Basically, I had a brother ten years older than me, whom we'll call the Scumbag now because as far as my sister and I are concerned we no longer have a brother. He wanted to study philosophy and physics at Stanford, and he was always one of the top students in the top schools, so he thought he was better than the rest of us. His A Level results came in 2000/2001 and he'd done so well that Stanford, in the US, sent him an acceptance letter and a scholarship. The thing is, even with that scholarship my parents couldn't afford to send him and bear his cost of living and everything, not with two daughters who were so much younger. He begged them to mortgage or sell the house and send him, but they refused for obvious reasons (my dad said he's known friends who mortgaged their houses to send their children overseas, and then the kids never helped them with the payments upon graduating). I do remember how heartbroken he was. So my parents told him to pick any course at a Singaporean university within their budget. The scumbag chose medicine, which was slightly out of their budget. So my dad took a loan from his own CPF fund. The Central Provident Fund is basically our superannuation; from the moment you start working, everytime your pay comes in the government takes a certain percentage of it and puts it in your own CPF account. You can't really touch it until you retire, since it's meant to be retirement savings. You can, however, take a loan from your own fund to put your kid through certain courses a local university. Now, unfortunately my dad had not read the fine print and was unaware that in that case, it is also mandatory for said kid to began paying back that loan to his parent's CPF account once he graduates and starts working.
So the scumbag went through medical school and graduated at some point in 2010, and started working as a doctor. Remember, we were unaware about the CPF repayment thing. Let me also add that he never gave my dad any money. Amongst Indians and certainly in my family, when you start working you give some of your salary to your parents. Scumbag never did. Meanwhile, in 2009 my mother broke her arm (she was a teacher, and a student tripped her up :|) and was home on leave for a long time, and we began noticing some changes. She'd also had gastric issues for a while now. By 2010 it was evident that there was something wrong with her, that she had dementia or Alzheimer's or some sort of neurological issue despite being only 54. She was unable to keep doing her job. My dad helped her apply for early retirement, citing her gastric issues. At the time it was too early for a concrete diagnosis, and honestly for a year we'd just thought she was being awful for some unknown reason and getting frustrated with her. :/ Due to his medical knowledge, it was Scumbag who noticed and performed some comprehension tests on her and got Dad to bring her to a specialist, some time in 2010.
Come December 2010, for some reason (possibly a glitch in the system), instead of deducting monthly payments the CPF system deducted twelve months' worth of CPF repayments from Scumbag's account at one go. He promptly had a MASSIVE fight with my parents, informed them that they had ruined his life, and stopped talking to them. This despite the fact that he still bloody lived with us. He'd come home and ignore my parents and head straight to his room. He stopped eating homecooked meals or any food at home because my dad had paid for them, so he'd buy takeaway or constantly order McDonald's. He still used our facilities - the kitchen bathroom was his, plus the washing machine and ironing board and, you know, his electricity and Internet - and spoke to my sister and me, although sometime in late 2011 I think my sister also stopped talking to him after a fight; he'd told her that when our parents were dead he'd spit on their graves, and she was furious. I wanted to stop talking to him because I hated that, obviously, or the way he'd tell me that 'my' parents had ruined his life and that I should just demand and take their money as my due and make them pay for whatever degree I wanted and not care about their retirement. :| But Dad kept telling me to maintain contact with him, saying that he wanted at least one point of contact in the family and that sometime in the future he'd need help.
At the beginning of 2012, before I was due to leave for Australia for university, I tearfully begged and pleaded with the Scumbag to at least start talking to my mum again, because I was leaving and she wouldn't cope well (I'd had a casual job as a cashier in a city bookstore in 2011 and often came home late, and she didn't even cope well with that and would stand at the window watching for me), and he refused and yelled at me. We communicated a bit via Facebook while I was in Perth, but after my first semester I was home for the holidays and in mid-July I witnessed the Scumbag pick a huge fight with my dad (the Scumbag had gotten his own Internet modem, and had hooked it up in the large living room and had an ugly white cable running across the entirety of the living room and into his room, and Dad had only quietly asked him to remove it because it was unseemly) and yell at him and use all sorts of vulgarities on him. I was very close to my dad and this made me furious, so after that I too stopped talking to Scumbag.
Over the years, the scum sent my dad several very hateful, vitriolic letters/emails about how Dad had ruined his life (by forcing him to eat sandwiches instead of buying meals like his friends in med school, and to give tuition to earn spending money instead of just being handed everything on a platter, in addition to not giving everything else up to send him to Stanford) and how much he hated both Mum and Dad, and if he ever had kids he would never let Dad be a part of their lives, etc. He also had his name legally changed to remove his surname, my dad's name (we Tamils use patronyms, not family names).
Over the years (circa 2010 onwards) my mother's condition worsened. For a while there we thought she had a very rare neurodegenerative condition called Hashimoto's Encephalitis, but it was eventually ruled out in favour of dementia before she was finally diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. It was more than just forgetfulness though, although that was a large part of it. It's degeneration and regression, so she was regressing to a child's spoilt, petulant mentality, and she was also extremely paranoid and aggressive and kept picking fights with my dad, my sister and me over everything, including imagined slights.
Mum and Dad had always fought a lot, despite being very in love, but now it was much worse, and when she picked a fight with my sister or me we'd try to move away and remove ourselves from the situation but she'd just come after us, opening my bedroom door and barging in to continue the fight. She often accused Dad of taking her money, so much so that he put up a notice in the study detailing the household expenses for her to look at (all her money was untouched, all her medical expenses came out of his pocket, and the income from the little condo unit that they'd jointly bought and were renting out went to household expenses and car maintenance).
Dad also took early retirement and became a flexi-adjunct teacher, which is basically a casual teaching position where he went in every day and got paid by the day. He insisted that they only give him morning classes so that he'd be done by 12.30 and could come home to take care of Mum and give her lunch. She'd wake up confused about where he was, so there was a sign in their bedroom that said Gone to Work. Back by 2pm. In her last few years here she kept accusing my sister and me of stealing gold jewellery that didn't exist, and getting in huge fights about it. She accused visotirs of stealing her silk saris and stuff. It was tough.
Her gastric issues meant that she couldn't eat foods that were very spicy or very sour/acidic, so now she became even more picky and wouldn't even eat anything that looked spicy due to a reddish or orange tint, which ruled out a lot of Indian foods. She would subsist on her favourite foods, like blueberry cereal and raisin bread and almonds and whatever fruit she liked most and demanded most that month - for a long time it was green apples, but she had varying obsessions with dookus, longans, rambutans, guavas and so on, and Dad stocked up on all the food she wanted. (Though one month she did try demanding cherries, but Dad put his foot down on that one because they're prohibitively expensive here.) She'd eat some simple Indian meals, but the rice had to be freshly cooked that day because she refused to eat day-old rice that had been refrigerated and heated up. Fish and chips was one of her favourite meals, as were McDonald's Filet o'Fish burgers, but by 2015 she'd lost the ability to eat with a fork and knife (she could only eat rice or cereal with a bowl and spoon) and I would cut her food up and feed her, and if given a burger or homemade fish sandwich or even an omelette she'd confusedly pull the top layer off and eat it the way she ate her raisin bread, so I would have to cut those into bitesized pieces and feed her. (I was home for the holidays a few times a year, and I finished my degree in June 2015 and came home.)
She'd forgotten how to tie saris by 2012 and by 2014/5 my dad was helping her get dressed, or ifshe'd picked a fight with him I'd go and help her. She'd also forgotten how to tell time and never knew what time of day it was, especially given her erratic sleeping pattern, and had trouble reading and writing even her own name. We wanted to get a live-in maid to help us care for her, but she was so paranoid with any new person who visited the house and kept accusing them of stealing her things; it sounds bad but we were waiting for her to deteriorate to the next, less aggressive/paranoid stage of her illness so that we could bring in a maid without issues.
She was basically degenerating into a small child's mentality, I think, especially by 2015. When people are good and nice if they give you the sweets and shiny pretty things you want, and bad if they yell at you or scold you or make you eat something you don't want to. When you're confused and can't differentiate dreams and reality (seriously, she'd yell at us over dreams). She also lost fine motor skills and the ability to read and write and tell time. But she was physically an adult, and she'd get furious and offended if we treated her as anything but.
Still, she had moments of sweetness, especially with me, her youngest. And Dad took her to all the places she wanted to see, over the past few years: the Angkor Wat, Kashmir, even Switzerland, and she loved those trips.
Anyway. That's enough rambling about her illness, I think; I can elaborate on how painful it was in another post. Basically, around 2013 or early 2014 Scumbag began speaking to her again. Up until then, he'd come home and she'd reach out a hand to him, or call out to him, or follow him like a kicked puppy, and he'd ignore her and slam his bedroom door. She even went to the bank once and transferred him money, but then the next day she asked for it back and he yelled at her for ages before transferring it back. Anyway, now he began talking to her again, but after a few days to a couple weeks she'd do something to annoy him and he'd yell at her at length and shut his door and not talk to her for a couple weeks, and then the cycle would start again. By mid 2015 he was buying her meals and talking to her more and more, manipulating her into seeing him as this kind benevolent loving son when she kept picking fights with the rest of us.
I finished my degree in June 2015 and came home to find my mother much worse, and in addition to everything else she kept picking fights with Dad, my sister and me over our treatment of her darling son. She also refused to eat the meals we tried to feed her, declaring that her son was buying her food. I remember one of the first times he bought her Indian food with a curry that's bright orange, which she refused to eat (which we all knew not to do) and he stood over her and yelled at her and forced her to eat it, and she tearfully forced it down. He bought her various other dishes which she hates the first couple of times - we were much more familiar with her picky habits - and got very frustrated with her before finally settling on food that didn't involve yelling. Unfortunately he got home around 10pm, and my mother would steadfastly refuse food until then, insisting that he'd bring her food.
He also brought her into his room and spoke to her at length with the door shut, which worried us, and a few times my sister or dad did catch snatches of a conversation asking her to go away and move out with him. (In Singapore you can't buy government housing on your own until you're 35, you have to co-own it with your husband/wife or with a parent, but Mum and Dad already co-owned our home, a government flat. So he was trying to persuade her to co-sign for a flat with him, which obviously she couldn't, only because she couldn't sell the house without Dad's signature.)
Anyway.He began bringing her out more and more often while the rest of us were at work, and unknown to us, one day he brought her to get an LPA, a Legal Power of Attorney. Basically this meant that someone could choose a Donee to care for them and manage all their affairs and estate if they knew they were going to be mentally or physically incapacitated. We didn't know about it until a letter arrived for Mum notifying her of the LPA being granted and Dad saw it (since he handled her mail). We asked Mum but obviously she didn't even remember it any more. Meanwhile the Scumbag apparently found a place to rent and began packing, and we knew none of this until suddenly one day we woke up to find strange Chinese men in the house, packers whom he'd hired to pack both his stuff and Mum's.
I am ashamed to confess that the fights with Mum tripled during this period, since we were furious at him and felt betrayed that she'd agreed to go and live with him when it was Dad who cared for her and all the Scumbag wanted was her money; even when we asked her quietly in a non-confrontational manner why she'd done this, or asked her to stay with us, it escalated fast. She wouldn't listen, of course, and would throw our apparently harsh treatment of that scum back in our faces, although in her quieter moments she'd say that all she wanted was for the family to be together again, to which we'd point out that this was the exact opposite and then she'd get confused and defensive. We didn't really know what to do, and at the time we thought we'd just wait, that the Scumbag would surely bring Mum back once he realised how difficult and burdensome it was to care for her.
On September 18th 2015 that shitty pitiful excuse for a human literally dragged my mother out of the house. Dad wasn't home. She was confused and didn't know what was going on, still in her housedress and slippers when he told her to come. She kept saying she had to go back in and look for her handbag or something, that she couldn't leave it behind, while he grabbed her wrist and dragged her towards the door - apparently the taxi was waiting - and I remember that she sounded like a small confused child. The scum lost it and yelled furiously at her for ages, saying things like how she didn't need it, she was being so difficult and he had humoured her by packing all her silk saris and nice handbags but she wouldn't need them as she would never go out again, she'd just sit in her room with the maid, and a lot of other things. She was crying as she asked him why he was being so mean to her (again, like a child) and he just continued yelling at her as he dragged her out of the house. I wanted to stop him, but at that moment I feared he'd turn violent and hit me or throw me against the wall or something. One of my greatest regrets is not doing it anyway; besides, if he had hit me I'd have had an excellent police case.
We had no idea where he had brought her or how to contact her; he had sent us all a cold message informing that 'Madam Rajeswari' (that's her first name, but she had always used her married name and been Mrs Kalai, but apparently he was so petty he refused to let my dad even have that much) could now be contacted at this new number. However, Mum had brought her old phone and a few days later she called my sister, sounding terrified and disoriented and saying over and over that she wanted to come home. She had no idea where she was, and there was a maid there but she knew barely any English and had a very strong Indonesian accent that we could barely understand, and she didn't know the address either. On the second or third call we managed to glean a condominium name and unit number from the maid, and soon that number stopped working too, since the scumbag had stopped paying the bills. We had to call the new number, which was the maid's phone.
When Mark came to visit a couple of weeks later (it had been planned and booked for a while) a family friend contacted Scumbag, pleading with him to let my mum visit. He agreed on several conditions - can't bring her home, don't speak of the court case, have her home by 7pm etc, and so that friend picked her up and we went out for lunch. I am thankful that at least Mark got to meet her once. She had deteriorated a lot very fast; I had to feed her her entire meal, and there was a polished marble floor and she perceived it as wet and couldn't walk on it unless Mark and I each held a hand and helped her walk. About a month or two after that I texted the scumbag asking if we could bring her out with us to Little India (the Deepavali decorations had been put up and she'd always enjoyed seeing them) and he said yes, so we went and picked her up and brought her out. Gods, she seemed to have aged so much.
After that I texted him again asking if she could come to the family's small Deepavali celebration on the day of Deepavali, but he said no, there were plans there. My uncle was hosting his big annual Deepavali party that Saturday, so I asked if we could at least bring her to that one, and again he refused. A couple of weeks after that we again asked if we could bring her out the following Monday, and there was no response although I kept sending the message over and over. Finally I said that my sister and I were coming to pick her up on Tuesday and he finally replied, "No. You're not." I replied saying he had no right to stop us from seeing her and there was no reply, and on Tuesday when we called her phone, the maid answered in hushed tones saying that he'd taken the day off and was sitting guard with Mum. We were furious, of course. The next day we drove out there.
Unfortunately, he's in a condominium. Condos are like posh versions of government flats but they're private property, and come with security at the gate. Usually the security doesn't care, just asking that you register when you enter and leave and not letting cars or people loiter nearby (my uncle has lived in a couple of condos), but apparently the security at this place is either anal (which is why he chose it) or he specifically requested that they be anal. When I tried to walk in, they stopped me and asked me which unit I meant to visit. When I gave the unit number, they asked me for my name, checked a list, and said I wasn't allowed to go in because apparently I wasn't on a list. Apparently nobody, not even delivery men, can go to that unit unless it's been prearranged and Scumbag has given their name to security and they've verified it with a call to him, and if anyone else wants to enter they have to call his mobile and check. I was so furious. My sister and I tried many more times, but each time it was the same. The police said they couldn't help us since this was a family dispute and he had the LPA.
In January 2016, a maternal uncle contacted us. Apparently Scumbag had told him and the other relatives he's still in touch with that Mum was hospitalised at the Institute of Mental Health, but told them not to tell us. This uncle felt that was wrong, they had a fight and Scumbag cut contact with him like he has with various other relatives, and then the uncle informed us. We immediately went to visit her, but were barred from entering the psychiatric ward; apparently Scumbag had left our names with the ward nurses and told them that her husband and daughters were not allowed to visit. We stood outside the ward door, peering in through the tiny round window and trying to find her, and begging and pleading with the nurses, but they kept refusing - apparently the LPA gave the scum this right. Finally one of them took pity and allowed my dad in for a few minutes to talk to Mum, and then brought my mother to the doorway of the ward so that we could tearfully hug her. She said she hated it there. I gave her the toy koala I'd bought for her birthday in December, which I'd been waiting to give her, and she liked it but gave it back to me, saying she couldn't have any personal things in the ward or people would take it away. She missed us and wanted to come home. Finally the other nurses stepped in and made us leave. That was the last time I've seen my mother.
Apparently the experimental medication Scumbag had been trying on Mum had reacted really badly, and she'd been hospitalised for weeks before anyone told us, even though other relatives (who were no longer talking to us except to preach) had visited her on the sly. Dad begged and pleaded with the hospital board but they were immensely rude to him as they cited the LPA, dismissed him and threatened to call police to have him thrown out.
I'll spare the details of all the other legal avenues we've been trying since then, or how it felt to see my father break down in a legal office. We've been fighting a long and weary legal battle to dismiss the LPA and gain access to our mother again, but it's so slow and the very first lawyer-to-lawyer court meeting is this month. Meanwhile Mum has been hospitalised a couple more times, and now I don't even know if she's still at that scum's house or in a hospital ward somewhere. He got married last year, to a harpy who by all accounts of the mutual friends (who have cut ties with them) is a horrible money-hungry bitch. People we know who are in touch with him said that by now my mother gets anxiety attacks when around people and is incontinent. That was so painful to hear. I don't know if she remembers that we exist, and she was always so fiercely proud and independent and body-shy and to think of her being in such a state now is heartbreaking.
There have been so many painful splits in my family over this and I have lost so many relatives I loved, knowing they chose him over us, and my family has shrunk so much. I haven't seen my mother in over a year now and I don't know if I will ever see her again, though I can only pray that by some miracle we'll win the court case and I will see her again, that Mark and I can kneel before her when we get married and my father will get the strength to go on; I don't know if he can, without her. That scum can keep all her money and assets, for all we care; we just want her back. And even then we'll basically get someone who used to be my mother but is now an unrecognisable being in my mother's body requiring round-the-clock care, but somewhere in there is my mother, and we can't stop fighting for her.
Crossposted from Dreamwidth: http://sivaroobini.dreamwidth.org/89141.html.