Trepidation in The Park this week. My sister, T, decided late last week to come home. Seems her partner had been laying on a heavy guilt trip – “Your Mom had bypass and you didn’t go home for the surgery? What kind of daughter are you?” After a month, she suddenly decided she had to come home, canceling a planned business trip this week.
i understand how hard it has been for her to be far away – even though we’ve provided regular updates by phone and e-mail, and she’s had plenty of opportunities to talk with Mom by phone. And i have been careful not to tell her to stay away – i provide the status, explain current conditions and present Mom’s needs, but it ultimately has to be her decision whether to come home or not…
The night of Mom’s surgery in mid-May, T called me – probably after quite a few drinks – and was saying she would come home, that her partner, LPGA, was making her feel horrible about not being home for the surgery. This conversation – incredibly one-sided, as T doesn’t listen, or seemingly take a breath, when she’s on a rant – didn’t really go anywhere. It finally came to a close after i had to scream at her to shut up and listen to me – she actually calmed down, when i explained that there was really nothing to be done, Mom would be in ICU for at least a week.
The sad nugget buried in this little dance?
On top of everything else, the last thing Mom wanted – or needed – was to have T come home. And the rest of us were working to follow this unspoken guidance. There is a little background on my sister T here. As i stated then, she is truly remarkable in both her degree of professional accomplishment and her ability to self-manage her bipolar disorder.
But with this trip home, we’re all a bit edgy. She came home under similar circumstances about a year into Dad’s post-surgical chemo. It was clear from the pre-visit telephone conversations that she was edging toward imbalance. When she arrived? All hell broke loose. Shortly after her arrival, there was a screaming session in a grocery store – triggered by an innocuous event – and she waged a bitter attack on DQ and her then husband, LC** until i returned her to the airport a week later.
The shitstorm broke while i was at work on a Monday. i first got a call from Mom, then from DQ. Both messages – “Get down here, T’s lost it”. Getting home from work, i called the house – Dad answered the phone. In the background, i could hear T yelling obscenities at the top of her lungs, and Dad simply said “If this is how you all are going to help me then just leave me the fuck alone…” before hanging up.
i was on the warpath. Grabbing my keys, i was headed down there to beat the piss out of her. Yelling? Screaming? Creating a tempest under their roof when Dad was dying? My ex-husband physically restrained me – for the first and only time in our 25 year marriage. He calmly pointed out that if i went down there, i’d most likely pound her into a barking pulp, and she’d have me arrested for assault. Further aggravating the situation. He was right.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about my sister, T? When she “loses her balance”, she never seems to lose her sharpness of wit and intellect. When in a manic phase, she is formidable***… and as a result, it seems to fall to me to “deal with it”****. For the most part, i’ve learned how to best help her settle down – but it’s not been pleasant.
i’ll be heading into the threatening storm in the morning – taking Mom to see her hot cardiologist for the post-bypass physical. Just not ready for this…
* Props to the Divine Miss M as the Big Noise From Winnetka!
** T saw quickly that there was a degree of “exploitation” by DQ and LC — although they were taking care of Mom and Dad (all of the yard work and home maintenance was handled by LC), they milked the situation… and this set off the tirade. Though her instincts were good, her timing and approach were dreadful.
*** Her first breakdown at age 26 was when she was working on her PhD. She actually wrote her entire dissertation in 6 days – pretty much with no sleep. It was accepted with only minor revisions – while she was hospitalized, and recovering from the breakdown (and arrest) at the height of that episode.
**** Short notice trip to Hong Kong when she was there on sabbatical to keep her “level”, responding to a mailed “suicide” note to my parents, numerous interventions to keep her contained and prevent her from saying things that would cause irreparable harm… there are more.