I made sure she took her medicine, that she got to doctor appointments and that she was fed and entertained to a degree. She trusted me with access to her bank accounts, let me pay her bills, use her car.... In essence, I was her errand runner.

I liked being needed that way. It fits right in with my natural inclinations.

A year ago this month, she told me that V would be moving here from Southern California. He'd finally hit rock bottom and needed a place to rebuild. I didn't know V so I was completely behind her. Thought it was a great idea.

Once I met V, I knew who I was dealing with. The man is a sociopath. He's a deadbeat and a liar. It's obvious what he's doing. He can be very charismatic but if you scratch beneath the surface, he is a hollow person. There's no one home inside.

What happened Thursday was not a complete surprise to me. I believe that if I hadn't broken up that fight, there might have been a homicide that day. When I broke it up, V had his hands around M's throat and was choking him. M was close to passing out. It scared the living hell out of me and I reacted out of instinct.

Prior to that event, I've never seen any violence around here. Ever.

D is devastated by V's problem. I know that.

She's getting old, to put it bluntly. I won't state her age, in deference to her Texas sensibilities.. but I'll say that she's more than 20 years older than me.

She's overly emotional, has a real problem letting go of her kids and has other issues but she has one of the biggest hearts I've ever known.

It would seem that I am the only support she has through all of this. Her kids are all a mess and she doesn't really have all that many friends. Why that is, I don't know.. but it's her situation.

So when I think about leaving her alone here with V, it doesn't seem possible.

Would I like to leave? Yes. In some ways, I would. I'm sick and tired of being around an alcoholic. I'm tired of his sucking the oxygen out of this place every time he goes on a binge. Life here revolves around what V is doing today. Is he drinking? Is he sober? Is he going to have any money for rent this month? You know, it's constant puddle-jumping from one V crisis to another. It's V drama, day in and day out.

But if there's one thing I've learned through my family experience, it is that loyalty means something and you don't bail because things are a bit tough.

I don't have it nearly as bad as D. I can come into my little granny unit and shut the doors. I am not forced to deal with it.

I do it for D. Simply. Because she has earned loyalty from me over ten years' time.

And she probably only has a few years left. She depends on me a lot more than she'd ever admit. Leaving her alone in this situation would feel like doing something so horribly wrong that I can barely let my mind go there.

What kind of person would I be to do that?

So, as you can see, it's a complicated situation. It's not just a matter of me leaving for my own comfort. It's a matter of leaving someone behind who doesn't really have a lot of resources.

That's why I stay.




jen said...

of course you stay for a reason beyond yourself. you stay for your community. and a member of that makes everyone else's life a nightmare, but that doesn't always mean there are easy fixes. that doesn't mean we just pack up and leave. sometimes, sure. but your view of community being what it is, of course, it makes such beautiful sense.

you stay for the right reasons, friend. but what about when it's ultimately time to leave and head eastern?

ellie bee said...

Sounds like a missed a sounds awful.
Just don't confuse self-sacrifice with loyalty.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Are you very sure that V doesn't have firearms?

I get it. D has become family. She sounds like a nice lady. It's clear from your post that you know things will never change there. V will take more and more from his mother and from anyone else who is there, until there is nothing left.

If D lives long enough, she will eventually have to sell her home because of V, and she will be out on the street.

This is a heartbreaking story worthy of a Eugene O' Neill play. This mother will never stand up for herself or for you against her son, even to the degree of forcing him into rehab, it seems.

Please don't hate me, but are you sure that you're not exchanging your own family's shit for that of another family?

You have a beautiful, generous soul, Chani. I honestly don't know what I would do in your situation either, as D clearly depends on you. Your kindness has put you in a very tough place.

I just don't want you to be like D and not stand up for yourself. I don't want to see you go down with the ship.

Anvilcloud said...

It seems to me that your thinking is just about right. Too bad she's stuck with a son like that.

slouching mom said...

The very definition of being between a rock and a hard place, I'd say.


Laurie said...

You are such a kind soul, Chani. I respect your decision to stay and hope that no harm comes to you or D. You are in my thoughts.

Bob said...

I too think that D has become your family. I agree, you don't run out on family.

rock and a hard place, indeed.

QT said...

This is so tough, Chani. I understand completely your rationale for staying, but I too wonder what will become of D when you are eastward bound?

Please make sure you have a parachute.

liv said...

Chani, This is such a tough situation. I guess I relate because it's so easy for those on the outside to come up with a million solutions or pieces of advice when they don't have the ability to FEEL the life from the inside out. I respect your explanation, and feel strongly that you will do what is best--what is right for you. Just please try to stay safe.

MsLittlePea said...

Of course. I can see why it would be so hard for you or anyone in that situation to just pack up and leave. Loyalty is a very important quality in a frined to me as well and I admire that. I do hope for everyone's sake that V gets some help.

meno said...

Life is full of shitty choices. You have one here, and there is no right answer. Just try and stay safe, because this guy scares me.

Mary said...

Sure, I understand. It's the loyalty you have and not wanting to leave a friend who needs help. I only hope that D's situation improves and you can keep your sanity.

Anonymous said...

What Bob said. A rock and a hard place. Good luck Chani.

Snoskred said...

Ok. These are just a few thoughts on what you've posted.

1. Violence in the home is never acceptable. I've walked out on a marriage over it. I've been there for other friends when they had to do the same. I volunteered for a domestic violence help line. Before I did that, I had this picture in their minds of what domestic violence is and it usually is a man and a wife and the man beating her, but it includes so many other situations and what you have described here sounds like one of them. This might even be considered elder abuse.

Have a read for yourself - how many of the ticks on this page apply to him?

From what you have said, there's no doubt he is financially abusive, and probably emotionally abusive towards D.

He may never have hit you, and he may never have hit D, but you're all walking around on tiptoes around this guy.

I'd also say that this is affecting you and your moods more than you realise. Is it healthy? I don't think so.

1a. Domestic violence is not just about hitting. It sounds like this guy is several of the other forms of abusive towards D.

2. What consequences have there been for V? When he was choking M, did anyone call the police? When he does things that are unacceptable, what happens? Does he always get away with whatever behaviour he gets up to?

3. V has been there for a year and it seems he's not making any decent changes towards getting it together. Will this continue?

4. Have you spoken to D about it? What does she really want? Does she want to live life like this? I don't think she does and it's fairly clear from what you say that you don't want to, are there any other options? Is she allowing him to stay because she wants to, or because he's making threats and making it impossible for her to ask him to leave?

I understand that V is her son and she loves him but frankly his behaviour is very scary not just for you, but for her as well, and is it the right thing to do to allow it to continue? Does being loyal to her mean you have to allow her to be abused by this man who is also her son?

You're right when you say it is her situation, but because you are living there it's sort of yours by proxy. You can shut the doors on your granny unit but D cannot - and maybe things get a lot worse than she lets on.

Let me put it this way. If you were living there and V was not her son but was her partner and was hitting her, what would you be saying to her?

I'd be willing to bet what you'd be saying to her as someone who cares for her and is loyal to her is - you need to get out of this situation.

Now I could be wrong. I'm not there in the situation with you. He might be a perfectly nice drunk who only occasionally decides to try and strangle people. He might be a fantastic son with a drinking problem that he can get help for. He might not be systematically stealing all her life savings.

Have you ever heard of Al-Anon? There will be people there who understand what *both* of you are going through.

There are resources out there for D in this situation, it's only a matter of finding them.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned you having a parachute. You need one, Chani. For as much as you consider them family, they aren't. And in the end you will have the nice feeling that you remained "loyal" while you become homeless. It's a fine-line to have loyalty AND self-protectiveness. But you need both. I agree with the above inputs -- if this guy was just some guy and not a son, wouldn't you report him? And would you stay? Hard questions. Don't confuse co-dependence with loyalty. It's a fuzzy picturee. You're such a dear, sweet, non-violent person....don't be taken for a ride to nowhere. Cece

Anonymous said...

We're in similar circumstances. I take care of my parents, which keeps me rooted in Texas when I would dearly love to live Someplace Else.

crazymumma said...

That is beautiful and loyal. And I am not surprised by your decision to stay considering the journey you are on. But.

Please remember, they are not really your family, and a few years is a long time. And the east does call.

And thank you for your words over my way. Really, tehy meant so much and they brought me such peace. Go on over, you will see.