I am going to try to present this situation as succinctly and fairly as I can. My mother is in the process of being evicted from her apartment and will likely be homeless in the next couple of months. For most people, their actions at this point would be obvious, but if that were true for me, I wouldn’t be here asking.
My mother has been unemployed for over two years, so long in fact, that she has used up all of her unemployment benefits. She just turned 60 and has absolutely no retirement savings or any other savings of any kind. To say she is poor at handling money would be a kind assessment of the situation.
She lives in California and my brother and I both live in Arizona. It is a nine hour drive for us to get to her if she needs us for any reason. Several times over the years, we have both suggested that perhaps she should move closer to us to enable us to be available to her, and offered help in doing so. My brother offered her free room and board when she lost her job, until she could get established here and on her feet. My husband and I have suggested the possibility of finding her a low cost 55+ apartment and helping her with the rent, at least for a while. Neither my brother nor I can afford to support her completely or forever. These offers have always been made coinciding with job losses, so we were never asking her to just drop her life and move. She has categorically refused to even consider moving here, even when her unemployment ran out and I suggested it again.
During the two years she has been unemployed, she turned down job offers because they didn’t pay more than unemployment. I admit I got angry when I heard that and told her that since she no longer has children at home, she should have taken one of them and gotten a second part time job to supplement. Sure, that sucks, but you have to do what you have to do.
About a month ago, she called and e-mailed me all panicked, asking that I come up with $1000 to pay her rent within four days. I don’t know how many people could do that, but I can’t. I don’t just happen to have $1000 extra laying around, not with five kids and a mortgage, and cars and a house that seem determined to suck every last cent out of our paychecks. My brother had just closed on his house, and he works for the state and doesn’t make much money. He also pays child support on three kids, so he doesn’t have the money to give her either. Never mind that it only solves the problem for a couple of weeks, until the next time rent is due. Even if I could come up with it once, I can’t do it over and over.
I won’t write the tome it would take to describe my interactions with her over the years. Suffice to say our relationship has never been emotionally healthy. I will say that she tried for years to poison us against our father after their divorce, and I found out 20 years later that almost everything she told me about my dad was a lie. And not from him, from looking through their court records.
The twist here is that there may be a mental health angle. Last year she had health problems, and my brother went to California. He told me her apartment looks like Hoarders. She also has a repeated history of lying, and of telling people only part of the story so it looks a certain way, in order to gain sympathy and help. My dad thinks she may have a mental illness, but frankly, I’ve dealt with her a lot more and I think she has a personality disorder. She’s not out of touch with reality, as in psychosis, and she has been able to hold jobs long term for most of her life. She has always been antisocial though, rarely had any friends, and when not forced to do otherwise, lives like a hermit.
One side of me says that her own choices have led her here, and I have tried so many times to try to help her steer to a better course. She may be my mother, but that hasn’t stopped her from using me and treating me terribly in the past. That side says let her reap the consequences, and if she ends up homeless, it’s on her head. My brother and I have both sent her contact information for local resources in homeless prevention, and specifically veterans homeless prevention, as she served in the Navy for a couple years. We have no idea if she has contacted anyone. She is not answering her phone and all mail is being returned from her address.
The “Catholic guilt” side of me says I will go to Hell if I listen to my dominant voice, especially if she is actually mentally unstable.
Then the other voice chimes in with warnings that rescuing her will impose an unfair burden on my family, especially my kids, and she won’t be grateful for it anyway, and will likely turn verbally abusive. And if I have moved her into my town, I have no way to get away from that. Aside from not knowing how I would even do any of it, the bare fact is that I don’t want to deal with this!
And then the “Catholic guilt” voice comes back and says, yeah, that’s why you’re going to Hell.