Soldiering on

There was a hurricane, then there was none. Then I was sick, then I was not. Then my sister moved back home.

Hurricane Dorian has, for the most part, passed Miami. Kareem is in LA this week and I’m tending to the house alone, but my anxiety was less about the roof of the house blowing off and more about the aftermath. Naturally, it’s my imagination we’re talking about, so I imagine The Purge enveloping a powerless Miami while I surround myself with votive candles brandishing the shotgun that I don’t own because I’m Californian.

Things are okay. They could be worse. I am beginning to understand why friends who have grown up here can be ambivalent about hurricane warnings - they are big and scary. We “kind of” know which direction they’re going or if they’ll grow in strength and worsen. But for now, we lucked out, and here we all are, trying to resume everything we put on hold for a couple of days.

So, the past couple of days. What has happened? Ho boy.

One, I thought I got strep throat. I certainly had all the symptoms, including the spots on my tonsils, including the fever. Compounding all the stress is that I am officially without my company health insurance. But the tests for strep came back negative and my temperature just went down one morning. You know that I’ve made some pretty drastic changes to my diet. I know keto flu is a thing, and I legitimately have no idea if the fever, body aches and whatever streppy thing my throat was doing was all part of that. I am, however, down eight pounds in two or three weeks. That’s good.

What else? Oh, my mentally ill older sister moved back in with my elderly parents.

Should I have led with that? Probably.

Mom casually dropped that bombshell on me over the phone a couple of days ago, the same way that Angela plainly told mom that people in the house were trying to kill her and she was moving back home with nothing else, just the clothes on her back. No medication. She had stopped taking her medication for the past two or three days, apparently.

Another month, another family crisis. Angela was in a boarding and care facility only because it was mandated from a restraining order, a restraining order I had to help set up for my mother when Angela hit my mother on the head with a TV remote after arguing over what to watch on the television. After an eviction notice letter, written by mom on the recommendation by her case manager, that Angela blatantly ripped up, and we all knew in our heart of hearts wouldn’t get enforced anyway. After the restraining order was instantly declared null and void when Angela showed up every Wednesday to watch television using a house key which was never surrendered, and mom allowed it because she was her daughter.

The end game is to get her back to where she was before but I don’t know if she’s been evicted or if she left on her own accord. I feel I have the right to know what’s going on - I pay for part of her monthly fees. Voicemails have been left to the facility. No one has called me back. I’ve tried looking for Angela’s current caseworker. Her original caseworker left in 2016, I learned through a Google search. Left social work and entered private practice in psychotherapy. I’m angry at her for a second but remind myself that it’s not her fault. “Good for her,” I even manage to say to myself out loud. I am no longer on the list as an authorized contact, I am told, when I call a different organization. Angela must verbally agree to get any information. It’s another set of hurdles. Didn't I just go through this?

Mom tells me all of this matter of factly. In a throwaway comment, she remarks how she doesn’t eat throughout the day, takes her heart medication to prevent the heart attack she feels she will have, is afraid to make any sudden moves or actions for fear that Angela will lose her shit and assault her with a remote control like all of those years ago.

And then, the next sentence, it's standard mom fare: Enough about me, she says. Have you eaten yet? Is it late there in Florida? Have you taken your walk? You need to go for your walk. I tell her I’m fine, skip over anything related to fevers or hurricanes or not eating rice. There are enough burdens for her to shoulder right now.

I have already accepted a possible future where my sister is homeless. There’s a very probable chance things won’t work out the way any of us want, least of all mom. She’s gone from living by herself to living with two people, one of whom she lives in fear. I try to think of solutions more… extreme: Could mom live with me in Florida? Could I leave Florida to live with mom?

After coming to the realization months ago that I need more self-care, I know all of these options are, literally, the fucking opposite of self-care. Then again, I drew some extraordinary cards in this deck of life. The majority of my life has involved my sister's mental illness and cognitive decline.

It sucks. It all fucking sucks. A couple of years ago, if I were writing about what was going on, I'd probably end this piece with something dramatic like, “the storm has passed Miami, but I’m still bracing for impact.” And while it’s true, fight or flight instincts have a way of tiring a person out. I need to continue whatever rituals I’m trying to create, with writing, eating right, looking for jobs, keeping it together until everything around me falls like a house of cards.

Until then, we soldier on.