I had a friend. A very good friend. A friend I miss, a friend I’m mad at, a friend who betrayed me, a friend I can’t seem to let go. We met in hospital, sitting at the same dinner table. We got along ok, and so before I left I gave her my number, just in case she ever needed to talk. This time was the worst time of my life. I was trying to get a divorce, but some really caring and loving friends and family had told Human Services I was not a fit parent. So, instead of the divorce moving along, now I was bogged down in family court fighting for the right to keep my kids. Human Services was basically given free reign by the family court judge to put up a many requirements as possible for me to meet. And for every one I met, there were a dozen new ones to meet. Or, whether I met it or not, either way, I was screwed. Like when they required that if I felt unstable, I should check into the hospital (to demonstrate responsibility for my illness and therefore fitness as a mother). Except when I did go to the hospital (as required) then they asked the judge for an emergency hearing to move the kids to foster care since if I was in the hospital, I was obviously an unfit parent. So, I had to ask my almost ex husband to take our kids from Iowa to Arizona so that they were not sent to foster care. The day my kids left me for Arizona, two days before Christmas, my mom and grandma were there to gloat, and to tell me how I deserved this, and how they hoped my kids never saw me again. How they hoped I ended up in a gutter because that was what I was, gutter trash, and I didn’t deserve any better. Since their presence was only needed to supervise me as a parent, and my kids were now gone, I kicked them out. I cut them off. I have never spoken to them since.
And a couple of hours later, while I was sitting in the dark, drinking, debating when to take every pill I had, looking for work in Arizona, my friend from the hospital called. She had just been discharged. She had nothing but the clothes on her back and her car. No money, no way to get her Social Security check, no where to stay. This winter was one of the coldest ever in Iowa. She told me that if I hadn’t answered the phone, if I hadn’t asked her to come stay with me, she would have gone out into the country and put a hose in her car and let either the weather or exhaust do its job. So, she eventually found my apartment, and we became fast friends. We saved each other’s life that night, we could finish each others’ sentences, and we knew just exactly how and how badly the other was feeling and how functional we were. Together, we were able to manage to get by each day. She made coffee and something for dinner. I managed to take all the bags of trash out every so often. I got us to our appointments and got the bills paid. And that was about as functional as we were, as a team. After a few months, I finally was able to get myself out to Arizona. I had to be near my kids. I was never going to get better if I could never see them again. I had to be near them. But B and I remained tight friends, talking several times a week, often for hours. She too started to improve, got out of the apartment we had shared into her own place. She started to regain some independence. So did I. I got my disability award and got my own place near my almost ex and kids. I started to improve, I was working hard to get my kids to move in with me again, even though I saw them every weekend already.
So time passed, my almost ex let the kids move in with me full time and took them for lunch on Sundays. The divorce and the family court proceedings were finally dismissed. The family court had never considered I might actually leave the state, so they had not filed an interstate compact to keep the family court and Human Services case open in another state. So they couldn’t keep pursuing me trying to remove my kids from me permanently. They had to close their case. Finally all that bullshit was over. So my friend B and I stayed as close as ever, talking about our current struggles and triumphs. No one else in the world understood us like we did. B was 65 now, and she made me her Power of Attorney, because she knew I would not force her live if she had decided to die and didn’t quite make it.
Last year, I got a phone call that B had been discovered in her apartment after having had a massive stroke. She had probably had it 3 days before being discovered. I was her Power of Attorney, so I started to prepare for when she was released. If she could return home, then that was it. But if she was going to need full time assistance, I didn’t want her to be in a facility in Iowa because I couldn’t oversee her care, and couldn’t visit her. So, I wanted her with me in Arizona. I wanted her to be with me until I could set up her insurance and get her into a place nearby. So, I spent the last of my inheritance to buy a car and take my kids and drive to Iowa. We cleaned out her apartment, gave or sold her things, turned in the keys, and got B when she was discharged. We rented a trailer and loaded it with the things we were keeping for her and drove back to Arizona. She required a heavy amount of care, needing assistance with all physical activities. She was unable to talk clearly. She said words, but they were mostly random, not the word she was searching for. Sometimes her yesses and nos got mixed up too. Sometimes she was clear but obviously confused, or having altered thinking. Sometimes she took her pills, sometimes she fought me when I offered them. Same with dressing, toileting. Sometimes she threw herself on the floor out of bed or her wheelchair. Sometimes she tried to escape, as though we were cruel guards in a prison. Sometimes, we had pleasant meals, or passed afternoons watching shows we both enjoyed. I never blamed her for bad behavior. She couldn’t always control it, and she couldn’t help having altered thinking, and it wasn’t her fault because she didn’t really know what she was doing. Plus, I have had 20 years experience taking care of the elderly in their homes and nursing homes. So, I knew what to expect. And I felt that she was my family, and I wanted the best for her.
So my landlord wouldn’t allow me to add her to the lease. So, in fear of being evicted, I decided to move us all. Then at least we would be moving on our own timescale, and would have a chance to find the best apartment. So we moved. I could only afford it if B was paying 1/4 rent and bills. So I figured no problem. Shortly after the move, she had a consult appointment with a psychiatrist. Since her stroke, none of her psychiatric needs had been assessed or addressed, only physical. So, I wanted to be sure she didn’t still need her antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, and sleep meds. As her Power of Attorney and caregiver, I usually went into the appointments with her, to help interpret and so I knew what the whole situation was. But since this was a psych appointment, I asked her if she wanted to have it alone, so if she wanted to try to talk about me or the kids or the move, she could without worrying about what I might think or feel. So, as soon as she went in, the Doctor came out and informed me she was calling Adult Protective Services and the Police because B had accused me of slapping her on the face every Saturday morning. I was stunned and shocked, completely into speechlessness. I couldn’t believe B would say I hurt her. And I couldn’t believe she could have communicated that clearly to someone who didn’t know how her words were mixed up. And I couldn’t believe that the Doc actually believed this complaint from B, who has no bruises or marks, is clearly well cared for, clean, dressed, groomed, etc. Especially I couldn’t believe it because it is so obvious that her behaviors are the result of brain damage plus her language skills are so obviously impaired and the complete lack of physical evidence. So, she just sat there in her wheel chair, smiling a little smile at me while I was interrogated by Police and Adult Protective Services workers. Then, when they decided to remove her, for her safety, to a shelter, they were unable to find a place for her that could accommodate her physical needs for assistance. So, after all this, they asked me to keep her for another day. Can you believe that? I’m considered to be an abuser, but they want her to stay with me a little longer?! So the following day, they came to collect her and I don’t know what happened then. I am not allowed to know where she moved to, I am not allowed a phone number. I am not allowed to know if she is well or ailing. Not that I want to know anymore anyway.
It has taken me another 4 months to untangle my name with her business. To get my name off her Social Security and Medicare as payee/representative. To get my name off her bank accounts as Power of Attorney. And while the Police investigation is complete (they came to my door for about 5 minutes, then left), the Adult Protective Services investigation remains indefinitely open. They refuse to close their investigation until the Police question B, but since the Police have closed their investigation, they have no reason to question B ever. So, I will indefinitely be an alleged abuser since they won’t close their investigation until something that will never happen happens.
This is all the situation that is happening now, and all the things that lead to this current spot. You have to understand what lead to this in order to understand how I feel about it. I am hurt, mad, sad, angry, glad, betrayed, disgusted. I know B had brain damage from the stroke that was not visible. The damage that caused her to throw herself on the floor, or try to run away. The damage that caused her to accuse me of hurting her. I know this, and I feel pity for her, I feel sad that I was the target. And I try to tell myself that that is all there is to it. But I feel outrage, I feel pain, I feel betrayed. But in order for those to apply, to be accurate, then she would have to know what she was doing. And I know she didn’t. But I can’t let these feelings of hurt and betrayal and anger go, even though I know, I know, she couldn’t have done this on purpose. Well, yes, it was on purpose, but it was the product of a damaged mind.
I know I should be able to let her go, to let what she did go. I know she was not herself. I know what she did was because her mind was damaged. I know she, the real she, would never have done this. So, I shouldn’t hang on to this, this, betrayal, this hurt and anger toward her. But I can never work it out with her, get past it. I can never have the chance to to move on caring for her, or to have the real her come back and apologize. I shouldn’t be mad and hurt, but I am. And even though I tell myself none of this is real, none of it applies because she is brain damaged, I can’t get her out of my head. Replaying videos behind my eye lids, where I feel cut to the quick everytime. I can’t stop it playing again and again. Like all my other friends, she too has let me go, and not without kicking me as well. What is wrong with me that every friend has always left me, often ripping me to shreds when they do? Even B? How do I let go of this, get her out of my head? And the worst part is, I miss her. I miss my friend.