by Giselle Renarde
When I was in kindergarten, the whole class had to line up single file by the door at the end of the day. Mlle Medina wouldn't release us into the care of our parents or picker-uppers until we'd neatly arranged ourselves in no particular order.
One day, I saw Grant bud in front of Nathan. I was not happy. You can't just cut in line like that. Nathan was there first! How dare you?
Even at the age of six, I was not one to let injustice go unnoticed. I went over to Grant and I was like, "I saw what you did! How dare you? Nathan should be in front of you!"
Mlle Medina came over to see what all the loudness was about. I explained the situation to her. She explained that it had nothing to do with me. C'est pas tes oignons, Giselle. I should take my place in line. Mind my own business.
My teacher wasn't mean about it. Not at all. I could tell that she was amused by my crusade to right the wrongs of the kindergarten line. This was the same teacher who told my mom not to worry too much about my... behaviour. Life would soften out the edges.
I'm in trouble again.
With family, this time.
I just finished watching a very touching documentary called Much Too Young, about caregivers of parents with early-onset Alzheimer's and dementia. The thing that sets this film apart from others on the topic is that these caregivers are young men and women in their twenties, some in their teens. I could never have done what they're doing. Not at that age, not at this age, probably not at any age. I'm not a nurturer. I care, but I'm not caring.
But some of the sentiments they expressed resonated with me, especially early in the film before the various participants had met each other. They didn't know who to talk to about what they were experiencing. There were support groups for caregivers, sure, but not for people under 30. All the caregivers were the age of their parents. They felt very isolated.
I've been feeling that way too, when it comes to stuff with my grandmother. If you've been reading my posts over the years, you know that I've participated in her care. She does not have dementia. That's a big distinction. But she is legally blind, she's experiencing hearing loss, and her mobility isn't the best. Recently, she was hospitalized for 6 weeks with multiple infections that resulted in a whole lot of delirium.
She checked herself out of hospital prematurely. Realistically, she requires round the clock care. She can afford it, but she's too cheap to pay the money. A lot of people who grew up in the Depression era are like this. She wants to stay in her house. It's not safe for her to be living there anymore, but my grandmother is one hard-headed motherfucker. I'm allowed to trash-talk her because I AM her. We have exactly the same personality. We share the same faults. Anything negative I say about her, I would be more than willing to say about my self.
So how did I end up in hot water with my family?
Well, here's the thing about old people... they can be assholes. I have this on good authority. Every story I tell my girlfriend about the latest asshole thing my grandmother (whom I love very much) has done, she's like, "That's old people. That's what happens."
I sure as hell hope that by the time I'm in my late 80s, those suicide booths from Futurama will be a real thing, because God Almighty I don't ever want to turn into that. Does it really happen to everyone?
"Focus narrows," my girlfriend says. "Life becomes very narrow."
This is what I see in my grandmother now. It's not that she's necessarily a different person than she was before, it just seems like you're dealing with the worst possible version of her. Someone who takes everyone else's time and care for granted, someone who feels entitled to all this and more, someone who expects everyone to give give give even when they're already drained and never feels the need to say thank you.
Without getting into too much detail, it came to my attention that my grandmother had lied about a medical professional in order to manipulate a situation and achieve her own ends. My grandmother's actions led to serious repercussions for that medical professional.
I love my grandma, but no. Just no. You can't fuck with people's livelihoods like that. This is someone's job, someone's career, someone's pay cheque. Someone's life. I don't care how old you are and how much your focus has narrowed, you don't pull this shit.
My grandmother's already reeling from feeling that she's lost control of her life. She calls us "mean" and tells us we won't let her do what she wants to do, even though everything we do is what she wants. At times our entire lives are wrapped up in doing what she wants. So I went over her head with this one. I phoned the supervisor of the medical professional to tell them my grandmother had lied and here's what her motives were.
The supervisor was frankly quite relieved, because their whole organization was baffled about the accusation. It didn't make sense to anyone--didn't make sense because it wasn't true. I was told that an investigation was already underway, and I spoke to them less than 24 hours after the whole thing started.
Maybe I'll always be the same kid I was in kindergarten, but if I see someone doing wrong by another human (even if the wrongdoer is a relative and the wrong-done-by is a relative stranger), I need to speak up. You can love someone and not support their actions.
When I talked to that supervisor, I figured they'd tell me "Oh yes, your aunts have all called me to give me this information." I was very surprised that, even though the whole family knew about my grandmother's wrongdoing, nobody was willing to say it out loud, except to each other. I told my mom I'd made that phone call. She supported my decision but warned me not to tell my aunts.
Last week I let my guard down. I told one of my aunts I made the call. To my face, she was smiley and supportive, but my sister tells me that, behind my back, my aunts are all saying I should mind my own business.
These days, because anxiety has been an issue, I'm trying to reflect on potential repercussions before I get worked up. When my sister told me my aunts are mad at me, the first thing I did was laugh. Then I said, "What are they going to do? Punch me? Disown me?"
Most probable scenario is they'll keep talking about me behind my back and never say a word to my face.
You know what? I can handle that.