My first task after arriving in Lexington was to find a job and a new place to live. Of course, with no car, that wouldn’t be an easy task; however, I knew I could do whatever I set my mind to do. Thankfully, I could transfer my housing assistance voucher back to Kentucky, which would help me escalate finding a place to live. I was so thankful for this resource; otherwise, I don’t know what I would have done.
Waking up in a new place with new circumstances was scary, but my detachment from Patricia gave me a zest for life that I had never experienced before. I was finally free, but now what? I knew deep down I had so much to recover from, 31 years of traumatic experiences, to be exact. But I put being a mom first and foremost, and my self-repair work seemed to be on the backburner.
The reality was that I changed my surroundings, but deep down, I still had my deep-rooted adoptee trauma brewing below the surface. Being a mom with so many responsibilities on my shoulders created an escape from dwelling on my adoptee/relinquishee trauma as much as I had in the past. However, it was always brewing. I was still a drinker, and alcohol was still my escape from not feeling.
While I started drinking daily around twelve years old, my drinking career was a non-stop part of my life except for my pregnancies with my kids. It was a habit, a way of life. The world celebrates everything with alcohol, and I was for the ride. But, even with new beginnings in Kentucky, old habits die hard. I was able to connect with old friends and make some new ones. The party life was still prominent in my life.
After a month and a half of being back in Kentucky, we found a new place to live, a three-bedroom duplex on Whispering Hills Drive. We moved in just enough time for the twins to start 1st grade at Southern Elementary school, and Keila started 5th grade at Southern Middle school. We lived about two blocks from both schools, which was an excellent setup for a single mom with no car.
A grocery store and Walmart were less than a mile away, and a city bus stop. So I learned how to take the bus around Lexington and took the bus from time to time when the kids had doctor’s appointments. I got a job at a local grocery store, but I wouldn’t say I liked the job, but it did help with expenses I had coming in.
In October of 2005, just three months after making the most challenging decision of my life, I was offered a position in the home health field caring for an elderly stroke patient who needed a home health caregiver. So I quit the grocery store, worked in the home health field weekly, and made more money than I ever had. This was nothing I had done before in a career, but being Patricia’s caretaker for 31 years and a mom to my kids, I had all the skills to easily step into this new role.
This position was within walking distance from our duplex, a lifesaver! I was able to get Medicaid for myself and the kids. We established care with new doctors for each of us and settled into our new life. The kids all started to make new friends at school and in the neighborhood, and our house would soon become a kid-friendly home and a safe place for kids to gather after school and on the weekends.
I never had any friends come over during my childhood, so this piece was essential to me so that my kids could have friends to stay with all night and spend as much time with as they wanted. I loved making my house kid-friendly and hosting get-togethers with my friends and my kid’s friends. We cooked out, had game nights, had big birthday celebrations for the kids, had Sunday dinners, and slowly our lives became fuller and more normal than they ever had.
The kids could experience sports in elementary school and in private leagues affordable for young, single moms, which is something Salt Lake City didn’t offer. So Damond started playing football, and Damia started to cheer and dance. Keila was in volleyball, and we were busy!
Around five months after arriving back in Kentucky, I saved up enough money to buy a car, and finally, I had transportation of my own, so I didn’t have to ask anyone for rides or take the bus. This was lifesaving because taking the bus in the winter with the kids was not a fun task.
I was amazed that I could never gain this type of momentum in my life with Patricia close to me, but within six months of choosing to move across the country without her, everything changed for the better. Finally, I was following my path instead of her path. I was paving my way instead of following her way.
Patricia and I spoke a few times on the telephone and occasionally shared an email, but our daily interactions were non-existent, which is exactly how I wanted it. I needed to detox from all interactions with her, and for the most part, that’s what I was doing until she started pressing me about coming to Kentucky to visit. This started happening about six months into our move, and of course, she said her primary intent was to see the kids; however, I learned otherwise.
I have always been thankful that my kids didn’t have to experience the full extent of Patricia as I did when I was growing up. However, this has been a challenging experience to navigate because they don’t fully understand the depths of why I made the decision I did to move away. They know bits and pieces but will never fully feel what I have felt my whole life due to my experiences with Patricia, and I am glad. But part of me wishes they could feel what I have felt for just five minutes, and then they would understand my decision better.
I am happy that they each have happy memories with her and will always have those happy memories to remember. My trauma with her is so significant that it overpowers any of the positives I experienced with her. However, I can take certain things about my childhood and use them for good, like my love for plants. Patricia had plants, and I think I started to care for them at a young age, and I now love plants. I was her caretaker for 31 years and am now a caregiver by career. But there is a big difference between a caretaker and a caregiver. I feel I was a caretaker to Patricia because I had to be, but now I am a caregiver by career because I want to be.
I want my kids to have good memories of her, so after about two years back in Kentucky, I agreed to let Patricia come to visit. I prolonged the visit as long as possible so we could get settled. I hoped she was somehow more normal and healthy than she had been when we departed, so in 2007 she flew to Kentucky for the first visit together since we left.
She arrived, and we picked her up. I hoped that she would be different and our relationship would be different. I was proud that she could see I could survive without her and that I was doing better than ever. I wanted her to see how happy I was and the kids were, but she never once acted or seemed happy that we were doing so well. She didn’t celebrate any of my independence because the reality was that my independence was leaving her narcissistic supply tank empty. Instead of getting better, she did the opposite and got worse.
I hoped she had found happiness in her personal life and put some effort into becoming happy and healthy without the co-dependent relationship between myself and my kids, which kept her alive.
So many hopes and wishes for something to change with Patricia, but she arrived, and reality set in quickly. First, of course, she showed up with all her pills which I hated, making me feel like she was dependent on them all. What was she even taking at this point? I had no idea, but I hated my kids seeing her taking all these pills and seeing her pills scattered all over my house! Then, she stayed up late and slept the day away, even visiting for less than a week. Couldn’t she pretend to be healthy for five days so my kids could see a happy, healthy grandma? That’s all I cared about at this point.
My lens on how I viewed her visit, different from how my kids viewed her visit, was apparent. While I am confident they enjoyed having a visit with her, I had a hard time navigating her presence in my life, even for a short visit. I once again felt like she had an ulterior motive, but I wasn’t sure what it was.
After two days of Patricia visiting, she wanted to have a conversation with me. She wanted me to know she was having heart issues and to ask me again if I would be her POA. She also set an idea on the table about moving back to Kentucky to be closer to the kids and me. I will be completely transparent, and I almost fell over.
By this time, her health issues were something I wholeheartedly feel she used to manipulate everyone around her. I am not saying she didn’t have health issues, but I never saw her put in work to make her health better; but back in my childhood, her health issues made me feel terrible! Like somehow, I was responsible for them. I had to disconnect from her neverending health problems long ago because I saw how she used them to make people feel sorry for her.
In 2007, it was a new day. I had to disconnect myself emotionally and mentally from all things to do with Patricia so I could survive. I had to put myself before her emotional, mental, and health issues and be her POA.
These conversations with her gave me great anxiety and fear. I hadn’t even started working on my deep-rooted issues yet because being a mom was my main priority, and here she is, wanting me to take on HER as a responsibility once again? I was nauseous and frozen, thinking about the possibility. After everything I had gone through to get away from her, and now this?
Patricia even went to the extent of asking me to drive her around to look for rental properties, and I refused. However, she was talking about places she could work, and it was apparent she was planning this in her mind.
Patricia started telling me how she and Melanie weren’t getting along, and Melanie mistreated and was mean to her. Once again, trying to stir the pot with Melanie and me even when I hadn’t talked to Melanie in years. She was trying to gain sympathy that she was being mistreated in Salt Lake City, which was why she wanted to move back to Kentucky. She was carefully building her case and wanted me to take the bait. She tried to be on her best behavior because she presented me with her plan to move back to Kentucky.
What I suspect happened is that Melanie was forced to play the caretaker role for once in her life as I did for 31 years, and she got a glimpse of how unhealthy and toxic Patricia was, and she started to set some boundaries with her. I am sure this created waves in both of their lives. Sadly, I knew what Melanie was going through because I was the only responsible party for Patricia for 31 years, but finally, I had to set some boundaries for myself. Now it was Melanie’s time to do the same.
There was again no way I was going to support Patricia moving back to Kentucky, and I told her so. But she came into town with all these motives that made me nauseous. Allowing her to visit was a long shot; anything else was out of the question. So my wall was up thoroughly when it came to letting Patricia back in my life.
I let her see the kids, but now that I learned she had an ulterior motive, my guard was 100% up with her. I was clear and to the point, and I let her know that she is NOT moving back to Kentucky, and if she tried, I would not support it at all, and likely I would move farther away with my kids.
Looking back, I think she was so obsessed with my kids and me because there were four of us, and she had four humans to work through to see who would be kind enough to keep her out of a nursing home in her old age. So I think that was always why she targeted my kids and me, and I saw right through it all.
Her greatest fear was going to a nursing home, but I had news for her. Suppose she made her way to Kentucky and tried to ruin the rest of my life; that’s precisely where she would find herself. It would be an escalated version of her nursing home stay. The more she showed me she was unhealthy and sick, the more I thought she needed to be at a nursing home.
I thought that if she made her way back to Kentucky and something happened to me, my kids would all be responsible for caretaking for her, and they would be sucked in in a way they couldn’t escape. I was mortified at the thought.
My hope that something would shift and change with her and me having a mother-daughter relationship was down the drain. She would never change; the sooner I accepted it, the better. Instead, I had to start grieving the loss of this false hope. I should have known better, but once again, I stick myself out there only to be let down as usual. I tried, but it would take me some time to heal from yet another encounter with Patricia.
I wanted her to be on her way back to Utah, and now my greatest fear was that she would somehow be stuck in Kentucky and be my responsibility again, which frightened me on every level.
The sooner she departed, the better! She had a chance to show up and be the healthy and happy mom I always hoped she would be, but she couldn’t do that. Instead, she had to show up with an ulterior motive that was selfishly centered around herself. Of course, she led everyone to believe she was coming to see her grandkids, but I knew otherwise. I couldn’t fathom that this was her main point in coming to Kentucky, to try again to convince me to be her POA.
Was this normal? At 33 years old at the time, I had never even thought about where I would be at the end of my life! I always feel that if my kids are in a position to care for me, the circle of life will organically circle back around. It will naturally happen. However, I have never had any expectation that they care for me in my old age, nor would I try to push this expectation on them as Patricia has me!
This was even more reason I wanted my kids to see a happy and healthy mom and one that was more “normal” than I had. While moving away, I wanted to believe that Patricia would get her own life and make friends. I hoped she would have more time to focus on finding herself and even starting new hobbies she loved now that she wasn’t babysitting my kids and had more free time.
The thought of Patricia making her way back to Kentucky to live made me completely panic. The fear of my kids having to experience what I did growing up and the older they got, they would be on the front line of Patricia’s emotional, mental, and physical outbursts and issues only convinced me more that I had to set more boundaries with Patricia.
But first, I had to get her back on Utah soil because as well as I knew her, I was waiting for her to throw herself into dire straights and end up in the hospital in Kentucky, and then I would be stuck with her. I could not let that happen, so I played my part until she left Kentucky.
This visit was such an emotional paradox for me. The kids didn’t know what I knew and didn’t experience what I did, so they were protected. That’s all I wanted was to protect my kids from all I had to experience with Patricia. Having Patricia back in Kentucky temporarily was eye awakening. I learned that no matter how badly I wanted a happy, healthy relationship with her as my “mom,” I would never get it.
I tried opening this door for a visit, but as soon as she left, I shut the door back and continued with my life. It would be a long time before I ever let her visit again.
Around 2008, I learned that Patricia was headed to Iowa to help care for her youngest sister, my Aunt Jeanette, who had recently learned she had breast cancer. She left all her belongings in Utah and was in Iowa City, Iowa, for several months. Based on our few conversations, she was unhappy in Utah, and she and Melanie weren’t getting along. I am positive Melanie confronted her on many of her unhealthy habits and toxic ways. Patricia knew she wouldn’t be able to manipulate Melanie into taking care of her when she was older and being her POA. At the time, she didn’t have kids to use as pawns for Patricia’s manipulation and games. Good for Melanie. I wish I could have set that in stone when I was growing up, but by this time, my life was likely half over, and I was stuck.
Since she couldn’t manipulate Melanie or me any longer, Patricia’s next plan was to transition back to Iowa, and this was precisely what she did. Patricia’s narcissistic supply was running dry, but she was fed just enough in Iowa to stay alive now she had nieces and nephews she could work on. And Iowa was closer to Kentucky than Utah. I knew her ultimate plan was to return to Kentucky; however, I also knew I had to play my cards right with her to stop this from happening.
I was never letting her move back to Kentucky! But soon, I would learn she was conversing with her old Lexington friend about moving back, the friend she had ties with when we moved here in 1991. So once I got wind of Patricia trying to make plans to move back to Kentucky, I reached out directly to her friend and gave her a piece of my mind.
I told her that while her intentions might be good, she needed to plan on being 110% responsible for Patricia in every single way, including being her POA. I told her how sick she was physically, emotionally, and mentally. I let her know I would not support her move, nor would I assist in any way regarding packing, driving, unpacking, etc. I would not be available for anything, and I had already been her caretaker for 31 years of my life. I was done, and she needed to know it.
At this point, I started to feel like Patricia was a little lady who appeared cute and wonderful to those who didn’t know the real her, but behind closed doors, she was a con woman. The history I had with her is what formed these conclusions. Seeing and knowing of all the interactions she not only had with me but with others, she came into contact with reinforced these beliefs. I can’t count how many people she reeled in with her sob stories over the years, only to take advantage of them and use them for her benefit.
While Patricia transitioned to living in Iowa, I kept my boundaries firm and learned to set new boundaries. Not only for myself but for my kids. Eventually, I would let her visit a few more times, but those visits would stop in 2015. I had finally reached the end of my rope.
I had no relationship with Melanie or many people from Iowa. But in November of 2010, I received an inbox message on Facebook from Joanna, my half-biological sister on my maternal side. I hadn’t heard from her in over a decade! I wonder what she wanted? So I opened her message and never expected to read what I did.
I am sorry it’s been so long. I wanted to let you know mom passed away, and I thought you should know. We have her funeral in a week, and I would love you to be there. Can you make it? I don’t think I can do it without you! So please let me know, and I will send you the arrangements soon. Love your sister, Joanna.”
Wow, just wow. I could hardly believe what I was reading. The saddest part for me wasn’t that Eileen died. It was that I lived my life every single day, grieving her as if she was already gone back to my beginnings. Knowing she left the earth sealed the deal for me. I knew I was never going to see her again. This helped me close the door and move on with my life. The open wound could finally heal.
No more hoping, wishing, dreaming that she would come back or change her mind about me. This was a powerful dynamic to my healing journey. This was it, and it was over. The end of all the internal torment I carried because she was alive but would rather die alone than have me in her life.
She’s dead. She’s gone—the end of Eileen, but not the end of my story. I was just getting started, and I was on my way to Waterloo, Iowa, for her funeral on November 9th, 2010. Little did I know that the next 48 hours of my life would change drastically, and my life would never be the same.
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