Writing From the Right Side of the Stall

Carefully curated musings about the writing life, horses, bitterness and crushing career disappointment. Fun, right?

And Then It Happened

I always knew it would, someday.   Not that it makes it any less humiliating.

I have one brother.  He is very Busy and Important and has a nuclear family which elicits him no end of sympathy and babysitting from our collective parental units.

Me?  Single with cats and horses.  Only two cats, I hasten to add.  I have not yet veered off the rails into Crazy Cat Lady territory, and besides, my place is too small to accommodate any more.  There would be squabbles.  The current two are littermates and thus get on rather well.

And four horses.  All of whom, for one reason or another, have rendered themselves virtually unsellable.

There’s a damaged-goods broodmare, who is very well bred but got herself badly torn up delivering Son #1 and had to endure four surgeries at the U of Guelph, to put her back together.  (My bank balance also had to endure it.  And so did a lot of vet students whom Roxy tried to murder in cold blood prior to, and during, the aforementioned surgeries.)  My vet has now forbidden me to breed her again, and besides, she’s 16 and as a riding horse she is a hard mare to love.  Though I do.  If she were my only rideable beast, she would drive me fucking nuts because she’s a peculiar combo pack of Alpha Mare and total neurotic, which is rather like tossing random acids together to see just how noxious a green cloud you can manufacture.  Yup, I love her.

Then there’s the laminitic pony, Trouble; she’s a Hackney/Shetland cross whose main function ’round here is to be a babysitter.  She is the world’s least evil pony, which is to her credit.  Trouble foundered despite all my best efforts, a number of years ago, and my farrier tries to console me by saying, “There are only two types of ponies — the ones who are foundered and the ones who are going to founder.”  Most of the year, she does just fine, but she does experience episodes of foot pain for a few weeks at a time and requires nursing and coddling … hence, unsellable.

Spike, who is Son #1 out of Roxy, would probably be the most marketable of the bunch except that he decided, inexplicably, to become a headshaker this past spring.  Headshaking is a neurological thing which seems to involve the trigeminal nerve in the face; it makes horses toss their heads up and down uncontrollably, or rub their muzzles on any available object, and it also makes them a pain in the ass to ride.  Spike’s symptoms seem to come and go, and they’ve abated for the moment, which is great, but I couldn’t in good conscience sell him, which is my excuse for keeping him till he expires.

And finally, there’s Parker, second and last issue of Roxy, who has just turned three and is like a shiny little loonie of potential.  Except for two things.  One (I sincerely hope) is temporary:  back in February he did something to his left hind leg, and he has been gimpy ever since.  All attempts at diagnosis have thus far, failed miserably in the way that only expensive but utterly unproductive vet bills can, but I have faith that he will come sound in his own good time, whether it’s a bone bruise, or some wee weird little ligament tear that evaded the ultrasound wand, or something even more exotic.  For the moment, though, he’s benched, with the launch of his under-saddle career on hold.  The other thing appears to be more permanent, though I could be wrong:  he’s beautifully put together, as handsome a picture of athletic Thoroughbred conformation as you could want to see, but he’s … well, petite.  Barely 15 hands right now.  Butt-high, so there may still be some growing to do (horses don’t tend to shoot up evenly when they’re maturing — they get taller in their hindquarters first and then their front ends catch up, or at least you pray to Epona that they do).  But on the whole, disappointingly petite, which is not likely to make him appeal to the current market either.

So, four horses, an income which is erratic, at best, and a part-time boyfriend who lives two hours down the highway.  Maybe it’s no wonder it happened.

I’m obsfucating, you say, gentle reader?  Okay.  Um …

My parents are getting older.  No way, yours too?  The hell you say.

Also, my parents live in a place where I do not wish to live.  It’s a city that feels like a huge, irrevocable 16-tonne-weight dead end to me (and the stats bear me out — it currently holds the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment levels in the province).

Of course, it’s not like my proximity to Toronto has really paid off in terms of employment, either.  I’m going on three years now without anything resembling a full-time, non-contract, non-short-term, job, in my field or out of it.  But at least with the largest metropolis in Canada in commutable territory, one can fantasize that there might be a spine-tingling opportunity justttttt …. around the corner.

(Re:  the above — What the hell is up with the subtitles?  What, are Sondheim’s lyrics not clear?)

Mind you, this sort of thinking immediately reminds me of the ex-boyfriend who got himself brainwashed by the Amway zombies (“We’re not selling the products, we’re selling the opportunity“).  That tantalizing, magic moment where all the money he was shoveling into a bottomless pit was suddenly going to come shooting back up to him in ejaculatory wonder was always dangling just out of reach, OMFG he could almost taste it, and his upline — formerly his Xerox-repair guy — kept promising he was doing so well, he’d be Going Diamond and walking the beaches of the world in a week, maybe two …. well, in a word, feh.

If there’s anything I loathe more than multi-level-marketing fucktards and their bags of batshit, I cannot for the life of me think what it might be.

But there I go, digressing again.

The thing is, I always knew that there would come a point where my parents would need one of their offspring to come home and pitch in on the things that had become difficult for them to do.  And that my brother, being Busy and Important and a Parent and all, would not be the one volunteered.  Nope.

I don’t think my parents are actually at that point yet, though their house — a split-split-split-level product of the 60’s — is now presenting some challenges since every damn room is connected to the next with a flight of stairs.  That’s a few too many stair chairs.

But last week, my father came out with it.

“I think you should consider moving back home.”

And he must’ve seen the colour just drain out of my face, but he forged ahead anyway because that’s what he does.  “You have no steady income, you’re having trouble meeting expenses, you could whittle the horses down to, maybe, two? ….”  and the piece de resistance, “… and your mother could use the help.”

And I know the latter is starting to be true, but at what point is the humiliation of one’s failed career so fulsome and complete that moving back into one’s parents’ house in suburbia, kissing any vestige of an adult lifestyle sayonara, preferable to, say, flinging oneself in front of a cattle truck or signing up to flog noni juice to your former friends?

“Just think about it,” he said.

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12 thoughts on “And Then It Happened

  1. It is inevitable – like the sun rising in the east – that at some point adult children will be asked to help their aging parents somehow. But the question is – how? Without financial resources, it’s not like many of us can pay for extra help for our parents.

    The best one can do is keep the lines of communication open with them; offer to help them find other sources of help depending on their needs and financial resources; and be a sounding board.

    Moving ‘back home’ and resuming the parent/child dynamic does no one any favours.

    Been in your shoes – it’s a tight fit. But, put on your running shoes and go, baby, go.


  2. Lucy on said:

    Hold your horses! Love and nurture them — keep them alive as long as possible. They are your justification for staying right where you are. Meanwhile the Busy Important Bro can fork out for a visiting nurse for the oldies.


  3. Ai, that is a though situation. I would say that moving home really is not an option. No matter how many horses and no matter how failed the carreer. I agree with Ceci that it would serve everyone better to find different options.
    These days there are so many awesome places they could move to as well. My husbands mother moved into a home-new-style and she LOVES it there (I would actually like it there too, but I am too young haha). She is still totally independent without all the hassles that come with it, such as cleaning, laundry, cooking etc. All she has to do is enjoy herself and let me tell you, she is doing a great job of it! It not only made her more healthy and stronger, it also brought back the fun in her life.
    Something we could never have done if we had moved home…


  4. Oh, yoinks. No thoughts, but what a tough place to be in – you have my sympathy as you work though this.


  5. It’s always the daughter that gets this request. Been there, didn’t do it, got no t-shirt. You can probably do more for them keeping a healthy distance. Hang tight!


  6. Life is always about managing the competing claims on our being.


  7. mandyf on said:

    egad… No right or wrong thing to do… what a tough spot.


  8. Ditto what Ceci said. If you saw it as an exciting opportunity to bond with your parents, or welcomed a new venue for your life, or were big into human caregiving, go forth with our blessings. However, from the tone of the text, you would be bitter, they would be condescending. Imagine what 6 months of close quarters & declining health/abilities would do. Of course, it is easy to sit back & pontificate about another person’s life. Be loving. be supportive, but be true to yourself. It’ll be best in the long run.


  9. Hope you are getting closer to a workable solution for all parties involved. Maybe this will put a little smile on your face: I would like to nominate you for an award. Check http://pleunblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/my-very-first-award/ for the details.
    Good luck!


  10. myfurryfriends on said:

    I am on my way to Colorado to celebrate our Dad’s 95th birthday. So far we have been blessed but it is going to be my sister in Colorado who has the main burden. You will have to let us know what happens with the ongoing saga.


  11. It may sound insensitive, but rather than expecting you to give up your life and sell your home, your parents could consider selling their place and finding something that suits their needs. I live 2000 miles from my parents and miss them dearly. If they needed me, I would be there for them – but I have four kids and 5 cats (I don’t know if that makes me a crazy cat lady or not 🙂 ). I would not be moving back in. I would help them find a smaller location instead of their sprawling ranch home with a pool. I would help them move, however, I wouldn’t give up my whole life to move in and take care of them. I hope that doesn’t sound selfish. Your parents had their chance in life to make their decisions. They chose a large split-level home. They chose to live in the city. They chose for themselves. It’s not fair to let them take away your right to do the same – and the status of your pets and career or absence of children doesn’t make you obligated – it just makes you the one they are choosing to invite to care for them.

    In the end, of course, you are the one that has to deal with the ramifications of your decision. I don’t even know you. I don’t know if telling them no would irrevocably damage your relationship with them or if you would eventually be able to repair any rift. Forgiveness is somewhat fleeting in my family – depending on which family member feels slighted. I am forgiving. My dad and sister hold grudges and plot revenge in classic passive-aggressive manner.

    Weigh it carefully, but whatever decision you reach, I do wish you the best.


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