Friday, December 4, 2015

The Time My Mother Found My Address -- and a Contingency Plan

Dear Jerry,

My dad says my mom finally looked up my name on the internet and found me.  My address is on the first page of hits, so it's an investment of about 5 seconds.  I figured it was only a matter of time, but 2 years is a pretty good run.  It's pretty obvious she is in the mania stage right now, based on my dad's email below.  I'm wondering how long this one will last and if she is still living at that group home and if she is or was on any kind of stabilizing medication while there.

My phone number doesn't appear to be listed online yet, but even once it is, caller ID makes it easy enough to avoid 513 calls that aren't from my dad or you or your family.  I doubt she'd take the 8-hour drive to show up on my doorstep if she hasn't been able to reach me by phone in 3+ years, but if she did, I have no idea how one is supposed to handle that situation.  I imagine she would take a bus like she did when she accosted my dad in Cleveland and then take a taxi to my house, and then say she can't leave because she'd need to call another taxi and doesn't have enough money for it to take her anywhere anyway.  Have you ever heard of someone in this situation?  My first thought was that I would call the local police, but I think they'd just say they don't want to get involved in a domestic squabble and that she hasn't committed any crime and she'd be left sitting outside my house waiting for me to make a move.  I'd like to have some kind of contingency plan that doesn't involve giving her money or letting her into my home.  -- C

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Paul Rossetti <>
Date: Sun, Mar 13, 2011 at 3:53 PM
To: Christina R. Martin <>

By the way, you'd better watch out. Evidently your mom has access to a computer, and is with it enough to have found you there.
She's also told Dante she is going to sue me for another $500 a month for monthly maintenance. I'd sure like to know who's putting her up to all this.
Love, Dad...

For a couple years after I stopped communicating with my mother, I still feared her showing up on my doorstep, as noted in the email above.  I had moved halfway across the country since the last time she knew my address, but my new address was highly findable.  When Michael and I bought our house, our county published our names, address, and the purchase price of our house, as they do with all real estate purchases.  For awhile it was the first thing that came up in a Google search for my name, and it worried me.

I live a full day's drive from my mother, but I imagined the craziest things she could do, such as taking a taxi to get here and demanding I pay the thousand dollar cab fare because she had no money, or something similarly ridiculous.  I worried about this scenario a fair amount, and sometimes it kept me awake at night.  How would I get rid of her if she showed up?  What if she threw a fit in my driveway and said she couldn't leave because she had no phone, no car, and no money?  I couldn't control it.  I can't control anything she does. 

What I can control is how I react, so I hatched a contingency plan so I wouldn't lose any more sleep imagining this stupid scenario.  First, I had to decide what else I had control over and what I would be willing to do.  I have control over my house and my property and my body and my money.  These were all things she had seemed to control up until I got my own apartment and a full-time job, so it was easy to forget I was a financially independent adult who could put my foot down. 

I decided I would not pay anyone who brought her to my home.  That would do nothing to benefit me, and no one could legally make me do it ("no one can legally make me" has become a big deciding factor in letting myself say "no" to things -- I say "no" to a lot of things now).  I also wouldn't give her money or let her into my home under any circumstances.  I could just imagine her kicking off her shoes, lying down on my couch, and declaring squatters rights or something.  I know squatters rights don't work that way, but it would still be harder to make her leave once she got inside.  I also wouldn't drive her anywhere in my car.  I refuse to put myself in any situation in which she could try to abduct or kill me, likely or not, and I also don't care for the inconvenience.

What I would do is tell her politely and firmly that she is not welcome at my home or on my property and that, if she doesn't leave immediately, I will call the police.  No conversation, no "hearing what she has to say," just my telling her politely and firmly to leave.  If she said she couldn't go because her cab already left and she had no phone and no money and it was raining -- my god, the rain -- and she had nowhere else to go, I would be willing to give a little to ease along the progress of the situation.   

If it were raining, I would give her an umbrella I don't mind parting with forever.  We have at least one cheap, collapsible umbrella that is sort of half-broken but still in use because it's small enough to fit in a backpack.  If it were raining, she could have that (envision "I am a benevolent god" meme here).  I would bring the cordless phone to the door (after locking the door behind me while I went to fetch it so that she couldn't sneak in) because if she tried to steal it or break it, I have two others and they don't work beyond my yard anyway so it would just be amusing to me.  I would let her call someone on my cordless phone to retrieve her, and if she swore she had no one, I would call her a cab myself.  I would allow her to wait at the curb for the car rather than calling the police on her immediately.  There would be a time limit on how long I would allow her to wait in sight of my home, and it would be based on how long it typically takes a cab to come.  Maybe 30 minutes.  I might be willing to pay a taxi driver in cash to take her to a bus station or airport, but I would give no money to my mother directly, and if she came back, I would not pay another cabbie again.  I consider this very generous of me since paying the cabbie in the first place isn't my job and calling the cops is free.  

If she came back again or refused to go in the first place, I would call the police, and they would come and remove her because the police in my town are very helpful and I am a thirty-something, affluent, white woman, while my mother looks like a crazy homeless person.  I forgot this fact a lot when I was younger.  I am an affluent white woman, I have power, and the amount of respect I receive from strangers has increased dramatically since I entered my thirties.  Even if my mother tried to claim she has a right to me and everything I own because she is my mother, the cops wouldn't accept that because it is crazy and not how America works, even if it's how my mother's mind works.  I would calmly and quietly explain that my mother is severely mentally ill, refuses any sort of treatment, and that I haven't been in contact with her for the last seven years for this exact reason.  I would express a subdued but believable amount of fear and, now that I have a child, mention protecting her.  They would take my mother away from my home because it's their job and also because I know how to behave in a variety of situations and she does not.  I have no problem calling the police as many times as necessary.  And unlike my dad, I have no qualms about pressing charges if it came to that.

I also had a clever plan in which I would sneak out the back door, go to my neighbor's house, sneak us both back in through my kitchen door, and have my neighbor answer the door to tell my mother I had sold the house and moved.  I think it would take too long to go get my neighbor though.  It might be worth trying if my mother were higher functioning and more dangerous, but I think the flat out rejection of sending her away or calling the cops would be equally effective at getting rid of her in the long-term.  She doesn't handle rejection well, and I don't think she'd be willing to put herself out there a second time.  I think she would crumple.  Sometimes I think if I were to look her dead in the eye and state point blank, "You aren't worth the trouble," she would explode into a pile of ash.

[Edited:  Re-reading all this I realize my contingency plan has changed.  I would tell her to leave and then call the police.  I wouldn't give her an umbrella or call her a cab or let her wait at the end of my driveway for a ride.  I would just call the police.  Apparently I don't have the patience or benevolence I had four years ago.  Oh well.]

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