After ten years of not exactly saintly but certainly thorough and effective advocacy for someone with an unfortunate cluster of problems, your vocabulary changes. Words like ‘impairment,’ ‘handicap,’ and ‘disorder’ become second nature. You may not like their clinical sheen, but since they’re far better than the words applied during a tempestuous childhood, you use them. The ugly echoes: ‘fat slob,’ ‘fucking nuts,’ and ‘impossible.’
But today, a new word supplies perspective and it is GRIME. Sorting your sister’s beads from the failed parent-financed venture in Rockport, you dump them into plastic trays, eager to chuck the sticky plastic bags. They are so GRIMY. You use windex on the storage boxes, not wanting to know the source of one lid’s ocher spatter (cat puke? ramen stock?) The tools of glass-cutting and jewelry-making offer sad testimony to squandered talent — cruddy, rusted and neglected as they are.
Restoration requires, among other things, sand paper.
I had to use a dry toothbrush to clean these three little felt gifts.
Indolence, apathy, compulsive consumption of low brow television and food, the repetitive shooing of most people away, and the manufacturing of insult and victimhood with others, it turns out, leave a grubby residue.
You will need to remember this.
When you’re telling yourself that it wasn’t enough to supply her with a brand new pack of jewelry findings — that you should’ve figured out how to get her crafting as well — you’ll need to remember this.
And you’ll need to remember the virulence of her refusals. Her knack for turning any suggestion that required effort on her part into evidence of your deeply flawed character. Recall, just for one second, her lengthy diatribes about your failure to understand. Your lack of compassion. And how the screeching had more in common with hurricanes or tsunamis than with speech.
You learned not to make the suggestion. And to skedaddle.
You have long recognized the violence of applying “shoulds” to others. Perhaps this difficult passage will teach you to extend the same courtesy to yourself.
As to fatalism: think I’m gonna start taking my social security. At 62, I am now the age my mother was when she died. I’ve outlived my father by eight years. My sister is receiving hospice care at 64.
My parents were smokers and my sister has health issues that I don’t share, but still…
The monthly payment won’t be a lot, but for someone who hasn’t earned a significant salary since the early 90’s, it seems a small fortune.
Lastly, look at this guy. With temps in the mid-30’s and beautiful sun, we enjoyed what felt like a balmy walk this morning!
I gotta say… I place taking care of anyone else’s GRIME in the category of sainthood. I would applaud your sanity and your fortitude of character no matter how you chose to deal with this. You have already done so fucking much! If you donated all of that, full of GRIME to a workshop or school for less fortunate folks, or even threw it off the sacred rocks of the north shore into the sea while screaming every profanity in the book, I would say brava – wait no, I would not. I’d be upset because the gyres have been formed by pure human carelessness. Well, I do know other people donate gross stuff… because I collect donations sometimes and clean the yuck off myself, with a sigh.
Congrats on SS decision!
Oh and did I ever tell you that when my mom started to receive her SS (@62) she bought her own car for the first time? She was sooooo proud and happy! She had worked for my dad way back in the day and he actually had the balls to tell her, when he saw the new car in the driveway, that she should’ve given the checks to HIM! and he was SERIOUS. She told him to “go fry ice” (perhaps that was a first as well) and proceeded to make her car payments (and speeding tickets) plus send each of us kids the proportional remainder of her SS check each month until she died. May she rest in peace. Dee, you gotta lotta life to live and a lot of art to make and a lotta of books to write and I have no doubt the doors are now opening for you onto better times ahead!!
Thanks for the cheers. And the permission to just give stuff away. Truth is, I want the beads. The tools might be of use to the boys. I didn’t know that about your Mom. What a great story. Indicative not just of the times, I’m afraid. Although we live in this house by “what’s mine is yours” — it is NOT the same as having your own money.
Go fry ice?! I’m gonna need to remember that one!
That was hard to read. Hard to feel. Hard to remember. Un-sane mother and drunk father and brother.
On the other topic: We each have to factor in heredity when deciding on Social Security. My husband has outlived his entire family and has had triple bypass but he waited (decided before the bypass) and earned 8% for each year he deferred. He earned far more than I did while working. I have many years to go to outlive my parents- and my check is based on my husband’s earnings not mine. I filed at 65 if that’s the regular age.
Thanks for your comment. I need to learn a little more about my options I guess. I was just comparing what I’d collect now with what I’d collect later based on my earnings.
I need to remember that “Go fry ice” saying. I’m sure it’ll serve me better than my standard “Go take a flying f%$# at the moon.”
Yeah it really is a good one. Has a North Country feel to it.
🙂 🙂 So I glad I shared that! I actually use the phrase once in a while but I just get strange looks, particularly in NJ.
LOL I like the “at the moon” extension on yours!
You tried and tried with her, but sometimes you can’t help someone who won’t help themselves. I had this situation with a friend and eventually I gave up trying. At least she didn’t shout at me! Here in Aus we can get the “ aged pension “ from 65. We get a minuscule amount as it’s means tested and we have self funded superannuation. I don’t know what your system is over there. Cleaning yukky beads sounds like the worst job ever but at least you saved them.
If this were a friendship, it would’ve been over long ago.
The beauty and honesty of your writing is a balm, dear Dee. Know that you are loved and appreciated by so many people – some who you know, others who you don’t. xoxo
Thanks MaryAnn. It was so nice to run into you on the street the other morning!
my favorite line to myself …” don’t should on yourself “…. ( :
That’s exactly it. Perfect way to say it.
There is something about confronting other people’s messes that is both freeing and deeply burdensome. Wiping up (or sanding off) their accumulated filth is more gross than dealing with your own, but there is much less attachment and angst about their possessions. So much can be donated or tossed without guilt or reservation. Out, damn spot!
I have never heard the phrase “go fry ice” before, but it is a keeper.
I am finding that each kind of object forms a portal. That’s what’s difficult. There’s what the object reveals about the life my sister was leading in her apartment as well as my relationship to her. I don’t really have a problem with filth.
And having done this with my mother’s things, I can say there was nowhere near the same kind of emotional charge or baggage.
As for “go fry ice,” we might need to tap Maggie for more North Country sayings!
What you say about self and other really holds with clutter in my experience. Very easy to sort another’s. Wicked hard to sort one’s own.
(((Dee))) you are a saint, I wouldn’t be able to do any of the things you have done for your sister for so many years! & I too am totally confused by the US Social Security system, as Sue says here in Australia we have an Age Pension that is means tested that I look forward to receiving when I turn 66 in 2 years!
It’s news to me that my husband’s earnings might have anything to do with it. So, must investigate.
Here’s what our advisor told us. If you wait until the maximum age for collecting (which is currently 66??), you will collect $Max per year. If instead you collect at the minimum age (which is currently 62??) you will collect $Min per year – BUT you will collect that for four years longer than if you wait as long as possible. So, if you collect $10K per year at the minimum age, you will have collected $40K before you would have collected anything by choosing the maximum age. Now let’s say you would collect $12K per year, rather than $10K, if you wait. That extra $2K per year will take 20 years to make up that $40K in your pocket. Now throw in inflation, and the present value of those early dollars looks even better. Your own SocSec payments are not affected by your spouse’s earnings – only your own – but of course you still have to pay taxes on it. I’m not an accountant, but I jumped at the chance to take it early, especially since I had no intention of working and earning anything during that four-year gap. Looking back at nearly 72, I have no regrets. Good luck with your own analysis.
Thank you so much for this example. You make a clear argument favoring early collection , even absent the possibility of early death. I’m calling on Monday!
Of course, if the differential is more like $8K or $10K (which is unlikely, but possible), then it would take much fewer than 20 years to make it up. You can actually figure it all out pretty quickly if you have kept the most recent of those annual statements SSA sends out.
I love that you put this here. Even if it makes my head swim in confusion. I half expected Tom Lehrer to start singing New Math!! lol
Dee this is one of those ‘adult’ decisions that confound me!
A half hour google research made my head want to explode. There is something available to spouses in long term marriages. Complicated everything!!
Ohhhh Dee, heartbreaking to read your stuff , but you’re doing so well ! keep on going and doing good ! I hope you enjoy using those beads and make them into something beautiful (they and you deserve that !!! )
Our pension system is rather good here (started at 65 but is being moved to 67) I enjoyed it for some years now and I was lucky that I could stop at 61 at school, though I had to give up a bit of pension for that (but after being ill I new time is more precious than money !!!)
Though I LOVED my teaching job I’ve enjoyed these last 10+ years doing LOTS of fun things !
Take care Dee !!!
I plan to make some bracelets and necklaces. I have quite a store of my own to mix them up with. And thanks for the kind words, Els.
the fun with beads is they stay beautiful no matter how long you wait to do something with them … good luck with them
Thanks Els. It was the bags that were grimy not the beads. The beads are like new.
If you have been married for 20 years, you can collect on your husband’s earning record. Please ask on Monday. Perfectly legal. The difference between $600 and $1200 a month for me.
Good to know. Married for almost 30. He’s made money. I have not.
Usually I simply enjoy how clearly and with what economical craft you tell story and though I did that, I have to say I felt terribly sad throughout. It has been a sad situation for so long and still is. I think I identify with the accumulation of neglected things. At 76, with knee joints fragile and upper body strength diminished, it’s hard indeed to keep things clean, and REALLY hard to drag bags down three flights to the lobby and another flight to the street. Never mind trying to repair walls, floors, ceilings and dust is my middle name. Excuses. I can honestly say now, I wish I’d done more sooner. My admiration for your efforts remains unflagging.
PS I still hope I win the lottery in one of the three or four times a year I take a $2 ticket and know quite well, I’m more likely to be hit by lightning twice.
Not all neglect and accumulation of dust is because of “difficulty.” Some is simply because of the passage of time and some arise from the restrictions that come with age. This whole thing has sensitized me to issues of mobility. Big time. My sister had a lot of help through a couple of social agencies. It sounds like you still do just about everything on your own. I’m amazed how much you are out and about, actually. Way more than I am.
Dee~ I am so glad for your sharing, even if it breaks my heart to read them. Your courage and fortitude impresses. May your process continue as best it can. That shell and buttons could be mine, which the first time I was here, was comforting. Now after reading here again and again, they make me feel as if I have so much more to let go of. I so agree with Michelle in the ease of doing department. I save all of my physical energy for work, which leaves J. on housework duties. He wants this place to ‘stay’ clean and nice. It is hard to stay caught up with the all of life. xo Dee, be well.
There will be many balances to strike. I’m. It sure courage and bravery have been much in evidence. Persistence? Maybe. A battered loyalty? Okay. It might’ve been braver to walk away years ago.