this is the way the year ends

So, I say to him (the sibling who is as unlike me as possible) imagine if, instead of spending money on all of these New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world, the money was put toward solving the problems of, say, world hunger and homelessness.
I should have known what his response would be, which was something like:
…what if they cut down spending for education and teachers’ salaries so that we wouldn’t be living under the threat of losing our homes if we don’t pay these outrageous school taxes…they don’t teach kids anything worthwhile anyway, just some history and lots of memorization.
First of all, I respond, that’s not all they teach kids these days. School is very different from when you went. Second of all, the kids in school today will be running this country in the future. They need to be educated so that they know what they’re doing. And kids from dysfunctional families who give their kids no guidance need that education even more so that they have alternatives to crime to support themselves. (My brother has no children and has not spent any meaningful time around any.)
Well, he says, his voice angry and belligerent, it would be a lot cheaper to give all kids computers and connect them to the internet and let them learn that way. And then they can dump all the teachers on whose salaries all of the money is wasted.
Um, I say (trying hard not to raise my voice and frighten my mother into a dementia episode) I guess you don’t know much about educational theory or practice. (I can feel my own anger rising, and I struggle to speak calmly and clearly.) Why don’t you go and spend some time in a classroom and find out what’s really going on….
He interrupts me with some additional harangue that I no longer have the patience to tolerate, so I leave quietly and go to my room, burdened by the fact that this kind of interaction is how we have spent the last two years and how we will, no doubt, spend the years until my mother’s death.
Over the past 48 hours, in an effort to keep my mother calm and functional, I have spent a more than 20 waking hours and about 20 of her sleeping hours at my mother’s beck and call. Included in my working hours was feeding her three times a day; giving her a shower; helping her in the bathroom (more times than I can count); holding her in my arms and dancing with her; setting out a week’s worth of her medications and making sure she took the right ones at the right times; and listening to her endless repetition of questions, the answers to which she won’t remember. Interspersed throughout those 48 hours was time when my brother sat with her, usually sitting in front of the television, sometimes on his laptop at the same time.
I purposely took over so much caregiving time over the past two days to demonstrate to him that it’s possible to keep her calm and relatively satisfied. But it’s a lot of work.
Apparently he doesn’t care. He’d rather harangue me. This year ends with the last conversation I’ll ever try to start with him.

3 thoughts on “this is the way the year ends

  1. um…yah…I wouldn’t bother trying to speak with him about anything. And if he starts in on his own, just walk away. Talk to friends and family, not to him. Blog, email, but leave him out.
    I certainly learned a long time ago, if on the phone with him, to keep it meaningless, and if he begins anything, my response is, “Well, I’m not interested in that conversation” and if I get baited, I say I have to go. I don’t feel guilty anymore and I sure as hell never let him get me riled up cuz there’s no point.
    It’s all about him, so there’s no reason to engage.

  2. Don’t know where to start. Glad that dad is in an “assisted living” home and our connection involves a couple of visits a week, projects like helping with his correspondence, going to church, breakfast at the local diner… not the awful responsibility of full time family care. Frankly, neither my brother nor my sister would be up to it and it would fall on me.

    Have a healthy 2008, Elaine. Get as much time for yourself as you can.

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