Saturday, September 27, 2014

The boniness of my family

I know everyone has stories about their family.  About craziness and issues with alcohol and bad behavior.

My family is certainly rampant with it.  My mother's maternal aunt was kooky crazy, you know, nuts but in an amusing and endearing way.  I've talked about Auntie Melba before.  I can remember sitting in our living room at some big, family gathering watching her smoke and ash into her cupped hand.  She drank some.  She really liked men and men liked her.  She'd been divorced from her husband for ages but I didn't know until I was somewhat older since he was around all the time.  She could grow any plant she wanted, including pot that her postman would pick over the fence.  She cross pollinated tomatoes by hand and when you drove her home she'd run in the house and bring out gifts of random stuff.

But, she was harmless and we all loved her. 

My mom's brother's kids were raised in an upper middle class home. They had horses, got cars for their birthdays and pretty much got whatever they wanted.  You'd think they'd be set up for a charmed life.

But, my cousin Tina, who is 7 years older than me, is crazy.  Like, certifiable crazy.  She's been off the radar for quite a long time.  She was living in Hawaii until her husband died suddenly about 5 years ago.  They were divorced and custody of her son was awarded to his father's family.  They were able to take him out of the state, to California, within a week.  This was very telling about Tina's ability to parent.

She had come back to California at some point and was talking to her father.  They'd had a breakdown in their relationship when Tina got involved with a therapist who'd convinced her she'd been molested by our grandfather.  As I've said in the past, I don't want to say it's not true.  But, it didn't happen to my mom or me or any of the other female grandkids.  The chances of it happening to her are very, very small. 

She had been diagnosed as schizophrenic at some point and doesn't medicate.  And, apparently, there were a lot of drugs involved in her life.  So, she was self medicating.

My uncle had gotten her a phone with unlimited talk and text so they could communicate. She drifted up to Washington state.  One day, my uncle tried to call her and got a man who said Tina had sold him the phone.

Anyway, my parents had just arrived home from a trip to Colorado when my mom got a call from her brother saying that he went out to get the paper that morning and found his daughter sleeping on the porch. 

From what can be pieced together, she had been on-the-street homeless somewhere in the recent past, eating at the Salvation Army.  She's now getting a small monthly check from her maternal grandmother's estate that she's been living on. But, that's going to run out soon.

She took the train down from Washington and ended up, literally, on her father's doorstep. 

She took a shower and did laundry.  Things dissolved at some point when her dad asked her about her plans and she went off on some yelling tangent about working on patents for an idea she had with her other grandfather. 

He gave her some money, booked her a hotel room and she's there now.  How long she'll be there is any one's guess. 

As a parent, I can't even begin to think about what that must be like.  She's insane, but not a danger to herself or others.  (My mom tells me in California, even that's not a reason for non-voluntary committal.  I guess the process has gotten quite complicated.)  She's not totally in control and probably using.  What do you do?  Let her stay?  She's going to be 50  in a few months.  Letting her stay would cause a huge amount of drama, stress and frustration.  I know he loves her, but what do you do?

She can't be helped or that would have happened a while ago. I don't know what kind of conversation happened, if she was offered help and turned it down or if it was even brought up.  She was close to home before, talking with her dad and took off.   What do you do? 

Honestly, that's what I keep coming back to.  What do you do?  She's an adult, but I know he's never stopped worrying.  My uncle has said he can't think about it or he'll go through his days on the edge of freaking out about what's happening to his daughter. 

I can remember being so jealous of Tina's water bed and her MG and her horses and the way they lived.  In a house with a view of the valley in east Orange County, surrounded by what appeared to be mansions to me.  She had tons of friends and seemed to be the most beautiful, tanned, well dressed person ever.  When I was allowed to go out with her and her friends, even just to walk up and down the hill where they lived, was a thrill. 

I'm not jealous now.  Now, me, little Mandy who thought she was this incredible creature, is worried.  I haven't seen her since I was pregnant with Zoe.  (I happened to be in town for my baby showers, tossed by my mom and my friend Stephanie, when our great-grandmother died.  She flew in from Maui for the service.)  She was still Tina.  Tanned, pretty.  She seemed in control of herself and we had a little conversation.  I remember she called me when I was pregnant to say congrats and tell me that lots of fish, the omega-3s, were good for the baby. 

Where will she go?  Who knows. Will she go try to see her son?  He's an adult now.  I can't imagine how he'd respond to her just showing up.

God, what a mess.  All I can do is worry. 

Amanda's household tip of the day:  You can make your own furniture polish from 1/4 cup of white vinegar and1/4 teaspoon of olive oil.  I like to add a strip of orange zest, letting it set for a day and then removing it.  Keep it in a spray bottle.

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