I’m graduating from college. I was the first woman in my family to graduate college. My mother and I had a rocky relationship at this point because I moved away to attend undergrad, and when I sent an email announcing my graduation I got an email back from her saying, “Your degree means nothing. You need to to get down off your high horse. You think you’re better than people and you’re not. What you have can be taken from you at any second. You don’t matter. This degree doesn’t matter.”
While my mom was working nights as an ER admissions clerk, my dad would drag me along to a local ice house where he would sit and watch sports while he got drunk with his friends. One of the guys who hung out there noticed that some of the drunks were kind of creeping on me (I was 5 to 6 years old). So he started sitting at the back corner table I preferred because there was enough light for me to read or draw. He would tell me corny jokes, ask about the book I was reading or whatever. Any time a drunk would linger on their way to the toilet, he’d give them what I came to identify as “the grandpa glare”. If I got hungry he’d buy me snacks.
Basically the guy just hung out there because his wife had passed and his daughter had moved to another state with her husband and kids. He just wanted to be around people. It didn’t take him long to realize I wasn’t a typical kid. I was reading high school level books by then and often on subjects like biology, chemistry, archaeology, mythology or whatever else was the main interest at the time. He didn’t talk down to me like a lot of adults did. When dad was too drunk to drive, he wouldn’t let him drive home with me in the car. He would insist on driving us home. He’d drag dad in and put him to bed. He’d set me up with snacks and juice and tell me to call him if I needed help.
Considering that my elder siblings would take off and leave me there alone with dad when he would go on a drunken rampage, it was nice to know that if he got too crazy, I had someone I could trust to help me until my mom could get to me. There was also an elderly Mexican couple that sometimes babysat me that would let me crash on their sofa when needed after they found me outside curled up with their dog in his house, reading a book to him by flashlight. My childhood was pretty messed up.
Technically a CNA is not called a nurse. It’s a degradation to real nurses that go through nursing school. I did go through 1 semester of it but that’s it. I only did clinicals as a CNA and as a Nursing student. However, the one thing that felt tragic to me was when I cared for my grandfather, he had prostate and esophageal cancer often referred to as throat cancer. He had a catheter that was inserted into his stomach. I would flush it, empty it, and clean it it. When I took him to the prostate Doctor my grandfather had to lie back as I held his hand and they inserted a tube into his penis.
I no longer have a relationship with my mother. I hear the mean things she says to my sisters and I am immediately angry at her. She has a personality disorder which provides context for her actions, but not an excuse. I have been working in therapy to have more compassion and forgiveness for my mother and while I am forgiving her more and more every day, I still do not feel that I need that kind of viciousness in my life and I have no interest in keeping that hostility in my space.