Two years ago I visited my fundamentalist-Christian family after not seeing them for over 9 years. Because of the distance involved, my commitments closer to home, my discomfort in their presence, and my financial situation, my visits are well spaced out and – to make the long trip worthwhile – of several months’ duration. My mother is an 85+ year-old widow with Alzheimer’s Disease. Since I can’t take my turn looking after her one night a week, I decided that I would “work off my duty” in one 5-month stretch. However, when I got there I found that 2 very conservative brothers had decided that – since I am no longer a Christian – I am not a “fit” person to care for my mother. “We are happy to have you here visiting, but caring for Mother has been taken care of, so just enjoy your stay.”
They were upset
that I hugged the professional care-givers hired to look after my mother. 2 weeks after my arrival, I was advised not to continue doing so. [I was also advised that any communication - of more than a trivial, “Please pass the salt” kind – between me and the care-givers should be channeled through one of these brothers or his wife (who live dozens of miles from my mother, while I was staying in her house and seeing the care-givers daily)!!!] I replied that I would continue, as long as it was alright with the care-givers. Let me make this absolutely clear: NOT ONE PERSON involved – myself, my siblings, my mother, and the care-givers – had the slightest suspicion that these hugs were in any way sexual or romantic. But for these 2 brothers (and perhaps others in the family), it wasn’t “the done thing”.
I GREW UP in this family. I USED to be a fundamentalist Christian myself. I USED to be very uncomfortable with my body and with any physical demonstrations of affection. My own mother – as far as I can remember – didn’t use to hug me as a child. When she started doing so [making up for lost time?] when I was an adolescent, I was VERY
uncomfortable. [As an adult, it is I who is making up for lost time – with her and with others.] I USED to be self-loathing and border-line suicidal. I can understand
my siblings discomfort. But I – thanks be
to my “fall from Grace”!!! – have grown out of it.
To cut short a long and – at times – distasteful story, 6 weeks before my flight home, these 2 brothers called me aside and informed me that I would have to move out of my mother’s house for the rest of my stay. (They suggested [as alternative accommodation] another brother’s [sealed off from upstairs] hot and humid basement – an hour’s drive by motorway from my mother’s home [and I have no driver’s licence, so would have had to depend on my siblings’ “goodwill” for carefully-rationed - and chaperoned
- visits] - with a total of 2 electric sockets [it was necessary to keep a fan running all night in order not to drown in sweat, the other socket was for a standing lamp], no provision for cooking meals, a garden-type tap [suspended from the ceiling, ½ metre from the wall and over a metre above the floor, which sprayed the wall and nearby discarded electrical appliances every time it was turned on] in a room not the bathroom as the only source of water, rotting floorboards, NO
floorboards in the bathroom, so that to flush the toilet, a bucket of water had to be carried over a rickety plank bridge. In order to have a bath, I would have to go out to the street (locking the basement door), bang on my (deaf) brother’s front door (or use a long pole to tap on a back window of the house [built on a hillside]) and “beg permission”. THIS brother had not shown me any warmth in the previous 3½ months of my stay. You will – I HOPE – be happy to read that I made other, MUCH
more satisfactory, arrangements for these 6 weeks.)
The reasons that they gave for the necessity of my moving out? Well the chief one [that they admitted to] seemed to be that I was being unreasonable and was continuing to hug the hired care-givers. [2 of the care-givers have confided in me that I’m their favourite member of the family
. One had said: “Why, I can TALK
to you! I just don’t feel comfortable talking with your brothers.” When I informed her that I would be leaving sooner than planned, she burst out crying and blamed herself: “It was ME who hugged you first! You wouldn’t have hugged me if I hadn’t done that. It’s all my fault!” It took me 2 hours to calm her down: “It’s NOT your fault! It’s NOT my fault. My brothers have serious psychological problems with emotions and especially with affection.” I’m not sure that I was 100% successful in convincing her that it wasn’t her fault...]
. I have had to deal all my life with mood swings. I have seriously considered suicide on many occasions. But, every time, I tell myself: “This is just one of your depressions. Just ride it out and in a few days, you’ll be glad to be alive.”
21 months ago, as I sat in the aeroplane that flew me 1000s of km away from my crack-pot family, I THANKED MY LUCKY STARS
that I hadn’t ended up like them.
... and I haven’t been depressed ONCE since then.