Monday, April 27, 2009

Children Pay for the Sins of Their Parents

My grandmother lives in an older, established neighborhood. Most of her neighbors have been her neighbors for 50+ years and some of her neighbors are children or grandchildren of the original owners. When I was a kid I loved going to visit, which was often, because it seemed like there was always so much going on and everyone was always in and out of everyone’s house. In the past few years the neighborhood has “gone down hill” a bit. There is some crime, drugs, violence and a bit more of it than say, in the area in which we live. I still go down there a couple of times each week to visit with her and so that she can spend time with my kids.

One of my grandmother’s neighbors is a single mom raising a 15 and 9 year old, fathered by two different men, neither of whom she had ever married. This woman, we’ll call her Lucy, has never worked (unless you count a short stint at the strip joint), wastes whatever money she can scrounge up on drugs and cigarettes, doesn’t make her children go to school, allows the fifteen year old to leave the state with her 19 year old boyfriend, and in general is pretty neglectful of her children. Both men send her child support, which she then promptly uses on herself, primarily for the aforementioned drugs and cigs. My grandmother has felt this need to look after her because she was friends with her mother, the original owner of the house, and feels it is her “Christian duty” to look after her.

The problem is that Lucy “borrows” money from my grandmother all the time and never repays her. The bigger problem is that the money was spent, not on food or necessities, but on drugs, alcohol, and the like. My grandmother finally stopped loaning her money a few months ago when we (her family) convinced her she was using it for drugs and not to feed her children, like she claimed. My grandmother has tried to support her in finding a job, getting insurance for her children, and signing up for federal assistance.

Unfortunately for the children, Lucy’s door was an ever-revolving one with a steady stream of men in and out. The 15-year-old was always running off with some boy and the 9-year-old was left at home half the time alone, through the night. Each time I was over at my grandmother’s the children would be roaming the neighborhood street with Lucy coming and going with a variety of friends and men. Police, CPS, and truancy officers were regular visitors to her home and she has been in and out of court for a variety of offenses, although to my knowledge, never in jail.

About four months ago, her brother, the legal owner of the house she was living in, had her evicted because she quit paying rent. She was using the child support to pay rent and one of the fathers stopped sending money. She moved in with a new boyfriend, whom within a month or two dumped her and told her she had to be out by the end of April. For the past week she has been going from friend to friend staying a night here and there. She was not looking for a job or a place to live and was trying to get family members to take her kids. She had no plan, which was nothing new, and ignored most of my grandmother’s attempts to help her find a place to stay.

This brings us to last night. Apparently she checked into a hotel with her 9-year-old daughter and overdosed and died. Her daughter tried to wake her this morning and couldn’t. My grandmother called to tell me. She was very upset so we went down to see her this afternoon. No one knows at this point if the overdose was intentional or not. Her older daughter is convinced that her mother intentionally killed herself. Her nine year old says she was popping pills last night and drinking alcohol. Either way the result is the same.

Here’s the thing. I am a big believer in second, even third chances. I believe that there are those who are very unfortunate or due to some unforeseeable circumstances need help and assistance to get back on their feet. However, I also believe you can’t help those who won’t help themselves and Lucy falls into that latter category. She was given opportunity after opportunity by a variety of people; especially my grandmother and she wasted every single ounce of help she was given. It is amazing to me how many people gave so much yet she gave nothing to provide a better life for her children. There has to be a point where, despite receiving help, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and make the commitment to change, to do what is best for your children. That never happened. My grandma would spend hours with her talking to her about the importance of finding a job to be able to provide food for her children. She repeatedly told her that she couldn’t keep moving in with boyfriend after boyfriend, that the children needed a home and stability. Nothing took. She came over to my grandmother’s just a few days ago while I was over with the kids. She was obviously drugged out on something as she could barely focus or string a sentence together. She knew she had days left until she had to be out for good and she said she couldn’t find a place to rent because no one would rent to someone without a job, yet she said she hadn’t even begun to look for a job. It was hard to sit and listen to that because I would take any menial job I could get if it meant putting a roof over my children’s heads.

Sadly, my fist thought after I heard she was dead was that maybe now her daughters actually stood a chance at a better, healthier life. Maybe they wouldn’t end up making the same mistakes as their mother, as the fifteen-year-old is currently doing. Maybe being out of that environment would give them the shot they needed to rise above their upbringing. I have no doubt those girls are crushed. I think that losing a mother, even a neglectful one, has got to be devastating. However, I can’t help but wonder if in time they won’t be better off. As a mother it makes me furious and incredibly sad to think of a child finding her mother dead. What a traumatic thing to have to live with. I just think it is so selfish and irresponsible to participate in that type of lifestyle at all, let alone in front of your child. That thought alone bothers me tremendously and makes me so sad for those two girls.

My grandmother has this overwhelming sense of guilt, thinking that if she had given her more money or allowed her to move in things would be different. I think the only difference would have been that it would have been my grandma who would have found her dead in her house and frankly, at eighty years old, it probably would have killed her. While this is an undoubtedly sad situation on all accounts I don’t think there was anything anyone else could have done. People bent over backwards to help her and support her and she chose to do nothing to help herself.

Tonight when I was tucking my children in I thought about how there is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for them. There isn’t a thing I wouldn’t sacrifice for them or their future. I would do whatever I had to do in order to support them and provide for them and make sure that they were taken care of. I’d do anything. ANYTHING! I also thought that all children deserve that. All children deserve someone that fiercely loyal and committed to their success, happiness, and well being and it is sad that not all children have that. It really angers me that it is the children who end up suffering due to the mistakes, sometimes tragic, that their parents make.


Nancy said...

What a tragic story. I understand your grandmother trying to help her out because of her connection with her mother.
I don't know WHY some people can't pull themselves up and straighten out. It could be because they see no hope, or they were always catered to and never HAD to try to find a way out. We can all talk til we're blue in the face and give them every opportunity and it just doesn't connect.
I don't know if the girls will be better or find their way out of it, or just end up in foster care until they turn 18. It is heartbreaking that their mother couldn't do what was right for them.
I hope your family will be able to keep track of them somehow.

Joanne said...

Sad, sad story no matter which way you look at it. Those poor children are off to a bad start, I only hope somehow they manage to pull through, to find a better life. It must be tough when that life is the only life you know. Your grandmother did right all those years, trying to help. Maybe in some small way, she made a difference.