Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Have Been Stretched

The last few days I have been stretched in very uncomfortable ways. I have agreed to help out someone that Hubby knows through his work. This guy was a former mandated volunteer at Hubby's work and now he is a current community volunteer. He and his wife have had a bad run lately. A car accident that totaled their car, an insurance offer that will just cover the cost of their current loan on the car, but still leave them without a car. They got kicked out of their place for reasons unknown to me (and I don't want to know) and so they are living in a long-term motel. He has a job and is working full-time, but their motel is in one extreme direction of our city and his work place is in the extreme opposite direction. And he has no car. So, I've been driving over and picking him up for work, taking him to work and dropping him off. Which is okay, in and of itself. The first day that I did it however, I finally understood why Hubby is frustrated with this guy. But I continued to do it the next few nights. Then last night, I got to the point that I cannot do it anymore. Well, I can, but I'm losing my ability to bite my tongue.

They are living in a motel. They have cats. They could have gotten a place, but would have had to give up the cats. I can understand their reluctance to do so, but seriously? I'd chose a home over a pet, if it were me. The house that they could have gotten was in their price range, close enough to his work that he could walk, it is on a bus route so that they could travel elsewhere, it is within walking distance of the grocery store, so many good things...but they chose not to do it because the landlord would not accept cats.

He was complaining to me about their grown children (or nearly grown children) who are unwilling to give them money or a car. And I'm sitting here, trying to figure out what it is I am supposed to say to him, how to help him, how to encourage him, without enabling him. Especially when I have such close ties in experience to this situation.

When I was eighteen, I had gotten permission from the State to move out of my foster mother's house. I was in foster care because of something that my stepfather did and my own mom's failure to protect me. Once I was out of the home (that was when I was fifteen) my mom continued to live my stepfather, while I was moved from temporary shelter to a group home then to a foster home. I have long felt that she chose her husband over me. If she had him move out, I could have been home, with my family, with my little brother. I had been the one raising him since he was born and I was twelve. From twelve to fifteen, when I wasn't in school, my little brother was my charge. I was the one who fed him at night, I was the one who gave him baths, I was the one who put him to bed every night. I was the one who got up in the middle of the night with him when he woke up crying, I was the one who gave him his breathing treatments, I was the one who often ended up missing school to take care of him. My little brother, for the first three years of his life, was more my son than my brother.

When I was fifteen and I was removed from my house due to an unsafe situation and my stepfather was allowed to stay, I was hurt. During the time that I was away, my stepfather and my mom separated off and on, he went to jail at least once, it was a highly unstable situation for my little brother.

When I was eighteen and had been given permission to move out on my own, I rented the other half of my mom's duplex. She lived in one half and I lived in one half. I was eighteen, living on my own, in a two bedroom duplex. So that I could be close to my brother, so that I could be there for him. I ended up working 70 hour weeks, financially supporting myself and my mom and my brother. I paid her rent, my rent, all of our utilities, my car payment, my insurance, everything. I was eighteen. My mom received disability benefits for both her and my brother, but never seemed to have any money. She took advantage of me and I allowed that to happen.

So, now when I am faced with this situation with this guy Hubby knows from work, it's a real struggle. I see many similarities between this guy and my mother. Since this is a situation that hits so close to home for me, I am really struggling with how best to handle it, without being rude or judgmental. I am wanting to try to help them without enabling them. I struggle for the right words to encourage him to do for himself, to help himself, but I don't know what those words are. So I have stayed quiet while he rants on about how their kids aren't helping them out. How their kids have a place to stay and are working and going to school, and have a car to do both. I stay silent about that. I tell him parts of my story, to let him know that a kid CAN do it and make it. I leave my own emotions about the situation out of the story. But it is getting harder and harder to do. I see so much of my mom and I in this situation.

And the issues between my mom and I are not improved. Just yesterday, Hubby found DVD's that my mom was trying to sneak out of our house to her house in a diaper in her bag. I don't know how to deal with this situation in my own life. I cannot even begin to know how to deal with this guy's situation either. I just know that I need to step back from it because it's hurting me, and is just not a good situation overall. I like to help people, I don't even mind helping people til it hurts, but this is beyond that. Way beyond that.

I had Hubby take this guy home from work today, because I just couldn't do it this morning. I think that when we tell him that we are not going to be able to continue to help him out with this, it is going to cause hurt feelings between all of us. Just based on my own previous experience with my mom. And I don't want others to think poorly of me. I have tried. I really have. But we cannot afford to continue to do this - it's costing us about five dollars a trip to transport him, and we cannot afford the time investment either - anywhere from one to one and a half hours per trip. Ten dollars a day, two to three hours a day. We just cannot do that. I feel guilty for not being able to do it, but I know that it's just not something within our ability to continue to do. Plus the whole emotional aspect of it is costing me in different way. It's been a good exercise for me to be stretched to help someone in a situation very similar to my own, but the key is knowing how far stretching can go before there's either the snap or the break. And right now, that line is directly underfoot.

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