Saturday, April 21, 2012

Too Mad to Come Up With A Title

I received a call at 9:00 p.m. tonight from my mother.  Naturally, I assumed someone was hurt or dying because why else would she call me when she knows for sure that Ian is sleeping?  She opened the conversation with "I need a loan of $20 or more from you.  There's a family health issue and the person with the family health issue asked me for the money.  I don't have it, so I need to borrow it from you.  It will be my loan though."  I said "Let's cut the crap.  What is wrong with [my sister] now?"  Then my mom launched into a huge story about how my sister (who is 26 years old, mind you) took my 6 year old niece to the hospital and found out she has bilateral ear infections.  My sister supposedly needs $14 to get my niece's medication.  My mom wanted me to wire transfer her $20 (which costs $5-$7 to do) and she would then use $5 of that money to wire the remaining $15 to my sister.  My mom told me that not helping would mean my niece could lose her hearing in both ears.

I explained to my mom that Medicaid would cover my niece's prescription costs.  Apparently, my sister doesn't have Medicaid for my niece because they wanted her to take two classes before getting Medicaid, and the classes would interfere with her (20 hour a week fast food) work schedule.  I told my mom that there are loads of free clinics in the city where my sister lives.  My mom said that my sister told her there wasn't and my sister had already been to the hospital and no one would help get the prescriptions.  At that point...I called BULLSHIT.  No hospital is going to send an uninsured child home without medications that she desperately needs.  Hospitals have pharmacies and frequently provide prescriptions to children late on a Saturday night, when normal pharmacies might not be open.  Even if everything my mother was saying was true, there are dozens of charitable organizations that could provide an emergency "gift" for the cost of the prescriptions.  In fact, one such charitable organization just bought my sister a refrigerator and stove last month because child welfare workers had found out that my sister didn't have any appliances and my niece had no home cooked meals, milk, fruits or vegetables, etc. for months (except for the meals provided at school).  (Every time I think child protective services is finally going to step in and do something for my niece, they find a new way to bandage the bullet my sister time to find new ways to F-up as a parent and giving my niece more time to learn that madness is normal....GRRRRR!)

My mother got furious with me and said that she couldn't believe I could be so heartless.  She kept repeating that if I refused to help, I would be responsible for my niece's suffering.  Finally, I said "You know that [my sister] is on drugs.  She's admitted it to you.  There are clearly ways for [my niece] to get her medicine without $14.  Do you truly believe that this money is for a prescription?  And even if it you really think you are helping [my sister], by enabling her to not avail herself of the resources she has available to her?  Is that really what is best for [my niece] in the long run?  And did it occur to you that the reason she doesn't call me directly to ask for the money is because she knows I'll call her out on the fact that her story doesn't add up, while you are so eager for her love and approval that you will ignore the obvious?"  (I know...not my finest hour, but my family can push my buttons in a way that no one else can).

My mother told me that my sister wouldn't ask me directly because I had told my sister the last time she borrowed money from me that she was never getting another F'ing cent from me.

In fairness, that's not exactly what I said.    Almost exactly a year ago, my sister called me crying, begging me for $50.  She explained that her electricity had been turned off and they had no food in the house, so she and my niece would starve for two days, until she could get to the food pantry, if I didn't wire money to them.  (This was the 100th call of its type over the last few years).  I told my sister that, at 25, she needed to get her shit together.  She was a mother...and she needed to act like it.  Her husband was getting deported so she had a real chance at a fresh start.  I explained to her that she was welcome to move closer to us (as she lives over 4 hours away) or even move in with us, so we could help her out.  But I was not going to continue to enable her to live her life the way she was living it by sending her small amounts of money over and over and over.  There was a lot of crying, and she was clearly not happy with me, but I wired the money and she never overtly asked me for money after that.  She didn't get her shit together either, but at least I could sleep knowing that I wasn't actually making things worse.  Apparently that wasn't exactly how my sister remembers that conversation.

Anyhow...back to tonight's conversation with my mom.  She kept repeating how I should send the money to her.  I said "No.  I'm not spending $5 to send $20 to you."  She said "Well how the hell are you going to get the money to her?"  I said, "I'm not."  She said "What do you mean your not?  You have to.  It is for [your niece].  Don't you love her at all?"  I said "I sure do.  I'm not sending the money."  I was promptly hung up on.

I started crying at that point and haven't fully stopped yet.  I'm so angry.  Angry for being put in this position by my family.  Angry that my niece is being used this way.  Angry that she might actually have bilateral ear infections that aren't being treated because my sister can't even be bothered to get herself on welfare!  Angry that my mother thinks it's okay to make me feel like shit so that she can keep enabling my sister to act like an idiot. 

Oh...and I almost forgot to add...My sister also needed money to go to court next week because her landlord is attempting to evict her.  My mom told me my sister needs $244 to pay late rent.  Here's the problem with that.  First...I know how much her rent is each month and $244 doesn't make any sense.  No one pays $106 of rent when they don't have the rest. don't get taken to housing court after one month of missed rent.  It takes about three months from the first missed rent date to the time of the court date, assuming the landlord immediately instituted eviction proceedings (which almost never happens in the type of establishment you can rent for $350 a month).  So she hasn't paid her rent for at least three months.  Third...this is the eighth eviction my sister has gone through in the last 6 years...that I know about.  I'm not counting the homeless shelters she and my niece have lived in, as those places never actually kicked her out. (Can you sense my sarcasm there?)  So I'm angry that my sister is a habitual liar and can pay for pot and other drugs, but can't be bothered to keep a roof over my niece's head.

I'm just so pissed!!!  I keep waiting for my sister to hit "rock bottom" so she can start to rise up.  I want to believe that one of these days she is going to wake up and realize that she's got to change.  I'm pissed that I might be wrong...this may just be who she is...forever.

And then...there's the other emotions.  My heart is breaking for my niece.  There's not much I can do for her.  Child protective is already involved.  I'm not going to go into full out war with my sister to try to take custody of my niece away from her (a VERY hard thing to do in NY).  Sometimes I just wish I could forget that I have a sister or a niece.  How awful is that?  My poor helpless niece...and I'm trying to forget she's there because it hurts too much to think about how she is being forced to live.  And adding to that old friend Guilt.

I feel guilty for making my mother mad.  Guilty that my niece may be sleeping (or not sleeping) with terrible ear pain and illness, and I'm not sending money to help her.  Guilty that I am having to force myself to love my sister (and mother) at this point.  Guilty that I can't fix their problems.  Guilty that I spend more on two weeks worth of Ian's fancy diapers than what I am being asked to send to my sister...and I still won't send it.  Guilty that Ian probably has more clothes and toys at 4 months old than my niece has at 6 years old.  Guilty that, even though we take my niece out to the store to get her clothes, shoes, toys and school supplies when we visit, we only visit once a year.  Guilty because my family truly sees me as the selfish brat in this situation.  In their minds I have more money than I know what to do with and I am too selfish to help them with their basic necessities.  It's not that simple...but I understand why it looks that way to them.  And for that, I feel guilty.

My husband says I need to let this go.  He says I can't fix the problem and I did the right thing, so I need to just get some sleep and focus on the fact that I am being a good mom to Ian...screw the rest of my family.  It's easier said than done.  My head is pretty sure I did the right thing.  My heart isn't.  That's why this is bothering me so much.  That's why I'm venting onto my blog.  That's why I'm still crying.


Megan said...

I just wanted to say I'm so very sorry that you have this situation but do think that you've done the right thing. You'd be one more person enabling your sister if you did wire the $20 to your Mom.

I can only imagine how difficult it is (the war between your heart and your head) but I have a mantra when I get upset about aggravating situations similar to this one (I have a step-sis with numerous issues) and it's "self-inflicted no pity." Your Mom is using your niece as a pawn when the issue is really about your sister.

Stay strong, keep breathing!

ks said...

What a terrible situation! I'm so sorry that you keep getting dragged into this! It's just so sad that your niece is the one getting the brunt force of your sisters bad decisions and choices! CPS really needs to wake up though and help this child!
I hate having conflict with your head and heart. I think you did the right thing though. At one point you have to stop enabling your sister to keep doing this and using your niece! Stay strong!
All my best!

Michelle D said...

Agreed. You did the right thing. Enabling is only going to keep her head barely above water and prob disable any case that CPS can build against her (sounds like they have lots of material sorry for your niece). I really hope they can add it all up to get her out to a better situation. Prior CPS worker here and such a frustrating system sometimes :P I would say it might be good to write it all down (if you haven't already) just in case it ever helps with a court case.
But definitely take care of yourself and Ian first and foremost. Good luck and sorry for the heartache.

Jem said...

What a truly shitty situation you are in. Of course you feel guilty and of course you need to stand your ground.

Is there any way you can see your niece separately from your sister? And see her more often than once a year? Take her for a couple of weeks in the summer? do more for her?

I only ask because I was your niece for a little while as a kid. Looking back as an adult (in therapy) I was seriously pissed at my aunt and my grandma for NOT stepping in an taking me away from the abuse/neglect I was facing (even if it was only short term, and my mom wasn't on drugs, just in denial).

I'm NOT saying this is your problem or that you HAVE to do anything. I'm just suggesting that you be the source of love and comfort for your niece, even if your sister is a piece of shit and your mom is too weak to stop enabling the drug abuse and neglect.

Krystyn said...

With addiction being my field of expertise, I can honestly say that it is one of the hardest things to deal with, both for the person addicted and the family. I completely support your decisions and truly believe that what you did was the right thing. The more your sister is enabled, the worse the situation is going to get. I usually tell the doctors that I supervise that if they feel in their gut that the story they are being told is off, then it probably is. You have dealt with the lies, the manipulation, the guilt, so you know when something isn't right. Trust yourself and the decisions that you make, as you cannot fix the situation and sending your sister $20 is not going to fix the problem.

((Hugs)) I am here if you ever want to talk!

Lindsey said...

I'm so sorry you're going through this. I think you made the right decision by not sending your mom the money. If the guilt keeps eating you up maybe you could talk to your sister and pay the pharmacy directly (that way you know you're helping your neice and can confirm the meds).
My heart is breaking for you right now, I can't even imagine being in that position.

Tippy said...

Oh man, how awful that you have to go through this. Drug addiction is so tormenting to a family. I feel so badly for you all and your niece. I can imagine that you want so badly to go in a sweep that child up and take care of her. It breaks my heart for her, big time. Sending support to you and your family.