In the dark, Steve reaches across our bed for my hand and says softly, “I don’t want to scare you but there is a bat on the other side of the dresser.” Because my mind can’t quite process the events of the last few days, I think he is talking about a live bat. My first thought is, “Why the heck are you telling me this? Why aren’t you already out of the bed and getting it out of our house?” Then I remember. He’s talking about the aluminum baseball bat, not a live one. The one he wants me to use to protect myself and the girls. I tend to be the over-reactor in our family; few things ruffle Steve. In our fifteen years together, not once has he ever coached me on protecting myself or suggested that I have a weapon of any kind. The comment about the bat tells me that my fear is not my imagination; it is real and I have to face it.
The back story on this is somewhat long and torrid. I have made some huge mistakes and I fear that my hubris has brought this fear into my house, into our lives, into my children’s lives. About eighteen months ago, my mother hired a handyman. I have had some misgivings about this from the beginning. She found the handy man, not by calling a reputable company or even through a friend of a friend, but by hiring the man who came to change her flat tire. Since then, he has followed her from Louisiana to Florida and has gone from being her handyman to her full-time caregiver. From the start, it was been a volatile relationship with repeated fights, multiple “I quits! You’re fired!” with periods of relative calm in between. The caregiver has issues with alcohol and would show up drunk at mom’s house, one time even taking her car without permission in the middle of the night (I would call this stealing but my mother doesn’t agree with me on that point). I would occasionally think that I should say something but honestly, I was busy and my mother is an adult; I should have listened to that little nagging voice in my head.
This year, my mother has been in the hospital four times. After the third time, our family moved mom to a rehabilitation facility to help her get some therapy to get some strength back. It was a categorical disaster. Mom didn’t want to be there and the caregiver enabled all of her concerns. The whole thing ended with him checking her out of the facility after five days instead of the minimum of three weeks that she needed to be there. I was furious and I let the caregiver know. We were communicating by texts which proceeded to get increasingly ugly. So, I did what any over-the-age-of-twelve person would do in a no-win situation. I blocked his number on my phone and told my mom that he behaved inappropriately and that while she was welcome to visit me any time I wasn’t going to have any interaction with the caregiver. I didn’t give her the specifics of what had happened. I know what you’re thinking and trust me, I’m thinking it too. I am an idiot. But, truthfully, there wasn’t much that I could do – my mother is an adult and who she chooses to have in her life is exactly that – her choice.
On September 13th, Mom fell outside her house and was gravely injured. She has spent the last six weeks in the hospital and in a rehabilitation facility while she tries to heal. I have had to see the caregiver on several occasions. I have not spoken to him. I have chosen instead to completely ignore him. I have also done as much research as possible and learned some disturbing things about this man that is my mother’s caregiver. My mother has reprimanded me for being rude; I have stood my ground. He has continued to make veiled threats about me and my family on Facebook (“don’t you hate when you have to be nice to people when you really want to throw a brick at them?” “some people’s children are b**ches”) ***Note: If you want to make veiled threats about someone, please have the sense to learn how to manage your Facebook privacy settings. Also, writing them down in texts probably isn’t a good idea either****
Tuesday morning was horrible. I went to visit my mom and the caregiver was there and I continued my ignoring act and he finally walked out of the room and my mom again reprimanded me for my behavior. Later, as the caregiver was leaving the facility, he just glared at me – gone was the sad, injured persona that he puts on for my mother.
Tuesday night was the pivotal plot point in this story. The caregiver posted another derogatory note on Facebook, again veiled so that unless you knew what happened earlier in the day, you couldn’t be certain who it was about. I am tired, my friends. Six weeks of worry about my mother and dealing with this man have worn on me. I read the post and the tears just started and I couldn’t stop them. Steve, from across the room, asked what was wrong. And for the first time, I realized what it was. I am scared – what can the caregiver do to me? To my family? To my babies? The veiled threat on Tuesday night implied violence if you read it one way. What have I done? Pretending to be tough by simply ignoring him and making my feelings know to anyone who will listen. Have I antagonized a monster? At this point, if this were a play, the notes would say “Our hero enters stage right”.
Because that is what exactly happened. Steve took my fear and my worry and he took action. One look at my face and he immediately called my mother and told her what was happening. Then, he called the caregiver and told him in no uncertain terms that if he continued to harass me in any way, he would be calling the police. The caregiver hung up on him, removed the offending post, changed his cell phone number, closed his Facebook account, and called my mother and told her that he quit. Steve held my hand, whispered calming words, and told me about the bat.
On Wednesday, I was home alone with Gracie and the caregiver drove by our house (a place he has absolutely no need to be near) , stopped in the road, and turned and stared in my living room window. He did this not once, but twice. Anger and fear immediately began a vicious war in my chest. I’m sad to say that fear won. After I dropped the girls at choir, I went immediately to our sheriff’s sub-station and explained everything. The deputy said what I already knew – the caregiver hasn’t broken any laws – he’s skirting them and trying to intimidate me. But, the deputy said they will make extra patrols around our street and if at any time I feel scared, he told me to immediately call 911.
An hour later, I drove past my mom’s house and the caregiver’s truck was parked there. Again, some place that he had no reason to be. My mom is still in the rehab facility and he has supposedly quit working for her. Steve and I each drove by a few more times over the next few hours and the truck was still there. We called my mom and she asked us to call the sheriff. So, after living here for twenty years and never having to call the police, I called them twice within four hours. About the same person. A deputy met Steve at my mom’s house and the went inside and there was no sign of the caregiver. Apparently, parking the truck there is just another intimidation factor.
I have thought seriously about posting this story. Obviously, since you’re reading it, I decided to brave it. The truth is that there are times when the story behind your fear must remain hidden from the world – times when your very safety depends on that. This is not one of those times. I do not have the weapons of intimidation in my arsenal; and making veiled threats on Facebook isn’t my style; neither is using language that I find offensive. I do have a weapon though – my weapon is my story, my words, and what I know to be true. I will not cower in silence; I will not hide my fear inside my house, afraid to live my life. I am aware that what happens after I post this may cost me my relationship with both my mother and my grandfather, since they still refuse to fully believe my fears. But, I will not hide. I am surrounded by love that gives me strength. That, and I have my bat for protection!