This I Believe

E Marcella - Charleston, South Carolina
Entered on September 19, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family

This I believe. I believe children are indebted to their parents for their upbringing. This is our obligation. We sometimes see it as a burden but there comes a time for the younger generation to care for their parents. It comes as a surprise to some people that I would take care of my mother when she started to fall so far behind in her utilities and rent. I tried to help her pay them. I had just purchased my first house and money was tight. I really did not want her move into my house. I was a happily single woman in my thirties and had just moved into my first house. In fact this would be the first time in my entire life that I have ever lived in a house. I was elated. So when mother was about to be evicted, I did what any dutiful daughter would do. I invited her to live with me. This was only to be a temporary situation. Temporary turned into six years. This was quite an experience.

Parents act from a desire to do what they believe to be best for the child. Let me give you some background on my family. My mother is a wonderful hardworking woman. She has raised my four brothers and sisters almost single-handedly. Everyone has a hard childhood story. My story involves my mother’s mental illness. I didn’t know it was called mental illness. The family and neighbors referred to her as crazy. In spite of this label, she managed to keep a roof over our head and food in our stomachs. Sometimes we were evicted from various apartments, electricity was turned off and there were times when the cupboards were bare. Mother always had two jobs but just couldn’t seem to stay ahead on her bills and feeding the five of us. The only father I knew was guy in the Navy. From what I’ve learned he married my mother when she had one child and was about six months pregnant with me. He was not a bad guy. He was not the greatest guy either. To his credit he did marry mother. He was weak. His weakness was alcohol and living large. He got paid and drank it all up with his friends even he had a wife and five children that needed a roof over their head and food. When he got drunk and spent of his money, he came home and beat my mother.

It appears that we all adapt to situations as it presents itself. I learned a lot when I am hungry and want to keep secrets. When I started school the last thing I wanted was to be different from my classmates. I wanted to fit in as much as possible. I asked my mother to fill in the form for “free lunch”. Her response was that we did not need it. She was a very proud woman and did not believe in any type of public assistance. She worked very hard to provide for us. She said she would give us money for our lunch. When I asked her to give me lunch money she often told me that she did not have any money to give me. That in it-self would have been okay if we had food in the house and I could make a brown bag lunch, but we had no food. After several days of sitting around hungry, I got the form from teacher, took it home and forged her signature. That was the beginning of me forging her signature on any and every document that required a parents’ signature. I learned to fill in everything from elementary school field trip permission slips up to college applications. I know the only reason that I even have an education is because I had to develop survival skills from my mother’s inability to cope with reality. This is not a cry baby story. I feel blessed to have my mother. I see so many people that don’t understand what it really means to value the things that you have. Not only financial, but character and care for others. I think there are so many spoiled people in the world today. I am not judging any body. This is taking only care of Mother. I do not talk about taking care of my mother for glory or applaud. I do it has a kind of release, a therapy for me. I can’t open up to therapists or ministers. My mother’s craziness has always been my responsibility and my duty. I thought that’s what you do for your family. This is especially true for a parent or other close family member. I can’t get into deep feelings with others (except my sisters and brothers). The sharing of fear and dread that drives me to do all I can to protect her. The constant exhaust and decisions for her care when you need to travel, taking off from work for doctor appointments, grocery shopping, housing and other day to life activities that we take for granted. It is not my nature to share my true feelings easily. I loose patience with others because they don’t know her. They dispense opinions and suggestions that are not practical for her situation. Their opinions and suggestions are based on dealing with my mother and her paranoia, dementia, high blood pressure and assorted demands take its toll on me. I feel as if I am about to loose my mind. Really. I also feel guilty for being so selfish. I am exhausted and irritable. I talk about my mother and her day-to-day antics with others who are experiencing the same thing. I feel I am not exceptional because this is how my entire life has been since childhood when I starting forging her signature. This has forced me learn about finance, medical processes and paying bills and keeping a dollar in my pocket for hard times. The cold, hard fact is money makes things easier. Do not depend on the agencies, church groups, or government for assistance. Have a plan. Hoard money. Have resources. Save yourself. Do not look to others to save you. It is unrealistic. Above all, honor your parents no matter what their faults. As cliché as it sounds, they truly have your best interest at heart. This I believe.