We’re Never Going Home
I first helped you go to the bathroom on my niece’s first birthday. You’d already pissed yourself that day. Uncle Pete cleaned you up.
10 minutes later, shouting GODDAMNIT I WANNA GO HOME in the empty kitchen of the house you’d lived in for 27 years, pants around your ankles, standing opposite the toilet, I turned you around in time to catch the bowl. You screamed at me to stop touching you.
“I WANT. TO GO. HOME”
“You are home.”
“I know. That’s what everybody fucking says.”
Earlier in the week I met Mom at a pre-hearing for your Medicaid denial appeal. We sat in the DHS office mostly in silence. At 11am on a Tuesday the building was full with mostly young mothers with strollers and adult children with elderly parents. The line for LINK (Illinois’ versions of food stamps) stretched 20 deep and someone was crying from the periphery of every open seat.
We’re denied Medicaid because Mom can’t pull the trigger to put you in a full time care facility. You don’t know where you are, you’ve forgotten your children, you piss and shit and scream and cry and sleep and spin in circles and demand to be taken to the house you already occupy…but the denial runs so deep in her that she refuses.
I stand in the parking lot with her, walking her through her own 59 years worth of guilt and denial, telling her that he’s not safe. That falling down while taking in the garbage can and requiring stitches isn’t safe. That shitting on the bathroom floor and throwing the toilet paper of his attempted cleanup into the sink to sit for hours until your adult son comes to clean it is not okay. That leaving him home alone when you’re frustrated isn’t safe.
She said she knows. I don’t believe her.
At the party I take one of the Xanax I gave her a few months back…she had a few left in her medicine cabinet. She asked me for more because sometimes she runs out of your regular dose and you’re too much to handle. In the back of my mind I hope one day she’ll give you too many.
These are how birthday parties go. How Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter and Graduation parties and cookouts go. Drinking chilled white wine and passing off your care to the nearest relative, this is Mom’s reprieve from you, a man she can’t find it in her heart to remove from her house. Your adult son tells you his name, helps you use the bathroom, feeds you your meal and points you to your wife, who you’re often asking for but can’t remember. This is what going home means.
Going home is watching my mother deny that you’re gone. That for all intents and purposes you are dead. You are walking upright and embodying the limbs of a person who no longer exists.
Going home is pretending I don’t wish you were dead. Pretending it wouldn’t be more kind for everyone if you went to sleep and never woke up. Save her the years of guilt for putting you in medical care. Save yourself the years of misery, the 10 years of catatonic surrender my grandmother still inhabits from the same disease. Save what’s left of the person she used to be from being swallowed in the German guilt and denial that dictates her life.
Going home is pretending not to hate seeing you around my niece and nephew. Pretending I don’t still worry.
Going home is visiting a place I no longer wish to remember, to see people I can longer help, and to watch a decay permeate the lives of those too stubborn or sad or sick to recognize it.