Wednesday, July 11, 2007

norma dies

norma and her mercedes came to us a few years ago. well past 75, norma had lived her life as a wife and mother and when her husband died some years back her son took over. he drained all her resources, financial and otherwise until all they had left was her old mercedes. they were sleeping in it for awhile but it was getting colder so they came in for help.

needless to say, norma's son was a right prick.

so norma and her very adult son moved into our shelter. he had no real qualms about his mother sleeping on the floor. i'd be lying if we didn't do all we did for norma in spite of her son, but they were a package deal. norma wouldn't move into any sort of home unless her son could go too.

her son was able bodied, but hadn't worked in years.

norma and her son continued to live at the shelter. she was terrific. spry and witty, capable and a bit terrified. we helped norma obtain some of her most important belongings from her (foreclosed) old house and put them in storage. she'd lived there for most of her adult life. norma used to paint, her oil works were important to her as were her old photographs. she still missed her husband, she'd tear up talking about his memories. her son would look idly away during our conversations.

i am not going to pretend i liked norma's son.

after some months norma had gotten used to the shelter regime but would still occasionally sleep in her car. she felt safe there and her belongings were inside. she slept in the backseat with her son in the front. they'd do that for a night or two to take a break from shelter life and then return.

norma wouldn't pursue senior housing because her son, while in his 50's, wasn't old enough to qualify. their only income was her social security, so they couldn't afford much. we worked some deals and got her approved for a studio. a microscopic unit with a murphy bed. safe and clean, but tiny for one person let alone two. we encouraged her to take this place and allow us to (grudgingly) assist her son. no doubt she saw right through our lack of compassion for the man who has put her in the shelter and put her foot down.

her son goes with her or she wasn't going anywhere. he looked idly on as she declared this and we had no choice but to agree. shin kicking came to mind but i kept my feet to myself.

so they moved into the tiniest of places, sharing the murphy and putting it back in the morning so they had a place to sit. norma's fixed income covered the cost. they lived like this for over a year.

norma died last week and her son still has no income. once things are sorted out her social security will cease and he won't have a way to pay the rent. the unit was under her name, the qualifications made on her credit and income. with her gone there is nothing keeping him in the unit. he's let her handle (aside from spending her money) all the arrangements regarding her rent and utilities and housekeeping.

norma's son has got to go.

i'd like to feel worse about that than i do, but sometimes, and to be honest hardly ever in situations like this, i really just don't.

rest in peace, norma, you good old girl, you. it shouldn't have been your lot in life but it was and you put others first until the bitter cramped end. i hope there's extra room in your murphy bed in the sky and the sheets are the finest cotton you've ever touched.

47 comments:

thailandchani said...

Norma's son reminds me of my housemate's son... scary!

But, you're right. The son has to go. There comes a point where people have to reap the consequences of their choices. I don't mean that to sound harsh or uncaring ~ only that it sounds like that man has a few lessons to learn.

Peace to him, yes.. but he also needs a good kick in the ass.


Peace,

~Chani

flutter said...

She will finally be in the castle, he will finally have to get off of his ass.

Kevin said...

Wow.

Very powerful.

It is really hard when someone does nothing but drain the tangible and intangible aspects of another being.

painted maypole said...

I raise my glass to Norma!

I raise my finger to her son.

meno said...

Norma's son is a vampire.

I wish she had found herself a spine years ago. It would have done them both good.

Julie Pippert said...

Oh. Oh. Yes, a toast to Norma.

And a toast to you too for your honesty about her son. Those people, like that, defy my belief...which isn't to say I don't believe; it's just to say, my gosh, how...?

Living With Intent said...

Thanks so much, Jen, for reading and for leaving such an encouraging comment! I'll be back to read more from you as I learn my way around "these parts".

Ally said...

What a fabulous post, on so many levels. I am always curious when I see people being taken advantage of by their own grown-up children. I wonder what I will do if ever in that situation? Tough love? It would be interesting to know why Norma made the choices she did regarding her son. Anyway, I join the others and raise a collective toast: TO NORMA!

ewe are here said...

My mom's friend has a son like this. Total mooch. And the worst part? He has two under 2 1/2. Ugh!

Anonymous said...

I withhold judgment. If we were to talk to Norma now, supposing she had her wits and was in The Bardo, or Heaven, or in the Ritz-Carlton, what would she say? Based on her behavior, looking back at the last years of her life, might she be glad she did what she did rather than be left alone?

It is more difficult than you seem to know to be in one's 50s and to try to put your life back together. If he was hard-hearted it is because we all have the potential for hard-heartedness.

sandra said...

I have a cousin like Norma's son. My mom once spoke to my great aunt about it ... her response was similar to anonymous. But she was scared to be alone so she was happy with anything at all.

My glass is raised to sweet Norma.

And to you for your ever powerful stories.

Cecilieaux said...

Reminds me of the film about Dorothy Day "Entertaining Angels."

Sober Briquette said...

Rest in Peace, Norma. Sonny boy is about to get a wake up call.

QT said...

RIP, Norma. We will now see what your son is made of.

Beck said...

Poor Norma.
And yet he was still her child. I can't imagine ever, under any circumstances, refuse my children any of my love or care. She was his mother, however undeserving he was. And is.

Aliki2006 said...

This post made me sad--sad for Norma, and sad for her son. What could she do but take care of him? And what will he do now?

Such a gorgeous post, so much to think about...

mamatulip said...

Tipping my hat to Norma today.

mitzh said...

She's a great woman, mother and wife.
She's surely happy wherever she maybe.

Finally, her son will learn to live life!

Lil-Lolita said...

wow - that was powerful!

kgirl said...

Well, like it or not, the chord has been cut now. I bet you'll be surprised by his 'ability' to take care of himself.

jen said...

all, i do realize i am passing judgment - compassion fails all of us sometimes like it or not...and of course i understood norma's need to care for her son, i just wholly disliked his lack of a need to care for his mom. he didn't seem to care that his behavior was causing her so much extra stress - and yet she never let that stop caring for him.

Magpie said...

RIP, Norma. I hope you've got a nice Mercedes up there.

NotSoSage said...

jen, of course compassion fails sometimes. We're human. And you admit that. It's hard to admit that when you're job and your passion is service, and I'm glad that you did.

Norma clearly loved her son and was willing to support him despite his behaviour. Duty may call you to do the latter, but no one would begrudge you for not doing the former.

You are, as ever, an inspiration.

Oh, The Joys said...

Ditto to painted maypole's comment!!

Momish said...

I do not see your resentment toward's Norma's son as passing judgement, Jen. I see it as a fierce appreciation for Norma and a protective stance against anything that might be causing her discomfort and hardship.

I don't blame you, I would feel the same way!

Here's to Norma. And, in the end, I hope her son finds peace and his own inner resources.

slouching mom said...

i hope there's extra room in your murphy bed in the sky and the sheets are the finest cotton you've ever touched.

God, I hope so too. Norma deserves it.

Lawyer Mama said...

Norma sounds wonderful. And her son? Will never appreciate her.

Quirky said...

I am not a parent, so I cannot pretend to know what it means to love and care for a child. I don't know whether to view Norma as amazingly kind and patient for putting up with her son or as codependent and enabling. What is the best way to show love to someone who doesn't appreciate you? But then maybe Norma saw something in her son that others didn't.

At any rate, it was a beautiful post, and I hope that both Norma and her son find peace.

KC said...

Her love is inspiring, it truly is. A son only a mother could love.

KC said...

p.s. small font nice touch.

Shelby said...

beautiful writing..

Little Monkies said...

We dealt with this issue a lot when we'd take volunteer teams out to do weatherization projects at seniors' homes...able bodied kid or grandkid sitting watching TV and drinking a beer. It was a challenge to refocus the volunteers on who we were serving...the senior who couldn't do the work his/herself.

Just because people need help doesn't mean you have to like them. There are many people who need help who are mean, selfish and rude, just like there are many wealthy people who are the same way. To me, it's less about the help this guy received and more about the fact that he didn't help himself or others.

Bon said...

i celebrate your honesty, and Norma's spirit.

Jenn said...

God Speed, Norma.

And to you, writer of all things so eloquent and true, a hug.

A lingering hug, not one of those little squeezes where you just want to get it over with, but one where you hold tight and regret that you'll have to let go.

kristen said...

i wanted to write before i read anyone elses response (i love the comments you get here jen), because i was immediately struck by fine the line is. So many of the people you work with and meet have had regular lives prior to ending up at your shelter...it's sobering.

carrie said...

There are no limits to a mother's love, are there?

Is it naieve to hope that Norma's son will miraculously take charge of the life he has left and make something out of it?

Carrie

Orangeblossoms said...

don't hold back on how you feel about that deadbeat son! I smile because I KNOW. I wish the well of compasison was endless. It is not. I am so glad to have met Norma through your post, Jen. Beautiful writing. As always.

Tabba said...

I don't know what else to say here that hasn't already been said.

I just love you, Jen.

And I wish Norma much peace.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Your stories never cease to amaze me. This one, in particular, struck me as my family is going through a tough time and true colors are being shone.

I don't blame you for hating Norma's son. I never met the guy and I hate him for what he did to that woman.

bgirl said...

a thoughtful and thought provoking post, this touched a chord for me. all to often i watch my ex's mother demonstrate unconditional love for him, despite his poor and manipulative behavior. which makes me wonder about the notion of unconditional love. it seems that is this case, it created a condition.

here's to norma and experiencing a heavenly bed with lots o' room!

alejna said...

This story reminds me of Shel Silverstein's book, The Giving Tree. I never understood the popularity of that book. It's about a boy who uses a tree who loves him, and strips away everything about her until all that's left is a stump. Which he then uses to sit on.

It makes me so frustrated when love and generosity are abused.

urban-urchin said...

okay so i am going to get flamed here but it sounds like a lot of Norma's problem with her son were of her own making. He had never worked a day and yet she supported him to the end.

It's hard to hear about people like Norma.

jen said...

no flaming, babe. no one has a clean side of the street in situations like this.

Penny. said...

I have too many comments for this one.

Rest in Peace, Norma.

Susanne said...

Thank you, beautiful post. And, like Chani said, he just has to reap the consequences of his actions.

crazymumma said...

Funny.

The love we have for our children.

He sounds like an ass. But he was her child. Too bad she didn't make him grow up.

Norma, the sheets are crispy and smell like lavender.

Rest in peace.

luckyzmom said...

Norma neglected to teach her son to grow up. Perhaps now he will have to learn for himself.