69 Years

Sixty-nine years ago, I made my first appearance in this incarnation. Whoa, what was I thinking, agreeing to this?

It’s true, you know. We choose our life path, our lessons, our family. We aren’t thrown out into the world without first giving our opinion. I must have been feeling really guilty. I got a lot of heavy karma this lifetime. I assume everyone thinks their karma is tough. Well too bad, it’s my birthday today so I’m going to complain about mine.

I had a pretty happy life up until the age of 19. Then all hell broke loose. I got depressed. Not just depressed, I got maudlin, upset, pissed off and generally tired of life. I was in college, taking 16 hours of German without a break in sight. I had too much homework and not enough time. I’d broken up with my boyfriend of two years (thank God) and I was lonely.

I shuffled along, not doing anything interesting up until 1978 when I decided to get married. I didn’t fall in love, I just decided to get married. I was 26, no man in sight that was interesting, so I chose my next door neighbor. He wasn’t bad ……. I just didn’t love him. I married him anyway.

It may come as no surprise that I was not happy. Six weeks after the wedding, I’m home alone, he’s fixing some cheese machine or other and I’m thinking – What The Fuck Did You Do. And that attitude lasted until the day he died, 36 years later.

In between the marriage and the freedom, I had a son. Not only mine, but we also got his at the age of 11. That was a pain in the ass, big time. Let’s just say I’m not a natural mother type.

I left once. Went back after a year because I was sick of starving to death and my then 5-year-old son couldn’t understand why he couldn’t buy everything he saw. I got sick of it. I was seeing someone and he was seeing his first wife. He’d already been divorced from his second wife, BECAUSE OF HIS FIRST WIFE, so I wasn’t in the mood to keep the relationship going. Why bother?

I went back to school, got my degree, took it out looking for a job that wouldn’t make me type all day long. No such thing. So, I started reading people. Yep. I was psychic, never used it much, but it was there. So I started using it. I met a friend who sent me to Do Something Different, where the owner sent three psychics to a class of 35 people and they each got a reading. I was one of the three psychics in the adult education system classes. There were lots of us.

I built up my clientele by being accurate. I enjoyed my clients, I loved what I did and I made more money reading people than I ever did typing.

And I made quilts. I was used to being busy ALL DAY LONG so when I was at home most of the day, I needed stuff to do. My friend turned me onto quilting. I quilted non-stop. And then I bought old quilt tops, quilts, vintage fabric, kimonos, jewelry – everything. And in 1996 I opened Cotton Jenny Antique Quilts (and old Books). I also collected old books. Primarily I loved children’s illustrated books from the 1900s. But I bought anything that appealed to me. That workaholic husband kept bringing home the bucks and I made some too! So I started selling and buying and buying and selling. I like buying best.

And then. My son, my one and only child, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizo-affective disorder. Let me tell you, the last thing you want to hear as a parent is “Your child has a serious mental illness.”

It never got better, although I lied to myself and tried to believe he could live a normal life. He could not. He could only survive if I was there, blocking the world from him, watching his every move, checking that he was dealing with reality, helping him find work, keeping him from going off the deep end. I did that for 23 more years. I had absolutely no life outside of my son. I counted for nothing.

Then, around 2010, my husband got sick. He had Parkinson’s and cortical basal degeneration – his brain was shrinking. By the time we got to the neurologist, there was nothing that could be done. In 2013 I moved him to a nursing home because I could not take care of him any longer and our son was acting up. I had a bipolar 34-year-old and a demented 70 year old. I was ready to leave.

With my husband not in the home, things got a bit easier, but not financially. Money had been a problem since he retired in 2000 and we only survived because I had a business while living on Prince Edward Island, Canada and then because I had three other jobs. I had to support us,.

We went on, me watching him, him laughing hysterically in his room all day and night, refusing to leave the house, acting generally crazy, until 2018.

My new home

He decided, in his sick little mind, that I was old and confused and now he was the caregiver. Hello? I do not think so. He pulled shit on me that no mother should have to take and one day I lost it. He was giving me the you’re old and confused shit and I smacked his ass. Right across the chopper, right where I would when he was 9 and mouthing off. He was not as mature as a flipping nine-year-old, but he knew how to run down the street, call the cops and tell them I abused him. Jesus Wept.

He controlled everything I did. I couldn’t blow my hair dry if his computer or air conditioner was on. He had $1544 a month disability (which I got for him) and he spent $800 a month on computer components, software and whatever else his sick heart desired.

I was always overdrawn. I had no new clothes. I blew $40 on underwear and he told me I shouldn’t have done that. I paid the mortgage, bought the food, paid the utilities and the car. I paid for everything and every once in a while he would pay for something I wanted but had no money for. I was losing everything. And the kid I did all this for, hated my guts.

I spent 11 hours in the Penobscot County Jail. The cop who arrested me (may a bat fly up his nose and shit) was ridiculous. The officers at the Jail thought he was pathetic. They treated me like their grandmother. They got the bail bondsman to come take me to the ATM so I could pay him his $60 fee and I was told I’d have to find somewhere to stay until 2/14. This was January 26. I had no money. So, finally, the bondsman told me that there was no prohibition on me going to my home, just that I wasn’t supposed to be around him until my court date. Well cute. He’s in my damn house! I went home. It was 1 am and the bondsman took me home.

Ben was in his room. I opened the door. He started crying, which is what he would always do when he was in trouble.

I spent 4 days scared to death I would be jailed. I went to a psychiatrist, who was also his psychiatrist. She told me he was abusing me. She told me to get a lawyer and evict him out of the house. Do you know how hard that is to do? He was 37 years old and had never lived on his own for one minute. I started eviction proceedings. On Tuesday, the sergeant with the Bangor Police Department told me the D.A had declined to prosecute me, saying it did not rise to the meaning of the statute. No shit,

In April, 2018, I met someone. I was happy. I told Ben. He went totally crazy. That night he ended up in the ER waiting for a bed in the psych ward. They didn’t find him one and he came home the next day.

It didn’t work out at all. On May 3 I finally got a cop to take him to the ER for evaluation. He was in a major episode, but he can act normal. They didn’t keep him, but he walked around downtown until he got tired and then he called the cops to take him to the hospital. The police were his new Mommy.

Finally, they kept him. They sent him to Acadia, a mental hospital in Bangor. He called me on the 7th and wanted me to come see him. I did. He wanted my help to find an apartment so he could leave. He also told me that I should not be dating anyone since his father had only been dead 5 years. It had been 3 years and he didn’t see his father more than once the year and a half he was in the nursing home. I wasn’t eating anymore of his bullshit.

The next day I bought him some clothes and took them to the hospital. He refused to see me. I stopped trying. I said fuck this shit. I ignored him and called the hospital once a week to see how he was. I talked to the nurse who had charge of him and gave her his history. I told her how he has a 6-month episode every 5 years. How he wouldn’t take his meds any longer. How he browbeat me and his father for at least 10 years. I told her I was done. It was the happiest two months I’d spent since the kid was 14. That was 23 years ago,

And I was done. Unfortunately, he signed himself out of the hospital and walked around homeless for two weeks. Then he came home. July 6. He arrived at night and spent the night in the garage. I saw the door shut and couldn’t figure out why. Well, he opens it and comes out.

He proceeded to yell and scream at me most of the day. I told him he was not going to stay with me, that I had been happy for the time he was in the hospital and I was not going to go back to being unhappy and frankly, scared. It didn’t make much of an impact on him. Then he got on his computer and complained about me to DHHS. They came out in the form of some obnoxious woman with glasses who talked to him and then left, not even bothering to shut my front door. I went to my shrink again.

He kept calling the cops, DHHS, anyone else who would listen. I had to just sit there and wait for the next crisis to drop.

Well. Then something happened. Not only did I meet someone, that someone lived in Maine. I didn’t have a long distance relationship, I had the beginnings of a real one. I met my husband. He had worked with the mentally ill for years. He knew what I was facing. He asked me to live with him. So I did. We got married. I told Ben after the fact that I was married. I was on my honeymoon for a week. Then my husband had people visiting and I went home to pack up.

Ben decided to put on his Incredible Hulk act. He had done this for years whenever he got angry. I hated it, which is why he did it. He would stand and scream and turn red and look like he wanted to kill someone. I called his favorite people, cops. They came. Four of them, one of them black, all of them stupid. They said he was fine. Yes, he’s fine. He’s only screaming at the top of his lungs. I made up my mind that day, that company or no company, I was going to go to my new home. I got myself in trouble, but I went.

And then, after another confrontation, more months in the psych ward, he died. Just like that. Just like I knew he would if I quit taking care of him. He laid down in the basement on a cold night and died from hypothermia. I guess something broke and he went downstairs to see what it was. It was probably a water pipe since I quit heating the place. Whatever it was, that was that. On December 21, 2018 a cop knocked at my door and told me he was found dead that morning. After all of that, all those years of watching over him, he died. He just died.

My life has changed in unbelievable ways since 2018. I am the wife of a shepherd. We had 28 sheep a few weeks ago, now we have 12. The lambs go to slaughter and both of us hate that. We’re scaling down because the pandemic has hurt us. We can’t sell as much lamb as we thought we would. The going is slow. My shepherd doesn’t like slaughtering lambs he’s raised from babies. I don’t like it either. We love our sheep, but we’d rather keep them instead of eating them.

I have a beautiful home. Fifty-two acres in the woods of northern Maine, just a stone’s throw from New Brunswick, Canada. We are much alike. We have the same political views, the same views on religion and big city life. We have fun. We don’t need much money (he needs more than me) and we have everything we need. He has three wonderful kids who love him to death. I love his kids to death because they love him. It is a good life. Finally. I guess I did sign up for this. Not a bad choice. Not at all bad.

I guess karma isn’t so bad after all. Namaste, Jennifer

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