It was Dorian's attorney on the other end of the line ... "Just wanted you to know that I'm hereby nominating you for sainthood! (His grin was audible.) ... .
I laughed long after he'd hung up -- it had only taken a minute or two for him to tell me that he'd just gotten off the phone with Dorrie who had called with an 11 minute uninterrupted litany of complaints about her mother's acting out (I figured he was regretting having handed her his business card in that first meeting!) and, Wow! But with all the nonsense about client's rights and all -- it's what we do -- even when said client's best interests can rarely be served by such edicts. (And with that statement I just eliminated all chance of my ascension to sainthood.)
I was at my desk when the call came, and when I stopped laughing it occurred to me that -- where this diatribe must certainly be a mystery to any outsider who was wondering how caretakers of the mentally-disabled can maintain their sanity? There really are strategies that develop that allows us to not only withstand the verbal abuse, but to actually get beyond it into areas of mutual enjoyment. Dorrie and I have an honest loving relationship most of the time; the exceptions prove the rule since we rarely end the day in anger.
I've become a master manipulator; and am unapologetic and as unrelenting in the exercise of those techniques as Dorian is at pushing buttons. And the important thing he didn't know was how easily she is redirected. Often it takes no more than, "....did I leave my glasses on the nightstand?" and we're off into a new conversation, or, "did we remember to write kitty litter on the shopping list?" But how could he possibly know that?
I learned early-on to limit her choices. That's basic. When she was a little girl I would never ask if she wanted to go to bed. It was always, "do you want to wear the blue or the pink pajamas tonight?" That sets the pattern for much that has followed in our relationship. It's also what didn't follow her into "The World" where social workers and case managers -- adhering to the strict rules (justifiably) about "patients rights" and "client's rights," added complexity to what I consider common sense.
It was clear that my daughter would never have the capacity to use judgment in matters critical to her survival in the general population. The professionals who would guide her life would or could not pre-screen her options the way that I had been free to. They were at a disadvantage of what I saw as some pretty weird regulations -- all in the interest of fairness. Maybe it's all in the interpretation of those regulations; interpretation that requires less rigidity from those with the power to express it. How else does one allow someone with my daughters mental limitations -- who has the physical ability to bear a child but who is without the capacity to parent -- to be denied her right not to bear children? The legal reason being because she lacks the ability to give informed consent. Hogwash!
I fully understand the rationale behind that state ruling. It came onto the books in order to protect poor and minority women from being sterilized unknowingly; a practice shamefully performed in an earlier time in order to save the state welfare funds. It's like those cuts placed in the sidewalks at the curb to enable those in wheelchairs a way to cross the street -- but that thoroughly confused the blind who rely on that curb to tap their way through traffic. Interpretation is essential almost without exception.
Right now, I'm needing Dorian to be apart from me; for both our sakes. Our long range campaign for life beyond her mother requires that. The past 8 months have served to regress us both, and I've become "Mommy" with a vengeance! She is settling into being treated as a protected child when that is terribly destructive to her future.
Perhaps her attorney and her case manager (both men of good intent) needed to be exposed to her wrath and inconsistencies in order to get some measure of her deficits. They're both new in her life. I have faith in them both, but they may not understand that the subject of her rage (mostly around control of her finances), and her mother's insistent dominance over her check book, are intentional parts of the next steps in her future.
Instead of "shall we wear the pink or the blue pajamas," what this situation requires is enough expressed love and support from me to continue her recovery to the extent that is possible, but with enough abrasiveness in our relationship so that she will soon be ready to move out into her own apartment (with an attendant) of her own volition, and not have the feeling of having been rejected by her mother. I need to reestablish myself in her life as "Mother as best friend." She needs to feel that it was she who made the choice to move on.
There is a lovely apartment available for her to move into -- about ten minutes from mine -- and soon those of us charged with her welfare should be showing her the variety of options open to her (a residential institution for the disabled; another group home with other mentally-challenged clients; or a great apartment in a development with 3 swimming pools and a small gym for her continuing physical therapy), but among the choices will not be the option to remain in a living arrangement with her mother. See what I mean?
Limited choices is the strategy that is missing from the rule book that social scientists live by, and the practice might well improve the lives of both clients and families caught up trying to get from day to day in a world filled with contradictions and hardships that often defy logic.
Sainthood? Nah. Manipulator? Sure, and unabashed.
Patience? Not so much.
Love? Most definitely. It's the balm that makes all else possible.