by Elaine Miller
I had been frustrated when I took Sean to the hospital, as I didnít have guardianship of him though I was his main care provider along with his Mom. He depended on me more. His Mom was out running around most of the time that we were home. I finally talked his mother into signing papers that we would all have co-guardianship of him. I hired an attorney and we went to court. First we had to pay another attorney to represent the child and allow him to tell her if he wanted us to be guardians too. He said that he did. We all appeared before the judge and she asked Sean if that was what he wanted and he said yes, he wanted to stay with us and have us take care of him. It was set up to be for only one month and then we all had to go back before the judge again. It was then made permanent. I hated to put Sean through all those proceedings, but thatís how the system is set up.
I had told the first grade teacher that attention deficit ran in our family and to just be aware of that. No male for several generations had skipped being attention deficit. She never mentioned it until the second semester. She then said he was disruptive in the classroom and she wondered if he was taking his medicine. I was highly irritated. I brought her the form to fill out and then took it to the pediatrician. She put him on the medication, Ritalin. He did better. From time to time he would get in trouble on the school bus for fighting. It seemed that the first few years he was in school that he was suspended from the bus for a week at least once each year.
During his grade school years Mary started seeing an old friend of the family. John had gone to school with my son Seth. John had been wild in his day. He had had several serious accidents from cars and motorcycles and his back was messed up and he was also life after head injury. Mary pretty much saw him most of the time. He lived about two miles from us in his own house. He had been married a couple of times before and each marriage had ended in divorce. He had two boys and a girl and he would have them a lot of times on the weekend.
Mary got so that she was down there with him all the time. I was relieved that she was not out carousing around. Now and then she would run into another old boy friend but she mainly stayed with John. I would have to make her come home to baby-sit her own child. Once we had plans to go out and she told me flat out that she also had plans and she was not baby-sitting and I could find my own sitter. I would usually take him to Marieís. Several times when my grandson Andy was old enough, I hired him to come up and baby-sit for us. However, sometimes the two boys did get a little rowdy.
When Johnís kids came for the weekend to his house, Mary would take Sean and she and Sean would spend the night. I was always worried that she and John were not watching the kids very well. One day I went by to check and they didnít know where the four of them were. My grandson Andy had been down playing with the four of them and had gone home mad and told my son that they were in the high creek water playing. It turned out they were all sloshing around and swimming in the creek. There had been a big rain and Sean was in water above his head. The other kids were all a little older. He did not know how to swim that well. I got on Mary for not keeping an eye on Sean. She just got mad or blew me off when we had those kind of go-rounds.
John and Mary had their ups and downs. If Mary got mad at him, they would sometimes have a knockdown drag out fight. Once she kicked the window out in his front door. They would say they had broken up and be back together again the next day. John said that he loved Mary and she said that she loved him. He lived on disability and had a medical card like she did. There were times that she didnít pay me her rent, which was very low, because "he needed the money." I used to get aggravated at her. I would go outside to the garage to my big freezers knowing that I had bought hamburger or chicken and it would be gone. I would go to make coffee knowing I had almost a whole can and there would be enough for only one pot. Iíd go to put more toilet paper in the bathroom and there would be only one roll left. Mary was stealing my food and paper goods because "John needed them." I told her she needed to ask me, but she just blew me off and kept right on. She said that she was at his house part of the time and so we owed him that. We got into some really nasty arguments about it.
Mary never was sorry that she took stuff from us. She just figured we had the money to go buy more. It really infuriated me. It seemed I was angry about one thing or another with her. I hated it when she was running wild with men and I liked John, but on the other hand she traded that behavior for incessantly stealing from us with no regard as to how we felt about it.
It seemed that when Mary took up with a man she enmeshed herself with him. She took on his thinking and his personality. It was like she didnít have a mind of her own any more. It seemed that she equated love with sex.
Mary didnít stop and think about how her son might feel with her gone all the time and her putting men first. She didnít seem to care. It was as if she had this compulsion to put the man above anything and anybody no matter what the consequences. There were different times in Seanís life where he cried because his Mom was not there for him. He became more and more acutely aware of it as time went on. As he has gotten older, he has stuffed more and more rage about his Mom being different, about not having a home life like his friends and other cousins, and that his Mom is not there for him at times.
Mary and John went together for two years or more. Finally, they had a really big fight. John said he was finished with her. She called and called him, hung around outside his house, and stalked him. He went up to the circuit court and filed papers that she was to stay away from him for a year. She was crushed. Before the year was out, they were sneaking around seeing each other from time to time. They were sneaky about it because both of them thought that the police were watching and if they saw them together, they would arrest both of them for breaking the decree. They had had fights in the past and the law had become involved. They never really got back together.
There were times when Mary would get into it with Marie and once she kicked the glass out of her door too. The police were called. Of course, Marie called hysterical and I had to rush right over. I made Mary leave and no one was charged with anything. When Mary got started she would not quit and would then start breaking things. Marie would become hysterical and everything would get out of control.
Once we had gone on vacation and left Mary responsible for her child and our pets and the house. We came home after driving for twelve hours and she got real mad at me. Whenever she got mad at us she would call the law on us. The county police were in our district, but she did the same for her sister who lived in the city, so all the law enforcement people got to know us well, whether county or city.
Anyhow, she called the police and told them she was just going to "kill myself." Two officers rushed over in their cars who had never been here before and they were young. I was in no mood to deal with them. I told them she was being dramatic and was not serious. I told them she was life after head injury and that she was emotionally fourteen. The youngest one told me that I needed to be responsible for her and that I could be fined for her making those kinds of calls. I told him, "I think not. She is in her thirties and is considered an adult on her own." I told him the only person I had guardianship and responsibility for was her child. I told him if he wanted to talk to her to go ahead, but I was unpacking and was in no mood for one of her little tantrums. He told me I ought to take it seriously when she says she is going to kill herself. I stalked out of the room and he took her off the property to talk to her. It was evident he didnít like my attitude.
Pretty soon the phone rang and it was a person from ERS, who wanted to talk to one of the officers. I had to traipse all the way out behind the barn to get him. I was not happy because I was so tired. He told me he was not coming to the phone. I told him that he sure as hell was since I had to come all the way back there to get him. Mary was standing there crying, accusing me of slapping her, which I had only threatened to do, but hadnít. The officer got out of the car and everyone started to follow me back to the house. I turned to Mary and said, "are you ready to cut out the hysterics and go to bed now?" She demurely said, " yes," went in and up to her room to bed. I turned and looked at the officers, they talked briefly to ERS and took their leave. They had a real disgusted look on their face. I just looked at them and told them, "Thank you for coming" in a syrupy sweet voice. I really restrained myself from saying, "I told you so!"
Another time I had told Mary that she was not leaving and was going to take care of her child. She raged out to her car and was going to leave. Don went out there and rendered her car inoperable. I was at work by that time and he was working in the garden. She screamed and yelled at him and of course she called the law. She told them her step father was threatening her etc. Don said the next thing he knew three squad cars were flying down the lanes, one at the side of the house, and ones racing around to the back. He said they flew by several times and he just went on working quietly in the garden watching them. Finally they figured out where to go. They flew into the driveway and got out and went over to talk to him. By that time she was out the door shrieking and yelling in her raspy voice. Don explained the situation and that he had bought her the car. They told him he had to put it back together since the car was registered in her name. He fixed it and she zoomed off. The police just shook their heads and drove away. They were policemen who knew us.
One time, however, she did make that threat and ended up in the hospital psych ward. She was still seeing the counselor at the hospital but he was on vacation so she talked to another counselor. She said she was just going to kill herself and before she knew it she was a patient. Of course that put me in a bind for a sitter for Sean. Marie ended up being my back up.
Mary had a friend who periodically would try to kill herself by slitting her wrist. I think that Mary thought when things were not going well for her she could say it and everyone would sit up and take notice. She was not happy that time with being admitted to the hospital. They only kept her a couple of days and then she came home. While she was there I took Sean to see her. She had done crafts and gave him the little things she had made. He was pleased she gave him the little gifts and put them where he wanted them in the house.
There were episodes of calling the law involving all the members of the family. At times I was so upset I was crying, which is something I do only when I am so frustrated that I canít control a situation. One time a young ERS woman came out here and told me she had the solution. I should just kick Mary out. I tried to explain to her that it was not that simple. Marie had rushed over to help. She tried to talk to the woman too. Finally everyone settled down and the police and ERS went away. There were so many episodes like that that I donít even remember the details about what set her off. I just knew at times that I was sick of my chaotic life. I wanted so badly to give Sean a stable life style. He was nervous and upset when these events occurred, too. Then later, I would quietly sit down and try to explain to him that his Mom was that way sometimes because she was head injured. I could tell that he hated it when his Mom blew up.
I would find myself reacting by screaming and yelling at her too. Then I was contributing to the chaos. There were also times when she would aggravate Sean and he would scream and yell at her in a disrespectful way. As he became older it got to the point where I felt that I had two kids fighting. She would come running and tell me to, "make him stop doing ÖÖ.." He would be right behind her saying, "Mom wonít stop doing..Ö" I would have to tell them to both knock it off and for them to leave each other alone.
As Sean has gotten older Mary has also undermined my discipline. If I had grounded him from the computer or video games and TV, she waits until I leave and then she will let him do it and tell him not to tell me. He always tells me. If I confront her, she tells me he is her son and she has custody. There are times when she thinks Iím running around plotting to keep her from her child. At those times I have to reassure her.
Sean did grieve when she broke up with John. He loved to go down there and play with the other kids. He asked me over and over why John and his Mom couldnít make up. There have never been kids his age around us and he is secluded and generally only plays with his cousins. He is old enough now that he has a friend that calls him all the time and occasionally they get together to play. It has been difficult for him to have a good social life, but on the other hand we have a large play area and a wonderful maple tree that every grandchild loves to climb. Once Sean referred to the tree as his tree and Andy told him that it was his tree before it was Seanís. I intervened before that discussion got out of hand.